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The Forgotten Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, Norton I

Wikipedia
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September 28, 2017
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Emperor Norton (Today I Found Out)

Joshua Abraham Norton, known as Emperor Norton, was a citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself "Norton I, Emperor of the United States". He later expanded his pretense by claiming to be "Protector of Mexico" as well.

Born in England, Norton spent most of his early life in South Africa. After the death of his mother in 1846 and his father in 1848, he sailed west, arriving in San Francisco possibly in November 1849. Norton initially made a living as a businessman, but he lost his fortune investing in Peruvian rice.

After he lost a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton's public prominence faded. He reemerged in September 1859, laying claim to the position of Emperor of the United States. He had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him; nevertheless, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.

Though some considered him insane or eccentric,[9] citizens of San Francisco celebrated his regal presence and his proclamations, such as his order that the United States Congress be dissolved by force and his numerous decrees calling for a bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland, and a corresponding tunnel to be built under San Francisco Bay. Long after his death, similar structures were built in the form of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and the Transbay Tube, and there have been campaigns to rename the bridge "The Emperor Norton Bridge".

On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed at the corner of California and Dupont (now Grant) streets and died before he could be given medical treatment. Nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay him homage at his funeral. Norton has been immortalized as the basis of characters in the literature of writers Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christopher Moore, Morris and Goscinny, Selma Lagerlöf, and Neil Gaiman.

Learn more at Wikipedia


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