Emperor Norton bigraphy, stories - Self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States

Emperor Norton : biography

ca. 1819 - January 8, 1880

Joshua Abraham Norton (c. 1819There are a number of disputed claims regarding Norton's date of birth. Many sources (Cowan, Norton's tombstone, and most present-day books on Norton) pinpoint Norton being born sometime in 1819, while a few sources state that he was born on 4 February 1819. Norton's obituary by the San Francisco Chronicle put him at 65 years old at the time of his death, which would mean he was born in 1814. Drury's Norton I, Emperor of the United States (1986) refers to immigration records which said Norton was two years old in 1820 when his parents moved to South Africa. – January 8, 1880), the self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself "Emperor of these United States" and subsequently "Protector of Mexico".

Born in England, Norton spent most of his early life in South Africa. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1849 after receiving a bequest of $40,000 from his father's estate, arriving aboard the steam yacht Hurlothrumbo. Norton initially made a living as a businessman, but he lost his fortune investing in Peruvian rice.

After losing a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton left San Francisco. He returned a few years later, apparently mentally unbalanced, claiming to be the Emperor of the United States. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humoured by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honoured in the establishments he frequented.

Though he was considered insane, or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco celebrated his regal presence and his proclamations, most famously, his "order" that the United States Congress be dissolved by force and his numerous decrees calling for a bridge crossing and a tunnel to be built under San Francisco Bay (similar structures were built long after his death in the form of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and the Transbay Tube). On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed at a street corner, and died before he could be given medical treatment. The following day, nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay homage to Norton. Norton's legacy has been immortalized in the literature of writers Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christopher Moore, Maurice De Bevere, Nobel laureate in literature Selma Lagerlöf, and Neil Gaiman who based characters on him, as well as Morris and Goscinny in Lucky Luke (Emperor Smith).

Declares himself "Emperor"

Norton in full regalia

When Norton returned to San Francisco from his self-imposed exile, he had become completely disgruntled with what he considered the inadequacies of the legal and political structures of the United States. On September 17, 1859, he took matters into his own hands and distributed letters to the various newspapers in the city, proclaiming himself "Emperor of these United States":

The announcement was first reprinted for humorous effect by the editor of the San Francisco Bulletin. Norton would later add "Protector of Mexico" to this title. Thus commenced his unprecedented and whimsical 21-year "reign" over America.

One of Norton's undated [[proclamations]]

In his self-appointed role of emperor, Norton issued numerous decrees on matters of the state. After assuming absolute control over the country, he saw no further need for a legislature, and on October 12, 1859, he issued a decree formally abolishing the United States Congress. In it, Norton observed:

Norton ordered all interested parties to assemble at Platt's Music Hall in San Francisco in February 1860 to "remedy the evil complained of".

In an imperial decree the following month, Norton summoned the Army to depose the elected officials of the U.S. Congress:

Norton's orders were ignored by the Army, and Congress likewise continued undisturbed. Further decrees in 1860 dissolved the republic and forbade the assembly of any members of the former Congress. Norton's battle against the elected leaders of America persisted throughout his reign, though it appears he eventually, if grudgingly, allowed Congress to exist without his permission. Hoping to resolve the many disputes that had resulted in the Civil War, in 1862 Norton issued a mandate ordering both the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches to publicly ordain him as "Emperor".

Living octopus

Living octopus

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