The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

to honor the life + advance the legacy of Emperor Norton

In the Emperor's Study

Early in his reign, Emperor Norton established a daily routine that varied little over the course of many years. The Emperor would start by reading the morning papers. He then would while away a few hours in Portsmouth Square. After a midday repast at one of his favorite "free lunch" tables, the Emperor would take up an afternoon residency at a library or a reading room — perhaps the one at the Bohemian Club, where he probably was welcome, even though not a member.

It appears that Emperor Norton's favorite bibliophilic haunt was the Mechanics' Institute, at 37 Post Street. Here, in the Institute's first library building, which opened in 1866, the Emperor read the Institute's books; ran into old friends like Andrew Hallidie (1836-1900), a key figure in the development of the cable car, and Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), the pioneering photographer (who took the famous 1869 shot of the Emperor astride a velocipede); and was said to play a fine game of chess.

The Mechanics' Institute also is where Emperor Norton wrote a good many of his proclamations — on the Institute's engraved stationery, according to the Emperor's biographer, William Drury.

Early last month, we ran Muybridge's wonderful exterior photograph of the Institute's 1866 building. But the more elusive prize has been a photograph(s) of the building's interior — of the physical spaces that Emperor Norton himself inhabited on all those afternoons, so many years ago.

Happily, we now can close this gap. Our friend, Taryn Edwards, a public librarian at the Mechanics' Institute, recently wrote a new historical essay about the Institute that adds this fabulous collection of interior views of the 1866 building:
 

Interior photographs of the Mechanics' Institute's 1866 building at 37 Post Street, in San Francisco. This was Emperor Norton's most regular afternoon haunt — and the place where he wrote most of his proclamations. Source: Mechanics' Institute.

Interior photographs of the Mechanics' Institute's 1866 building at 37 Post Street, in San Francisco. This was Emperor Norton's most regular afternoon haunt — and the place where he wrote most of his proclamations. Source: Mechanics' Institute.


Which of these rooms was the Emperor's favorite? In which of these chairs did he sit?

Can you see his ghost?


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