The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



Mother Jones "Link-Checks" Campaign in History of "Frisco"

Although The Emperor's Bridge Campaign doesn't (yet) have an official position on the question of whether, in fact, Emperor Norton wrote the anti-"Frisco" proclamation so often attributed to him, we do, as part of our mission of advancing the Emperor's legacy, have an obligation to present the most historically accurate view of the situation that we can.

So we've been bound to point out, from time to time, that primary-source documentation confirming Emperor Norton — or, indeed, anyone in particular — as the author of this proclamation remains elusive.

The text itself appeared in the highly romanticized account of the Emperor offered by David Warren Ryder (1892-1975) in his 30-page booklet, San Francisco's Emperor Norton, published in 1939 — nearly 60 years after the Emperor's death. This the earliest example of the text that we've seen in print. (If you've seen something earlier, do let us know.) But Ryder provided no source for the proclamation. Nor, it appears, has anyone else.

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It stands to reason that the Campaign is one of the few organizations or individuals to be actively researching this question. So it was gratifying, a couple of days ago, to have our efforts acknowledged by the respected San Francisco-based magazine Mother Jones.

Senior editor Dave Gilson wrote and published an annotated and illustrated timeline of the history of "Frisco."

Here's how the timeline begins:

Beloved local eccentric/crank Emperor Joshua Norton I bans use of the word "Frisco." Or not: See below.

The Emperor strikes back
Emperor Norton supposedly declared "Frisco" off-limits with this 1872 decree: "Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word 'Frisco,' which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars." Disappointingly for anti-"Frisco" purists, this decree is likely apocryphal. The earliest citation I could find is in David Warren Ryder's 1939 biography of Norton, which offers no sourcing.

The text link "likely apocryphal" directs to one of the Campaign's two pieces on "Frisco." (The other one is here.)

As to the Ryder citation: The Campaign and Dave Gilson reached our conclusions independently. We think we're in good company.

Stay tuned for more details.

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