"To Dream of the Emperor Norton"
In January 1865, David Montross Gazlay (1835-1895) published the first number of a short-lived magazine that he called Gazlay’s Pacific Monthly.
David Gazlay’s story is fascinating on its own — as one can read in the wonderfully detailed biographical essay here. Born in Rensselaer County, New York, Gazlay relocated in 1855 to Charleston, South Carolina, where he published the first in a long line of directories, periodicals and other items that would bear his imprint over the next 40 years.
By early 1857, Gazlay was back in New York. He married — the first of three times — on 4 November 1858, and the next day boarded a ship headed west. He landed in San Francisco a month later, on 3 December 1858. He would remain in San Francisco for five years, before returning to New York in late 1863.
During his time in California, Gazlay came to believe strongly in the virtues — and the opportunity — embodied by the Pacific states and territories. It was to evangelize an East Coast readership with the Pacific Coast gospel that he launched a new magazine at the beginning of 1865.
In the lead article of the inaugural, January 1865 issue of his new Pacific Monthly — the article was aptly titled, “Ourselves” — David Gazlay laid out the rationale for the enterprise (view original at the Internet Archive):
The absence in the Atlantic States of a reliable and interested medium of disseminating facts and home truths in reference to the vast interests of the Pacific States has been a want long experienced here among persons directly interested in the success and welfare of California, Oregon, Nevada, and their contiguous territories. We should have had long ago, what we now have in the Pacific Monthly, a representative press in the Atlantic States, a medium through which we could speak directly to the capitalist, and the masses of the great commercial cities of the older States of the Union and of Europe, where our claims could be properly set forth, our rights maintained, and our wrongs vindicated. The States of the Pacific Coast should be populated today with six millions instead of six hundred thousand souls, their taxable property should represent billions instead of millions. The construction of the Pacific Railroad should occupy (after this sad war is over) the first and most active attentions of the Government. The road should be built as a national road, as a national necessity, the hidden treasures of the Pacific States should not lie dormant for the want of labor and capital to develop them, the bane to our prosperity, wealth, and happiness; we lack not the enterprise, the courage, the indomitable will, the moral status, but we do suffer from the want of the consolidation of labor and capital, quick and easy transit across the continent, that the tide of immigration may flow directly and continually onward, that the capitalist may not feel as many of them now. do, that the intervening distance is too great, increasing the hazard, and their investments not accessible to their personal observation and attention. We shall endeavor to make the interests of the Pacific States our interests, and shall faithfully and candidly devote our columns mainly to placing before the world, and more particularly our brethren, friends, and kinsmen of the Atlantic Slope, such facts in regard to them as will interest, instruct, and benefit. We shall also give full and reliable information in reference to their mining, manufacturing, agricultural, commercial, educational, social and national interests. We shall eschew all political and sectarian animosities. We stand as we have always stood, firm and unwavering for an undivided country.
Another way to understand this is to see that — although published in New York — Gazlay’s Pacific Monthly was conceived — at an ambitious 96 pages per issue — as a kind of “companion” to The Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic), which had been established in 1857.
In his January 1865 introduction, Gazlay hinted toward an apology that the first issue did not include more original content, writing (view original — p. 2, col. 1., at the Internet Archive):
In the first issue we have been limited in time, and have been forced to hurry up the intellectual, as well as the mechanical labor. We predict that our future numbers will present among their contributors an array of names and intellect that will secure for it the warmest support of all who have the interests of our Pacific States at heart, or are disposed to encourage and sustain national pride, progress, and prosperity.
Later in the same issue, a new regular section titled “Our Editorial Sanctum” opened in a similar vein (view original — p.74, col. 1, at the Internet Archive):
WE wish with all our heart, gentle reader, that we were able to say, in this our first number of the Pacific Monthly, that our editorial drawers were full to overflowing with good things for this department. But, alas! we are afraid that, were we to say so, we would be mistaken. We know that you will bear lightly with us until our next, when we promise such a dish of excellencies as will satisfy the most fastidious palate.
So it was that the “Editorial Sanctum” section of the January 1865 issue of Gazlay’s Pacific Monthly included the following reprinted item of literary humor (view original — starting on p.77, col. 2, at the Internet Archive).
The item is of unknown provenance — Gazlay doesn’t say, and a Google search offers no further intelligence. But, it appears that the item originally was published sometime in the early 1860s. [See update immediately after the item. —JL]
Read the whole thing — from top to bottom — for the full, charming effect and the poignant Nortonian punchline.
Then, stay tuned for a footnote.
SNOBOCRACY ON THE PACIFIC. — Under this heading some time since was published an excellent burlesque on the American love of titles, peculiarly applicable to California, a portion of which we reproduce for the amusement of the public.
With us a lawyer is called general, colonel, doctor, etc., etc. We have General McDougal, Colonel Crockett, and Captain Lippitt; General Hambly, Colonel Inge, and Captain Ryan; so also Doctor Heslep, and Doctor Barstow, among our practising lawyers.
A negro wood sawyer styles himself a carpenter, a carpenter calls himself architect, a sign painter is an artist, a stone-cutter is a sculptor, a waiter must be addressed as steward, Snip is a merchant tailor; a consignment of a bag of onions, a firkin of butter, and four cheeses, establishes a commission merchant; a vendor of Teas is a merchant. In passing through our streets one sees more titled men than would have been found in the camps at Balaklava, or at the general review in the Place Vendome — through the entire day you hob-nob to title.
Yesterday morning we were shaved at the Washington Street Baths by the Hon. Mr. Schmidt, and a little darkey called Doctor, blacked our boots; we went around to Col. Loring's, and took our morning cocktail with Gen. McDougal and Judge Burbank; stepped into Captain Samuel Soule's office, and read the general news; breakfasted with Dr. Parker at General Winn's branch saloon, where we were waited upon by the Steward, in an attentive white apron; took a cigar with Col . Washington, Judge Thompson, and Chief-Engineer Hosse- fross; after breakfast called upon Col. Doane, (Sheriff,) to know if Judge Duer, (Clerk,) belonged to the Union or Pacific Club; saw Capt. Hanna, and was informed that he had left the state; stepped into the Police Court, saw Dr. Coou upon the bench, and Colonel James defending Colonel Childs for resisting an officer, Captain Moore; Dr. Burke, (the Chief of Police,) was on the witness stand — when the Court adjourned in respect to the memory of Judge Scarborough, on the motion of Col. Tingley, and the cases of Col. Hayes and Dr. Hitchcock were postponed for sentence. Saw Col. Baker off for U.S. Senator in Oregon; Dr. Hathaway, Hon. James A Banks, and other distinguished Republicans being present. Capt. Ryder and Capt. Shockley, thought of going up to look for a Port Wardenship, but Gen. Anderson, inspector of Liquors, having been superseded by Col. Ross, determined to remain until after the next election, when Major Graham, Col. Washington, Judge Tilford, Gen. Denver, and all the balance of the titled Democracy will take a pleasure trip up Salt River.
On our way up from the boat we bad a chat with Gov. Wainwright about the Dashaways, and ascertained that several distinguished generals, colonels, judges and honorables, had fallen from grace to whiskey. Dined at Col. Alden's restaurant, took a drink with Judge Chamberlain, went to hear Col. Crockett lecture on young mechanics, having heard Judge Tracy on eminent ones. Saw Major Burr, Col. Pearson, Judge Powers, and other titled individuals.
After listening to an animated political discussion between Col. Gift and Col. Snowden, on the comparative merits of General Jackson and Judge Botts, which was referred for settlement to Col. Clarkson and Capt. Baker, took a night-cap with Major Roman, Major Solomon, Major Sinton, Purser Webb, Col. Hoge, Capt. Brenham, a snob of a dentist who called himself "Doctor," and Col. Freelon, — after which we retired to dream of the Emperor Norton, and the vanity of all human greatness.
[UPDATE 12 July 2019: The complete original piece is reprinted, under the headline “American Snobocracy,” on the front page of The Placer Herald of 18 February 1860 — which is remarkable, in part, because it means that the Emperor was referenced in a published item of literary humor only five months after he declared himself in September 1859. The Placer Herald notes, above the headline, that the piece is “From The San Francisco Overland Mail Letter.” The full title of this publication was The San Francisco Overland and Ocean Mail Letter — also known more simply as The San Francisco News Letter. You can read The Placer Herald’s full reprint of “American Snobocracy” here.]
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As it happens, David Gazlay and Emperor Norton had at least one specific occasion on which to meet.
In April 2015, we wrote up an episode reported in the Daily Alta California of 21 February 1861. The occasion for the report was a large citizens’ meeting, held the day before in the chambers of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — and called by Board President and San Francisco Mayor Henry F. Teschemacher — to plan a major pro-Union rally as soon as possible.
The Alta reported that Emperor Norton attended the meeting. The paper noted that, when the city tax collector, E.H. Washburn, itemized a brief agenda for the rally — including “[to] set up the star spangled banner” — the Emperor “pressed forward and exclaimed: “I will hold that flag.”
According to the Alta, Gazlay, a staunch Unionist, attended this meeting as well. Indeed, he offered a motion on a leadership structure for the rally and ultimately was appointed a member of the rally’s 6-member “Committee of Management” — a committee that was headed up by Teschemacher.
The rally took place on 22 February, at the intersection of Market, Montgomery and Post.
The Alta estimated the crowd at “Fourteen Thousand Men” (view original here). The Sacramento Daily Union carried a telegraph report that put the number at “[u]pwards of eight thousand people” (view original here), which — based on the photograph of the event, below — may have been the more realistic accounting.
Either way, it was a big demonstration — and there’s no doubt that both Emperor Norton and David Gazlay were as close to the platform as they could get.
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