The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Category: Places

"My Dear Lotta": Emperor Norton's Telegram to Lotta Crabtree

Of the 14 telegraph message forms in the California Historical Society's collection of Emperor Norton artifacts, most appear to be fakes written and signed by prankish telegraph operators. But, one appears to be authentic and in the Emperor's hand. It's a message from Emperor Norton to Lotta Crabtree, commending her on the recently dedicated fountain that she has commissioned as a gift to the City of San Francisco — and bestowing upon her the imperial title "Lady of the Fountain."

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Notes on His Majesty's Printers

It is known that Emperor Norton had his imperial promissory notes — his scrip — printed for him. But, rarely if ever discussed in any detail — even among collectors and connoisseurs of historical currency — are the particulars: Who were these printers? What were their associations? How did they get their "gigs" with the Emperor, and how did they fit into his world? Exactly when and where did they do their printing for him?

This exploration takes a close look at the two firms that are known to have printed Emperor Norton's bonds, between 1870 and 1880: Cuddy & Hughes and Charles A. Murdock & Co. It unearths:

  • some of the earliest newspaper references to the Emperor's scrip — including by the Emperor himself;
  • rarely seen photographic views of the building where Cuddy & Hughes, the Emperor's first printer, operated;
  • a personal recollection of the Emperor that his second printer, Charles Murdock, published in 1921;
  • directory listings; and...

Much other detail that sharpens the focus on this most basic episode of the Emperor's story — the printing and selling of scrip — and the key behind-the-scenes players that helped to make it happen.

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The Eastern Approach to the Imperial Palace

Two newly discovered photographs show new glimpses of the eastern end of the block of Commercial Street where Emperor Norton lived — as it was just after he moved there. The photos are from 1865 and 1866. The Emperor had moved to the block in late 1862 or early 1863. Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain worked on this block — next door to the palace, in fact — in the summer of 1864.

These views would have been very familiar to both gentlemen.

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"I Would Like to Send That Scalp of Yours to Them."

Over the course of several months in 1873, Emperor Norton issued a series of Proclamations calling out the exploitation of Native American people; urging a peaceable resolution to the Modoc War that was taking place at the time; and warning that the execution of Captain Jack and other Modoc leaders — a punishment mandated by an Army court-martial and eventually carried out — would only make matters worse.

The Emperor's Bridge Campaign has discovered a May 1873 diary entry — by a 13-year-old boy living in Oakland — that further illuminates the Emperor's take on the Modoc War and on Native Americans in general. 

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"Let the Emperor Have Skates — Or Close Up the Rinks!"

In the late nineteenth century, the popular amusement resort known as Woodward's Gardens — located in the area that now is San Francisco's Mission District — had what has been called the West Coast's largest rollerskating rink. In March 1872, Emperor Norton tried to go for a skate there. The Emperor was turned away. He was not happy.

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An Empire of the Heart

A portion of remarks offered by Emperor's Bridge Campaign founder and president John Lumea at the Campaign's inaugural celebration of Empire Day in San Francisco's Redwood Park on 17 September 2015. The event was held to mark the 156th anniversary of Joshua Norton's declaration of himself as "Emperor of these United States" on 17 September 1859 and to welcome the 157th year of the Nortonian realm and reign.

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The Emperor of Brooklyn

"As everyone knows, the Emperor Norton I. visits this city every Monday." So wrote the Oakland Tribune newspaper on 30 December 1879, a little more than a week before the Emperor died on 8 January 1880.

Although Emperor Norton often is pigeonholed as a creature of San Francisco, the truth is that he spent quite a bit of time visiting places that were outside the seat of his Empire. Here's a look at two of those places — Oakland and the adjacent Brooklyn, Calif. — as well as two of the Emperor's proclamations that were datelined "Brooklyn."

Images include: the original Oakland Tribune item; archival 1850s-'70s maps of Oakland, Brooklyn and Alameda; and two "Brooklyn proclamations" of 1872. Bonus: The story of The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. 

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In the Emperor's Study

Early last month, we ran Eadweard Muybridge's wonderful exterior photograph of the 1866 building of the Mechanics' Institute, where Emperor Norton spent many afternoons, wrote many proclamations and played many games of chess. 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.

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The Proclamatorium of Post Street

Emperor Norton wrote many — possibly even most — of his Proclamations during his regular afternoon visits to the Mechanics' Institute at 31 Post Street, where he also is said to have played a fine game of chess. Here's a look at how the Institute featured in the Emperor's daily life, illustrated by a couple of photographs of the building — including a wonderful shot by the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), who also took the famous 1869 photo of the Emperor astride a bicycle.

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Emperor Norton at the Metropolitan Hotel

This day in 1863 saw the auction of the furnishings and other contents of the Metropolitan Hotel at the southwest corner of Sansome and Bush Streets, in San Francisco. Emperor Norton had lived here for the past two years. The same year, 1863, the Emperor began living at his best-known residence  the Eureka Lodgings on Commercial Street. Almost certainly, it was the closing of the Metropolitan that prompted the move. But this was not the first time Joshua Norton had lived at this corner.

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Joshua Norton at the Rassette House

Starting in 1863, Emperor Norton occupied a sparsely furnished 9-by-6-foot room on the top floor of a 50-cent-per-night three-story boarding house known as the Eureka Lodgings. A decade earlier, the pre-imperial Joshua Norton enjoyed accommodation in one of the best hotels in San Francisco. What's surprising is that the difference between the daily rates of the two places appears to have been only about 50 cents. 

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