The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Category: Bay Bridge

“The Old Boy Doped It Out Pretty Damn Well” — Notes on an Early "Emperor's Bridge" Campaigner

A May 1956 episode of the television series Telephone Time is one of the four films currently included in The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign’s digital ARchive of Emperor Norton in Art, Music & Film (ARENA).

The series was created, produced and hosted by John Nesbitt. And the episode is titled “Emperor Norton’s Bridge,” although the Bay Bridge — the Emperor’s bridge — appears nowhere in the story.

As it happens, though, Nesbitt — starting years before the airing of the episode — was a lifelong advocate for naming the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton.

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Emperor Norton Plaque Restored

A well-known and fondly regarded Emperor Norton plaque created in 1939 most recently was installed at San Francisco’s old Transbay Terminal for 34 years — from November 1986 until the terminal was prepared for demolition in late 2010.

The weathered bronze plaque has been out of the public view for the last 8 years. But, recently, the plaque was lovingly restored — and plans are moving forward to reinstall the plaque at the new Transbay Transit Center.

Read on for a photograph of the plaque as most have never seen it — and for details on the location now being eyed for this rare and wonderful tribute to the Emperor.

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New Transbay Transit Center Is in Norton's Old Neighborhood

Most people who see a connection between Emperor Norton and the site occupied by the new Transbay Transit Center see the connection only in terms of a beautiful Bay Bridge-oriented commemorative plaque that the fraternal society E Clampus Vitus commissioned and dedicated in 1939 and moved to the old Transbay Terminal some fifty years later, in 1986.

In fact, the new transit center is just a few steps from the former sites of some of the most important properties owned and used between 1850 and 1855 by the "pre-imperial" businessman known as Joshua Abraham Norton.

This points to an opportunity: The transit center is situated in the midst of the oldest of Old San Francisco. How about a prominent feature in the Center that would direct visitors to historically significant sites that are within walking distance? How about putting a plaque or some other historical marker on all of these sites?

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Herb Caen's "Norton Bridge" Campaign of 1947 (And the 1960 Letter from Berkeley That Watered the Seed)

Did you know that the longstanding call to name the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton traces part of its pedigree to legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen?

Exactly 70 years ago — in what may be some of the earliest published statements of the idea that a San Francisco Bay-spanning bridge should bear the name of the Emperor — Caen, with some persistence, called for a planned "second Bay Bridge" to be named the "Norton Bridge." 

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Write a Letter Today to Make It the Emperor Norton Bridge in 2018

Next year is the 200th anniversary of Emperor Norton's birth on 4 February 2018. And, we can't think of a better bicentennial birthday present than — finally! — naming the Emperor's bridge for the Emperor! 

But, making this a possibility means that three groups of people — (1) state legislators, the ones who would have to authorize "Emperor Norton Bridge" as a parallel / honorary name for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; (2) those in local and state government and media who have influence with these elected officials; and (3) the close friends of all these people — need to hear from California supporters of the Emperor Norton Bridge naming — and hear from them a lot! — between now and early 2018.

To assist California supporters with this outreach, The Emperor's Bridge Campaign has prepared a model letter that includes all the key messages that the Campaign has been using to advocate on this issue.  

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Naming of Meadow in Golden Gate Park Would Set a Helpful Precedent for Emperor Norton Bridge Effort

There is a proposal afoot to name the Sharon Meadow, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, for the late comedian and actor Robin Williams. The rationale being used strengthens the case for naming the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton. 

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A True San Franciscan, or, What Tony Bennett and Emperor Norton Have in Common

Today, in celebration of his 90th birthday, Tony Bennett was on hand in San Francisco to receive a well-deserved tribute: the unveiling of a larger-than-life statue of him in front of the Fairmont Hotel, where he made his San Francisco debut in 1954 — and where he introduced his immortal signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," in 1961.

Bennett was given the tribute because — although he wasn't born in San Francisco, and although he never lived here — he was a true San Franciscan.

Emperor Norton is another gentleman who — like Tony Bennett — became a true San Franciscan by loving the city and being loved in return.

It is long past time for Emperor Norton to be honored with a tribute that rises to the level. A tribute that recognizes the Emperor for setting out the original vision for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and for being one of the earliest champions of the values of openness, tolerance, fair play and the common good that came to be identified with San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area — and that celebrates him for doing all of this with the whimsical and irrepressible style that is the hallmark of his adopted city. 

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The "Emperor Norton Bridge" By 2022

The Emperor's Bridge Campaign proposes that the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge be additionally named for Emperor Norton in 2022 — the 150th anniversary of when Emperor Norton set out the original vision for the Bay Bridge in 1872. On 10 May 2016, Campaign president John Lumea sent to Campaign supporters and followers a letter outlining the bridge-naming proposal and options for pushing it forward. 

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The Necropolis (and So Much More) of San Francisco

In 1934, Emperor Norton was (re)buried in Colma, Calif. But the connection of Colma to the life of San Francisco runs much, much deeper than simply providing real estate for burial plots. SF Weekly reporter Joe Eskenazi was up this past week with a really fine historical-observational piece that fleshes out everything that Colma has done for San Francisco, and why this matters.

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James Kenneth Piggott, Early Photographer of the Emperor's Bridge

Some of the earliest photographs of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were taken in 1936 by James Kenneth Piggott, a commercial photographer who made his living, in part, as a printer and publisher of postcards. More on Piggott — including an intriguing biographical overlap with Emperor Norton — plus three of his 1936 bridge photographs, after the jump.

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