The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



Filtering by Tag: Allen Stanley Lane

Setting the Record Straight on the Famous Emperor Norton Obit(s)

Emperor Norton died on Thursday 8 January 1880.

Time and time again, one reads that the San Francisco Chronicle was up the next morning with a dramatic front-page headline, "Le Roi Est Mort" ("The King Is Dead"), over a brief obituary whose signature passage began "On the reeking pavement, in the darkness of a moonless night under the dripping rain...."

It's a good story — but, it's not quite true.

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OPEN QUESTION No. 1: How and When Did Joshua Norton Get to San Francisco?

The familiar version of Joshua Norton's San Francisco immigration story — a narrative developed primarily between 1879 and 1939 by that period's leading writers about Emperor Norton — holds that the future Emperor made his way from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, where he booked passage on the Hamburg ship Franzeska and arrived in San Francisco on 23 November 1849.

The "story of the story" — of how this narrative came together and was canonized — is interesting on its own. What has yet to surface, however, is any primary-source documentation verifying Joshua's passage on any particular ship or his arrival in San Francisco in November 1849.

Absent such evidence, what we really have in the "received version" of this story — as with a number of details about the Emperor's pre-imperial life, in particular — is more a work of "collaborative intuition," a theory in search of documentation.

This is the first in an occasional series of articles on aspects of the Emperor Norton biography that should be regarded as "open questions" — and opportunities for research.

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Two Traces of Allen Stanley Lane

For nearly 50 years, Allen Stanley Lane's 1939 biography of Emperor Norton was recognized as the standard reference on the subject. But, as often as Lane is cited in Norton studies and within "the Norton community" more generally, it appears that there is no online record of Lane — apart from references to the fact that he wrote his book.

There appears to be no mention of Lane's personal life — or of anything else he might have written or produced about Emperor Norton.

So it's been gratifying, over the last couple weeks, to have been "gifted" with a couple more documentary signs of Lane's existence.

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The Eights Have It!

Of the hundreds of Norton-ish folks that we've met over the course of the last year or so, some of those who harbor the deepest fondness for Emperor Norton and his story identify with one of two groups: the Jewish community or numismatists, the latter being the proper term for historians of coin and currency. 

Here's a little discovery that brings both groups together  and that advances the case for 1818 as the year of the Emperor's birth.

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Joshua Abraham Norton, b. 4 February 1818

The following illustrated remarks were presented by Emperor's Bridge Campaign founder and president John Lumea at The Emperor's 197th Birthday, the Campaign's "party and presentation of recent findings" held on 3 February 2015 at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics in San Francisco.

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