The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



Filtering by Tag: Daily Alta California

Emperor Norton's Tour of 1864

By the time the calendar opened on 1864, Emperor Norton was a well-known presence in San Francisco, as well in Oakland and Berkeley. And, he had begun making excursions to Sacramento.

But, it appears that the Emperor had yet to set foot in outposts of his Empire further afield.

Between mid February and mid March 1864, he remedied this with two royal junkets in quick succession — the first, to Marysville and Oroville; the second, to Petaluma.

Of course, the newspapers both at home and “abroad” were only too happy to cover these visits.

Read on for the whole story — and for rarely seen photographs of a couple of the hotels where Emperor Norton stayed when he visited these places.

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"To Dream of the Emperor Norton"

In January 1865 — back in his native New York for a year, after spending the previous five years in San Francisco — David Montross Gazlay debuted a new magazine that he called Gazlay’s Pacific Monthly. The purpose of the magazine was to evangelize an East Coast readership as to the virtues — and the opportunities — of the Pacific states and territories.

The inaugural issue of the Pacific Monthly featured a reprint of a charming item of literary humor originally published elsewhere — apparently in the early 1860s — and which includes a poignant reference to Emperor Norton.

As it happens, Gazlay and the Emperor had occasion to meet in February 1861, when both men attended a citizens’ meeting — called by San Francisco Mayor Henry Teschemacher — to plan a major pro-Union rally.

Click below for the whole story.

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OPEN QUESTION No. 3: Did Joshua Norton Really Leave San Francisco Between Declaring Himself Bankrupt in 1856 and Emperor in 1859?

Here's a "mystery" about Emperor Norton that may be less mysterious than many seem to think. Despite persistent speculation that Joshua Norton left San Francisco for a period of months or years just before declaring himself Emperor in 1859, the available evidence points to a narrative in which, most likely, the eventual Emperor remained a resident of the City from his arrival until his death.

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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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"I Will Hold That Flag"

Ever the "union man," Emperor Norton was as ecumenical in matters of politics as he was in matters of religion.

In a cameo appearance on the front page of the 21 February 1861 edition of the Daily Alta California newspaper, the Emperor needed only five crisp words to pin his pro-Union colors unmistakably to the mast. 

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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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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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Did Influential Norton Biographer Robert Ernest Cowan Fudge the Emperor's Birth Date?

Building on Campaign board member Joseph Amster's recent "rediscovery" of am 1865 newspaper item pointing to an 1818 birth date for Emperor Norton, Campaign founder John Lumea examines Robert Ernest Cowan's influential 1923 essay about the Emperor and finds that Cowan manipulated the same news item to make it appear to support his own theory that Emperor Norton was born in 1819.

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Respected Web Site on "1820 Settlers" Updates the Emperor's Birth Date

In 1820, 2-year-old Joshua Norton emigrated with his parents and older brother from England to South Africa. They and the 4,000 others who participated in this colonization scheme came to be known as the 1820 Settlers. This week, in response to Board member Joseph Amster's recent "rediscovery" of an 1865 newspaper item pointing to an 1818 birth date for Joshua Norton, the leading historical and genealogical Web site documenting the story of the 1820 Settlers movement updated its birth date for Emperor Norton.

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Homing in on the Emperor's Birth Date?

Combing through microfiche of old San Francisco newspapers at the San Francisco Public Library yesterday, Emperor's Bridge Campaign board member Joseph Amster stumbled across an item on the front page of the 4 February 1865 edition of the Daily Alta California. The item invites us to take a much closer look at a possible birth date for Emperor Norton that was dismissed by earlier biographers.

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