The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Tag: San Francisco Chronicle

The Emperor Norton Rooms of 1961

In spring 1961, two establishments opened in San Francisco.

One was a hotel bar on Geary Street. The other was a lunch spot and cocktail lounge on Maiden Lane.

Both were less than two blocks from Union Square.

One was created by a designer who went on to be celebrated in the pages of the Architectural Digest. It had an "Emperor Norton" doorman. And, per Herb Caen, it once was host to Jack Dempsey and Lefty O'Doul — sharing a bowl of peanuts on the same night.

The other was home to a new portrait of the Emperor commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Both were called the Emperor Norton Room.

Here’s the intriguing story of two Nortonian stars that briefly rose and just as quickly fell in the same San Francisco season.

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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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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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New Life for an 1879 Drawing of Emperor Norton

On 9 November 1879 — just two months before Emperor Norton's death — the San Francisco Chronicle published a Sunday front-page profile of the Emperor that was based on rare interview with the Emperor himself.

The profile was accompanied by a lovely drawing of the Emperor that was reproduced 60 years later for Allen Stanley Lane's 1939 biography, Emperor Norton: The Mad Monarch of America — but that has languished since then.

The Emperor's Bridge Campaign has had a new photographic print made of the drawing and has added a hi-res scan of it to ARENA, our digital ARchive of Emperor Norton in Art.

Learn more and see the drawing, after the flip.  

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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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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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What Ever Happened to the Plaque of '59?

In 1959, "the Society of California Pioneers in cooperation with the San Francisco Chronicle" proposed an Emperor Norton memorial plaque at the intersection of California Street and Grant Avenue — where the Emperor collapsed and died on 8 January 1880. A design for the plaque was created by Hubert Buel, the Chronicle's art director. Indeed, the design and text for the plaque were approved by resolution of the San Francisco Arts Commission on 1 June 1959.

And yet, today, there is no Emperor Norton plaque at California and Grant. In fact, it appears that the project never made it before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — which typically would have to have given final approval for a project like this in order for it to move forward.

How did an Emperor Norton plaque with the collaborative backing of two storied institutions like the Society of California Pioneers and the San Francisco Chronicle get pushed off the tracks — and who did the job? 

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The Snubs of 1934

The story of those who stood by Emperor Norton at his death in 1880 — and two prominent organizations that did not, when the Emperor was reburied in 1934. Includes images of original archival documents published for the first time. 

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We Are Featured in Today's Chronicle

A San Francisco Chronicle article about different ways that advocacy groups are using the Change.org platform features Emperor's Bridge Campaign founder John Lumea's reflections on how the 2013 Change.org petition to name the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton became a powerful movement-building tool and a springboard for the launch of the Campaign.

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