The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Tag: San Francisco Examiner

Chief Crowley Releases a Sword

On 16 February 1880 — a little more than a month after Emperor Norton’s death on 8 January — the San Francisco Board of Supervisors conveyed the Emperor’s main personal effects to the Society of California Pioneers.

San Francisco Police Chief Patrick Crowley, who famously had released the Emperor from jail in January 1867 — the morning after an overzealous member of the police auxiliary had falsely arrested the Emperor on bogus charges of vagrancy and lunacy — had one more item to add to the Pioneers’ new collection of Imperial artifacts.

The Police Department had been holding on to it for 15 years.

Read More

An Early Pro-Immigrant Proclamation from the Immigrant Emperor

An abiding concern of Emperor Norton was for the welfare of immigrants. The Emperor issued numerous Proclamations and took other actions in the defense and support of specific immigrant communities — notably, the Chinese, German and French.

More broadly, Emperor Norton wanted to ensure that the basic needs of arriving immigrants be met. This included his determination that cash-poor immigrants have enough money to get started in their new country.

His concern for the financial security of immigrants was evident at least as early as November 1867, when he issued a brief Proclamation that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Read More

Emperor Norton & The Great Unknown: Two Eccentrics Meet in a Rare Illustration from 1871

By the time Max Cohnheim arrived in San Francisco in 1867, at around age 41 — Cohnheim had immigrated to the United States in 1851 — he already was a noted German-language writer, editor, playwright and sometime actor of political satire.

On 17 June 1871, Cohnheim debuted his latest satirical magazine, the San Francisco Humorist. The inaugural issue featured a comic illustration of the Emperor Norton conferring with another well-known street character of the day — a dandy who styled himself The Great Unknown.

It seems likely that the Emperor and the Unknown at least would have been acquainted with one another.

Read on to learn more about the Great Unknown and to see this early illustration of Emperor Norton — an illustration, drawn during the Emperor’s lifetime, that probably has lain in obscurity for decades and probably has seen by very few people at all since it first was published nearly 150 years ago.

Read More

Emperor Norton at a Pro-Civil Rights Lecture, March 1868

Emperor Norton’s on-point attendance at an early event of the Order of Freedom’s Defenders — a Unionist-Republican political club dedicated to preserving Lincoln's legacy; advancing Reconstruction; electing Grant as President; and securing the Constitutional protections necessary to guarantee the civil rights of African-Americans — can be seen as “of a piece” with the Emperor’s broader commitment to African-American equality.

Read More

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.

Read More

Emperor Norton on the Front Row of the Fight for Ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment Removing Race as a Barrier to Voting

In February 1869, the U.S. Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment, which would have the effect of extending the right to vote in the United States to all men of color.

Ten months later — as ratification was making its way through the states, and with California still in the balance — a respected African-American editor and activist named Peter Anderson gave a lecture in favor of the Amendment at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, on Stockton Street in San Francisco.

Emperor Norton showed up, took a seat down front and was “an attentive listener,” according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The Amendment was ratified in February 1870 — no thanks to California, where the legislature rejected the Amendment against a backdrop of anti-Chinese racism in the state. But, Anderson — the editor of the African-American-owned and -operated Pacific Appeal newspaper — may have remembered Emperor Norton’s solidarity when, late that year, he took on the Emperor as a regular contributor to his pages.

Over the next four-and-a-half years, Anderson would publish — almost always on the front page — some 250 of Emperor Norton’s proclamations, including those insisting on the rights of African-Americans to attend public schools and ride public streetcars.

Read More

“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.

Read More

Campaign Discovers Newspaper Record of Emperor Norton’s Famous Stand-Off with an Anti-Chinese Crowd

One of the most popular stories about Emperor Norton has the Emperor dispersing an anti-Chinese riot by standing before a racist mob and saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over. But, there never has been a date or documentation for this incident.

The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign has discovered what we believe to be the first document that stands to lift key elements of this story out of the realm of legend and into the realm of history. We share it here.

Read More

© 2019 The Emperor's Bridge Campaign  |  Site design by Polished  |  Background: Detail from image courtesy of Eric Fischer