The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



Filtering by Tag: The Great Unknown

Oofty Goofty Wore a Leather Pad in His Pants

Accounts of Emperor Norton often note that he is the most famous of a larger cast of Public Characters that peopled the streets of San Francisco during his lifetime.

But, with the exception of Frederick Coombs a.k.a. George Washington II, the biographical particulars of these Characters — legal names; dates of birth and death; and exactly when, and for how long, they were in San Francisco — often are left in clouds of ambiguity.

As it happens, one of the most famous Characters mentioned in connection with Emperor Norton didn’t even arrive in San Francisco until three or four years after the Emperor’s death.

Harvested from contemporaneous newspaper accounts, this timeline of five of the Characters most often associated with Emperor Norton — The Money King; George Washington II; The Great Unknown; The King of Pain; and Oofty Goofty — fills in many biographical blanks and finds surprising new details about the careers of these legendary figures.

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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.

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