The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



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On the Road to the Emperor Norton Bridge, 1926–1932

Between 1926 and 1932, local, state and federal authorities in San Francisco; Oakland; California; and Washington, D.C., leaned in to an intense process for determining how best to create a transbay vehicular and rail bridge linking Oakland and San Francisco.

There were at least four major studies focusing solely on the bridge issue or, in one case, the bridge as part of broader regional transportation concerns.

Three of these studies — in 1926, 1927, and 1930 — included the specific location and route that Emperor Norton backed in 1872: Oakland to San Francisco via Goat Island, with a San Francisco landing at Telegraph Hill.

All three of these studies shortlisted two options that, between them, included these features: (1) direct connections between the traffic centers of Oakland and San Francisco; (2) a “hinge” at Goat Island (Yerba Buena Island); and (3) a San Francisco landing at Rincon Hill.

The 1930 study was the first to include an option that put all these features into one location and route — the one that eventually was built.

Read on for the Big Picture story of how it all came together — including the top-line maps, produced for these studies at the time, that illustrate the evolution of the design of the Emperor Norton Bridge.

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The Emperor Championed an Airship Inventor Who Published This Map of San Francisco in 1875

In July 1869, Emperor Norton issued a Proclamation urging his subjects to do everything in their power to advance the steam-powered airship experiments of Frederick Marriott. Six years later, in 1875, Marriott published a beautiful map of San Francisco. 

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The Emperor of Brooklyn

"As everyone knows, the Emperor Norton I. visits this city every Monday." So wrote the Oakland Tribune newspaper on 30 December 1879, a little more than a week before the Emperor died on 8 January 1880.

Although Emperor Norton often is pigeonholed as a creature of San Francisco, the truth is that he spent quite a bit of time visiting places that were outside the seat of his Empire. Here's a look at two of those places — Oakland and the adjacent Brooklyn, Calif. — as well as two of the Emperor's proclamations that were datelined "Brooklyn."

Images include: the original Oakland Tribune item; archival 1850s-'70s maps of Oakland, Brooklyn and Alameda; and two "Brooklyn proclamations" of 1872. Bonus: The story of The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. 

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