The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Category: Commentary

Emperor Norton, Schizophrenic. Or Not.

The conventional wisdom, advanced by Norton biographer William Drury and many others, is that Joshua Norton was a "high-functioning schizophrenic." But, accepting that Norton struggled with some form of mental illness, is schizophrenia really the best way to explain it? Here's a different take worth considering.

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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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A True San Franciscan, or, What Tony Bennett and Emperor Norton Have in Common

Today, in celebration of his 90th birthday, Tony Bennett was on hand in San Francisco to receive a well-deserved tribute: the unveiling of a larger-than-life statue of him in front of the Fairmont Hotel, where he made his San Francisco debut in 1954 — and where he introduced his immortal signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," in 1961.

Bennett was given the tribute because — although he wasn't born in San Francisco, and although he never lived here — he was a true San Franciscan.

Emperor Norton is another gentleman who — like Tony Bennett — became a true San Franciscan by loving the city and being loved in return.

It is long past time for Emperor Norton to be honored with a tribute that rises to the level. A tribute that recognizes the Emperor for setting out the original vision for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and for being one of the earliest champions of the values of openness, tolerance, fair play and the common good that came to be identified with San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area — and that celebrates him for doing all of this with the whimsical and irrepressible style that is the hallmark of his adopted city. 

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On the Trail of the Elusive "Frisco" Proclamation

No proclamation attributed to Emperor Norton more often is actually quoted than the one in which he is said to have railed against the word "Frisco." But did the Emperor actually write this? As it turns out, the source of the "Frisco" proclamation is far from clear. In this wide-ranging, link-packed essay, we detail our quest for the origins of the decree and find that all roads may lead to 1939.

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An Empire of the Heart

A portion of remarks offered by Emperor's Bridge Campaign founder and president John Lumea at the Campaign's inaugural celebration of Empire Day in San Francisco's Redwood Park on 17 September 2015. The event was held to mark the 156th anniversary of Joshua Norton's declaration of himself as "Emperor of these United States" on 17 September 1859 and to welcome the 157th year of the Nortonian realm and reign.

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The Original Public Advocate

In the current San Francisco mayoral election, one of the challengers to sitting mayor Ed Lee has offered an anti-corruption plan that includes a proposal that San Francisco create a new elected office for a Public Advocate.

Other major cities already have Public Advocates; the level of authority depends on the city.

But the general idea is that the Public Advocate is a kind of official watchdog — someone who helps to ensure that the citizens are being treated fairly; that government agencies and private companies are properly maintaining basic utilities and services like streets, public transit, water, electricity and gas (and not gouging the people in the process); and that corruption that affects the general populace is called out wherever it is found.

Sound familiar? It should.

The original Public Advocate is Emperor Norton.

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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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Mr. Hutchinson's Mementos

It long has been known that, upon Emperor Norton's death in January 1880, many of his personal effects — including his regimentals, a hat, his sword and his treasured Serpent Scepter, an elaborate walking stick given him by his subjects in Oregon — went to the Society of California Pioneers (only to be lost 26 years later in the earthquake and fire). 

Many, but not all. This week, we discovered archival traces of an early 1880 donation to the Odd Fellows' Library Association of San Francisco. The donation  by David Hutchinson, Emperor Norton's longtime landlord at the Eureka Lodgings  included the stamp the Emperor used to place his seal on his proclamations. It might also have included the Emperor's final proclamation: written and sealed, but not yet delivered and published.  

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Zpub, Emperor Norton Records & the Emperor's Birth Date: A Case Study in Good Intentions & Undue Influence

How two of the Emperor's most loyal subjects sought to celebrate him but — despite their best intentions — wound up leading a generation to get one of the most basic facts about him wrong. 

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The Necropolis (and So Much More) of San Francisco

In 1934, Emperor Norton was (re)buried in Colma, Calif. But the connection of Colma to the life of San Francisco runs much, much deeper than simply providing real estate for burial plots. SF Weekly reporter Joe Eskenazi was up this past week with a really fine historical-observational piece that fleshes out everything that Colma has done for San Francisco, and why this matters.

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