The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Category: Outside Observations

“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.

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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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Rev. Fitzgerald's Recollections

Arriving in San Francisco in 1858, Oscar Penn Fitzgerald (1829-1911) was the founder and sometime preacher at one of the churches that was on Emperor Norton's Sunday rotation. By the time he returned to his native South in 1878, Fitzgerald had become an influential leader in the development of higher education in California. They were twenty years that enabled Fitzgerald to witness firsthand nearly the whole of the Emperor's reign. 

O.P. Fitzgerald's second book of "California Sketches," published in 1881, features one of the most carefully observed and wonderfully drawn portraits of Emperor Norton that we have — exploring, with great empathy, the paradox of an Emperor who carried a Bologna sausage in his hip pocket but whose nobility of mind and bearing were such as to rob his title of any paradox at all.

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Mother Jones "Link-Checks" Campaign in History of "Frisco"

It stands to reason that The Emperor's Bridge Campaign is one of the few organizations or individuals to be actively researching the question of whether Emperor Norton wrote the anti-"Frisco proclamation so often attributed to him. So it was gratifying, a couple of days ago, to have our efforts acknowledged by the respected San Francisco-based magazine Mother Jones.

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