The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



Aerial view of the Emperor Norton Bridge.  Photograph © 2017 Bob Ristelheuber.

Aerial view of the Emperor Norton Bridge. Photograph © 2017 Bob Ristelheuber.

The Emperor's Bridge Campaign is engaging the support of California state and local lawmakers for our proposal — now a campaign within the Campaign — calling upon the state legislature simply to add "Emperor Norton Bridge" as an honorary name for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge system in 2022, the 150th anniversary of Emperor Norton's three “bridge Proclamations” of 1872, setting out the original vision for the Bay Bridge. Our proposal would leave in place all existing names for the bridge system and its parts ("spans," tunnel, pedestrian/bicycle path).

As part of this effort, the Campaign is seeking public endorsements from California and Bay Area influencers and institutions.

Current endorsements (listed below*) are in addition to the 6,100 (and counting!) signatories of the petition here

Would you like to endorse our proposal? Please contact Campaign founder John Lumea at



JOHN AVALOS | Former two-term San Francisco Supervisor for District 11 (2008-2017)

Count me in! I'm totally down to be an endorser.







JOHN LAW | Co-Founder of the San Francisco Cacaphony Society and the Burning  Man Festival

San Francisco has been a mythic beacon for the culturally dispossessed of America and the World for over 150 years. In 1882 Oscar Wilde noted: "It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world."

Well, Norton was here, then disappeared and then reappeared triumphant as Emperor. Ever since, he has been the model for any person landing in our fair and singular city to thoroughly recreate themselves as though they were indeed in "the next world."

The Emperors decree for a bridge across the Bay, in addition to being a practical plan, was in fact a clarion call of a higher order and another of his encouragements for the citizens of San Francisco to ascend the heights bringing them ever closer to Wilde's "next world."



DANIEL MACCHIARINI | Sculptor; Owner of Macchiarini Creative Design; President of the North Beach Business Association

We remember our Emperor, our merchant prince of days gone by, because in his fantastic pretension he embodied the best in all of us. He is our iconoclast "icon" of American self-reinvention as well as our collective conscious championing inclusiveness and the essence of our best aspirations for social equality!

He lives in our hearts not as distant nostalgia for a return to the past, "the good old days," but as reminder of our future hopes and what we should always strive to be as individuals, as a city, a nation and a people!




JANE GANAHL | Co-Founder & Artistic Director of Litquake

Emperor Norton could have been a time traveler. A 19th century man with 21st century sensibilities, Joshua Norton fought for the rights of immigrants, women and those who suffered under religious persecution. And he was a visionary. A transportation tunnel could be dug to Oakland! he said. And a bridge to Treasure Island and then on to the East Bay! They laughed at his audacious ideas but he took no notice — he knew he was the Emperor and his word would someday be law.

He was also one of the first media-made celebrities, a century and a half before we ever heard the name Kardashian. Beloved for his eccentricities and his kindly ways, if not his genius, “The Emp’s” antics made for excellent copy, and he was hounded by the dozens of newspapers that called San Francisco home after the Gold Rush. What they didn’t directly observe, they made up in a very real "phase one" of Fake News.

But none of it tainted his shiny crown. By the time he died at the height of his "reign," he was entertaining international heads of state, putting San Francisco on the map as a place that welcomed nuts and dreamers, anyone who colored outside the lines. And so it remains today. For that reason, naming the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton would be an important step in reminding the world, in these dangerously intolerant times, what The City stands for.


RON TURNER | Publisher at Last Gasp Books

Time is right to honor the futurist and gentle spirit that bespoke the personality and lifestyle of the ideal San Franciscan. Name the bridge that he foresaw as a tribute to the past and future of our land, water and people.






RICHARD EVERETT | Maritime Historian; Former Curator of Exhibits at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park   

The beloved Emperor Norton’s presence and pronouncements united San Francisco’s citizenry, helping to define that brilliant and innovative strain of "madness" that the people of San Francisco are still known for. Innovation and firsts are our hallmark. Emperor Norton stood for that. The tremendous affection people showed for him reflects the heart of our city. Another hallmark.





TARYN EDWARDS | Librarian at the Mechanics' Institute

Norton took his role as Emperor seriously and wanted to modernize the San Francisco Bay Area’s culture and infrastructure. Through his Proclamations, published in the local newspapers, he set out and popularized his vision for the Bay Bridge in 1872. He wrote passionately on many topics, demonstrating his broadmindedness about religious tolerance, women’s rights, and racial equality. He believed in a world that focused on personal honor and merit and in my mind was the progenitor of the "San Francisco values" we enjoy today. It is thus not surprising, in this era of sharp political division, that his legacy is still revered....

Adding Emperor Norton’s name to the Bay Bridge system, a system he dreamed of...will guarantee that he will be remembered by future generations as an eccentric of "imaginary majesty" and as a brilliant visionary. One who believed in a San Francisco that we still strive to achieve.


* Affiliations are included for identification purposes only.

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