Phil Frank & Robert Chandler: The Bridge-Naming Tag Team of 2004
From summer 2004 to spring 2005, Phil Frank (1943-2007), the longtime San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist and the creator of the comic strip, Farley — a topical satire of life and current events in the Bay Area — penned a Farley series in which he introduced his readers to the story of Emperor Norton and to the idea of naming part of the Bay Bridge for him.
The series was narrated by Frank’s character, Baba Rebop. But there also were key cameo appearances by Robert “Doc” Chandler, a respected public historian for Wells Fargo from 1978 to 2010 and a recognized authority on 19th-century California who, at the time, was publicly urging that the Western crossing of the bridge be named for the Emperor.
In effect, Frank and Chandler were collaborators in a kind of tag-team campaign that turned out to be quite effective in leveraging the idea of naming the Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton into the public imagination of local citizens — and into the political agenda of their elected officials.
Here's how it all went down. *
22 FEBRUARY 2004
8 SEPTEMBER 2004 — Letter to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle
Bummer, Lazarus would howl
Editor — I am shocked and awed that an ice cream shop would smother a sundae named in honor of His Majesty, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico (Leah Garchik, Aug. 30).
Such indignity! As His Majesty once remarked, "Great aches from little toe-corns grow." However, this must be a left-wing conspiracy. Right-wingers like empires! At this sad news, I shall drown my mortification at Allen Paul's San Francisco Brewing Co., a place that honors His Majesty's spirit.
Furthermore, following the abolition of Congress in 1859, His Majesty dispensed with the presidency in 1862 and the Democratic and Republican parties in 1869.
However, if San Francisco wishes to do penance for these slights to His Majesty, the city could lobby for the never-named western span of the Bay Bridge to become the Emperor Norton Bridge. As His Majesty championed the poor and oppressed of all colors and ethnicities, this honor is appropriate for multicultural San Francisco.
ROBERT J. CHANDLER
13 SEPTEMBER 2004
22 SEPTEMBER 2004
23 SEPTEMBER 2004
24 SEPTEMBER 2004
27 SEPTEMBER 2004
Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
The Honorable Gavin Newsom:
As chair of His Majesty's Bridge Committee, appointed through the intuitive intervention of that acute seer Baba Rebop, I beseech a boon. I request Your Honor to submit to the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco a resolution requesting the state Legislature to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after His Majesty, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
His Majesty did predict the building of this world famous span in 1869, a time when only goats and the Central Pacific Railroad coveted Yerba Buena Island.
Such a bridge named after His Imperial Majesty would intrigue hoards of free-spending tourists to visit the Golden City by the Bay. San Francisco's nearest competitor is only the Sandwich Islands, once ruled by mere kings and queens.
His Majesty is a model of fiscal responsibility. San Franciscans accepted Bonds of the Empire at par, during a decade when U.S. government paper money and U.S. government coined silver passed among merchants at a discount.
His Majesty looked after the unfortunate of his realm, issuing proclamations to redress wrongs against African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans and all others in need of tolerance and acceptance.
His Majesty, through his humble representative, prays that you will grant this petition.
Your Obedient Servant,
ROBERT J. CHANDLER
Chair, His Majesty's Bridge Committee
28 SEPTEMBER 2004
5 OCTOBER 2004
12 OCTOBER 2004
13 OCTOBER 2004
20 OCTOBER 2004
21 OCTOBER 2004
27 OCTOBER 2004
28 OCTOBER 2004
4 NOVEMBER 2004
5 NOVEMBER 2004
11 NOVEMBER 2004
12 NOVEMBER 2004
29 NOVEMBER 2004
14 DECEMBER 2004
19 DECEMBER 2004
29 DECEMBER 2004
7 JANUARY 2005
30 MARCH 2005
* Most of Phil Frank's 2004/5 Farley series on Emperor Norton, plus the related 2004 letters by Robert "Doc" Chandler, previously appeared on a Web site, EmperorNortonBayBridge.com, that no longer is active. Thanks to E Clampus Vitus chapter Mountain Charlie No. 1850 for filling in the gaps.