The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



"These guys are doing the lord's work." —Chuck Prophet

Campaign founder “John Lumea has emerged as the emperor’s leading spokesman.” —San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte

“The boldest efforts to honor the emperor." Wall Street Journal

Emperor Norton, c, 1871–72. From a carte de visite by the studio of Tuttle & Johnson, "Heliographic Artists," 523 Kearny Street, San Francisco. Collection of the California Historical Society.

Launched in 2013 to carry forward the call of that summer's petition (link) to name the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton — who set out the original vision for the Bay Bridge in 1872 — The Emperor's Bridge Campaign quickly saw that the larger need was for an organization with a broader mission of research, education and advocacy designed to honor the life and advance the full legacy of Joshua Abraham Norton (1818-1880), who declared himself Emperor in 1859. 

It was this imperative that led the Campaign to establish as a nonprofit in October 2014.

Even as we remain "on task" in the bridge-naming effort, we are building out a larger mission that includes the following goals for the Campaign:

Honor the life

1 >>> Develop the fullest, most accurate historical portrait of Emperor Norton, including:

(a) Highlight those aspects of the Emperor's story that typically don't make it into the popular version of him as a harrumphing but lovable kook in a funny suit and hat — including his far-sighted public calls

  • against corruption and fraud of all kinds — personal, political and corporate;

  • for fair and equal treatment of African-Americans, Chinese, Native Americans and women;

  • against religious sectarianism and for the separation of church and state; and

  • for fair labor standards.

(b) Conduct and present original research focusing on under-explored aspects of Emperor Norton's story.

(c) Fact-check and, when necessary, challenge undocumented assertions about the Emperor.

2 >>> Become the recognized digital clearinghouse of primary and secondary source material on the Emperor;

Advance the legacy

3 >>> Track the countless cultural references to Emperor Norton — in media, memoir and elsewhere — during, and since, his lifetime.

4 >>> Maintain a complete record of art, music, theater and other creative efforts that have been inspired by the Emperor; and

5 >>> Nurture public conversations about the ways in which Emperor Norton has been mythologized and (less often) historicized in the generations since his death — and about what the resulting pictures of the Emperor have to say about those who have done the "painting."

The vision of The Emperor's Bridge Campaign is to become recognized and sought as the leading public resource on Emperor Norton.

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To find out more about where The Emperor's Bridge Campaign has been — and where we're headed...

To keep up with the latest from the Campaign and learn how to become involved...

Look forward to hearing from you — and seeing you in the mix!

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