PROJECTS :: Emperor's Birth Date Research Project
Contact: Campaign president John Lumea
One of the most elusive mysteries surrounding Emperor Norton is the date of his birth. Most U.S. sources treat the year inscribed on his gravestone in Colma, Calif. — 1819 — as authoritative. But, in researching this question, The Emperor's Bridge Campaign has made a series of unreported (or underreported) discoveries pointing to an earlier date that challenges the conventional wisdom.
Most likely, we believe, the Emperor was born on 4 February 1818.
Here is a summary of the Campaign's ongoing efforts in support of this research project.
Of the hundreds of Norton-ish folks that we've met over the course of the last year or so, some of those who harbor the deepest fondness for Emperor Norton and his story identify with one of two groups: the Jewish community or numismatists, the latter being the proper term for historians of coin and currency.
Here's a little discovery that brings both groups together — and that advances the case for 1818 as the year of the Emperor's birth.
On a beautiful if blustery afternoon yesterday in Colma, about 40 friends of Emperor Norton gathered for the laying of a special historical plaque for the Emperor at Home of Peace — the cemetery of Congregation Emanu-El, where the Emperor attended synagogue every Saturday.
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.
The following illustrated remarks were presented by Emperor's Bridge Campaign founder and president John Lumea at The Emperor's 197th Birthday, the Campaign's "party and presentation of recent findings" held on 3 February 2015 at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics in San Francisco.
This past Tuesday evening (3 February) was a "school night." So, The Emperor's Bridge Campaign was delighted to welcome some 55-60 guests — including many new faces! — to the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia Street in San Francisco, for The Emperor's 197th Birthday, a "party and presentation of recent findings" in support of the Campaign.
Emperor Norton's biographer, William Drury, maintains that "February 4th" had nothing at all to do with "His Majesty's Birthday." But was Drury right?
Was Emperor Norton really born in 1819, as his gravestone says? Or was he born in 1818? At the next event of The Emperor's Bridge Campaign, we'll shed new light on the answer to this old question.
Building on Campaign board member Joseph Amster's recent "rediscovery" of am 1865 newspaper item pointing to an 1818 birth date for Emperor Norton, Campaign founder John Lumea examines Robert Ernest Cowan's influential 1923 essay about the Emperor and finds that Cowan manipulated the same news item to make it appear to support his own theory that Emperor Norton was born in 1819.
In 1820, 2-year-old Joshua Norton emigrated with his parents and older brother from England to South Africa. They and the 4,000 others who participated in this colonization scheme came to be known as the 1820 Settlers. This week, in response to Board member Joseph Amster's recent "rediscovery" of an 1865 newspaper item pointing to an 1818 birth date for Joshua Norton, the leading historical and genealogical Web site documenting the story of the 1820 Settlers movement updated its birth date for Emperor Norton.
Combing through microfiche of old San Francisco newspapers at the San Francisco Public Library yesterday, Emperor's Bridge Campaign board member Joseph Amster stumbled across an item on the front page of the 4 February 1865 edition of the Daily Alta California. The item invites us to take a much closer look at a possible birth date for Emperor Norton that was dismissed by earlier biographers.
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