"Portrait of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, also known as Joshua A Norton," photographer, date unknown. Larger.
Contention between Republicans and Democrats often leaves us longing for civil discourse and political progress. Perhaps its time to adopt the view of one prominant Californian, even if he might have been, well, insane.
A failure at business, Joshua A. Norton
declared himself "Emperor of These United States" in 1859, the beginning of a twenty-one year reign marked by occasional decrees notable for their oddity and for a certain impatience with politics.
Norton I., Dei Gratia, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree disfanchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this imperial decree.
Given at San Francisco, Cal., this 12th day of August, A.D. 1869
Emperor Norton was more than a barely tolerated eccentric; he became a local celebrity, commonly addressed as "His Imperial Majesty" by San Franciscans and honored as a frequent guest of the finest restaurants in the City.
Joshua A. Norton (1819-1880), self-proclaimed "His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico," photographed by H.W. Bradley or William Rulofson, 1880 or earlier. Larger.
One of California's notable eccentrics, Joshua A. Norton declared himself "Emperor of These United States and Protector of Mexico" in 1859. One of his pleasures was dressing the part.
tailors liked to outfit the bogus emperor, but woe could befall them if his demands weren't meant.
WHEREAS, avaricious persons and others are conspiring against our person, right and dignity by refusing to supply us with suitable clothing, although repeatedly requested to do so; and WHEREAS, the national dignity and rights are thereby injured; NOW, THEREFORE, we command that you proceed on receipt of this our decree forthwith to the tailors, Walter and Tompkins, on Montgomery Street of this city, and then and there proceed to take the rivets out of their shears and prohibit any person from repairing them or furnish them with new ones until they shall furnish us with our clothing, which they have long ago been requested to do. Given under our hand this 11th day of September, 1862.
Emperor Norton I died in 1880. It was reported that he was buried in a black robe with a white shirt and black tie and that upwards of 10,000 mourners paid their respects.