MT: Emperor Norton of San Francisco

MT: Emperor Norton of San Francisco

Post by AN » Tue, 12 Jan 1999 04:00:00



                                                      Transcript No. 1635
                                                      January 8, 1999

                      EMPEROR NORTON OF SAN FRANCISCO
                             By Robert Leonard

    On this day in 1880, a man fell dead on the streets of San Francisco.
He was so mourned that flags were flown at half staff and 30,000 people
attended his funeral.  For this was Norton the First, Emperor of the United
States.

    Joshua Norton wasn't always an emperor.  In 1849, he came to San
Francisco, where he established himself as a merchant.  During the Gold
Rush, food and supplies were expensive, since everything had to be
imported.

    And no merchant was as successful as Joshua Norton.  He and  his
partners began to buy cargoes from consignees even before the vessels
arrived in port.  This gave Norton much greater control over the market.
In 1852, he built the first rice mill on the Pacific Coast.  People began
to call him a genius and greet him on the street with a "How are you,
Emperor?"

    But late in 1852, Norton overreached himself.  He tried to corner the
supply of rice, but failed and was ruined.  After many lawsuits, he was
forced into bankruptcy.

    The years of litigation and his sudden poverty finally affected his
mind.  He once walked into a San Francisco newspaper office and handed over
a notice proclaiming himself Norton the First, Emperor of the United
States.  Remembering Norton's past kindnesses, the people of San Francisco
humored him in his delusion from then on.

    Friends paid his expenses for several years.  A Masonic Lodge paid the
rent on his rooming house "castle," and the city government bought military
uniforms for him.  During these years, Emperor Norton supported himself by
spending "Bonds of the Empire," which he had printed himself.  These notes
have Norton's portrait and signature.  They're quite rare today . . .
giving us just a brief glimpse of one of San Francisco's more colorful
characters.

    This has been "Money Talks."  Today's program was written by Robert
Leonard and underwritten by Whitman Coin Products, a division of Golden
Books, providing folders and albums for many popular coin series.  Take a
tour of ANA's virtual Money Museum on the Web at www.money.org.
"Money Talks" is a copyrighted production of the American Numismatic
Association, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903,

 
 
 

MT: Emperor Norton of San Francisco

Post by Merlin Dorfm » Tue, 19 Jan 1999 04:00:00


:                                                       Transcript No. 1635
:                                                       January 8, 1999

:                       EMPEROR NORTON OF SAN FRANCISCO
:                              By Robert Leonard

:     On this day in 1880, a man fell dead on the streets of San Francisco.
: He was so mourned that flags were flown at half staff and 30,000 people
: attended his funeral.  For this was Norton the First, Emperor of the United
: States.

     ...and Protector of Mexico!
     Remebered today by a pizza parlor named "Emperpr Norton's."
                                    Merlin Dorfman