Saturday, July 12, 2014

Biography: Joshua Abraham Norton: Emperor of the United States

Joshua Abraham Norton was a different type of man, but for a while he was a mainstay of San Francisco.  He had made considerable money off of the gold rush as a merchant.  He saw that rice was in short supply, and the price steadily climbed.  He bought up all the available rice he could find, and was set to make a tidy fortune.  However the bottom fell out when new supplies of rice came from South America. 
He lost his fortune, and became a recluse.  However three years after his financial demise he emerged from his seclusion, and announced that he was now Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.  Everyone seemed to humor him; at least in San Francisco.  He sent letters to President Buchanan insisting congress be abolished, as they were all corrupt anyway.  His request went unheeded.  He wor old military uniforms, and the citizenry of San Francisco would take collections when his uniforms became old so he could buy new ones.  He was allowed on the trolleys without charge.  He suggested that the nations form a leag to resolve differences peacefully.  He sided with Lincoln during the Civil War. 
Norton I died in 1888, after 40 years of rule.  The San Francisco Bulletin wrote: “The Emperor Norton killed nobody, robbed nobody and deprived nobody of his country—which is more than can be said for most fellow in his trade.”

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