When Joshua Norton returned to San Francisco following a disastrous business deal, he was a little bit loopy. Norton went to the newspapers and declared himself emperor of the United States. Here's the crazy part: it worked. Tune in and learn more.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Move episode of stuff. You missed them. History classes brought to you by W W, formerly wait watchers. They have launched the new. My Debbie Debbie Programme is their most groundbreaking and customize I'm ever when you join the Mai, Debbie Debbie program. You will take a personal assessment, that's about your eating habits and your behaviors and that its scientifically matches you up with a proven weight loss plan, I'm on the blue plan and it makes a huge difference for me in terms of income, bring me eat healthy foods, so head on, Debbie Debbie dot com, that's w w dot com to joint Debbie Debbie. Today, with a limited time offer. I just realized that the first letter of every line of this region and spells help me things like everyone's a critic.
Days less in the world, with our slightest opinions on our own many plants, I'm Scotch and of its breakin, this February, tenth guns, citizen critic, a new podcast, where we predict the critics and review the reviews of your favorite movies, music television, toasters, toiletries in paint colors. This you citizen, critic on the eye, heart, radio, apple pie, guests or wherever you get your broadcasts. Welcome to stuff. You missed in history class from Housetop works, dot, com, hello and welcomes the pride cast, I'm getting landed and I'm scared out- and there is something really big that you might have missed in history class, which is the fact For a time. In the mid one hundreds, the United States was ruled An emperor for real, he abolished Congress, he fired the President
he worthies militaristic uniforms in Rome, the streets of San Francisco, so we definitely miss this in history class that fortunately, are listeners not know are subjects for today. These self proclaimed legendary Eccentric in one day, Grata Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. one of our most popularly requested subjects in the history: listen airmail here it's up there with like, can in history and the history of the sixteen like very broad topics, so we We will oblige today, so we don't whole lot about Joshua Abraham Nortons early life, except that he was probably do and he was probably born in eighteen, eighteen or eighteen. Nineteen in London and family must have moved to South Africa and he obtained a substantial amount of wealth while he was living there. He arrived
the San Francisco and eighteen, forty, nine hoping to make some money off the gold rush, like everyone else did, and he was a successful merchant worth about four thousand dollars a lot of money at the time but he may, according to some accounts, have already shown signs of psychological instability. But, sir, you said you didn't pull out of stock. Another account say his fine until later in his life and will certainly be getting there soon, but whatever he does, well in commodities and his fortune balloons. Two two hundred and fifty I dollars he's even invited to join San Francisco Vigilance Committee, which is a pretty big deal. It's not a vigilante vigilance. I mentioned we it that would be a different kind of pipe cast in December eatin. Fifty two. He may a really bad business decision, theirs rice shortage that drives that the price of rice from four cents, a pound to thirty, seven cents, a pound and he's
can I'm gonna cash in on this, so a ship arrives in the Barber and he decides he will bite. Entire shipment of rice at twelve cents, a pound, probably thinking he's getting a pretty good deal right, well right, as he's about close the deal, another ship filled with rice come then, and the value plummets, two three cents and, of course, Norton is ruined by his his credible deal and its unclear exactly what happens to him after this, but it seems as though, Norton tried to pay off his debts before he declared bankruptcy in eighteen. Fifty six and the last of him in this period of his life, is as a gesture in September of eighteen. Fifty and then he disappears gone so Two years later, he comes back September, seventeenth, eighteen, fifty nine he's dressed. Isn't it
only in the third, when he wandered then to the offices of the San phronsie a bullet and demanding that they publish this proclamation and the bullet editor at the time. George fetches he's ok with the sooner this. Strangely ass man coming in ordering that he print something issues, the proclamation at the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of the United States. I sure, Norton declare and proclaim myself emperor of these United States. so there we go down the route of our story here and I think most towns in eighteen. Fifty one of locked up, someone who is proclaiming himself emperor and writing it in the newspapers, not San Francisco. No, they love their Pizarro characters than before, nor even a they had already been entertained by George Washington. The second who were
revolutionary war cost him what elsewhere of the king of pain not like the police are now the money king, the great unknown, the gutter snipe and fifty guph which I think of Katy favour a favourite of these. I want to introduce, says as Katy the gutter snipe and Sarah goofy goofy, but she wouldn't because fifty goofy we'd take heads with a poor queue for fifty cents. I mean, there's gotta be a better way to earn money than that. A certain is taller, and even encouraged and wrong. the streets of San Francisco for the next twenty years, issuing proclamations attending functions, reviewing the core of cadets at the University of California and attend. the Senate chambers in Sacramento, where he had a special chair and took extensive notes and so
Unsurprisingly, a young reporter in town, Samuel, Clemens notices him in three models his character of the king and Huckleberry FIN on Norton. This is, of course, Mark TWAIN, but Norton is a pretty colorful character, even stand out among all these other wild figures in this frontier town in american history. Fred Dickie writes that he wore a tall, her hat with a plume and raise that dressed in a blue suit, with tarnished gold plate Appalache and carried both in and try color umbrella. His overstay shoes were sensibly ventilated with holes to provide relief for his corn, on ceremonial occasions he would even where a sword so yeah. I think he would cut quite a figure. town here that we should clarify that he's not homeless. Even though that's a part of the Emperor Norton story, he read
rooms, but he relied on the generosity of his subjects for meals, uniforms and transportation. As far as food, any restaurant with feed him and somewhat even accept the fifty cent bonds that he printed up in nineteen thirty, three journalist Herbert Asbury wrote he ate Paying whatever restaurant lunchroom or saloon took his fancy. After he visited in us, Bush meant the owners were permitted to post a sign by appointment to the Emperor Norton, the first, Invariably, these appointments brought great business to the saloon or restaurant so graced, which is a tactic I plan to try in Atlanta. It's a bold tactic, but you never now is closed. also really important to him: the city government. even give him close, they buy him a new uniform after he released yet another proclamation thing we etc have heard serious complain
from our adherence and all around that our imperial wardrobe is a national disgrace and even his majesty, the king of pain, has had his sympathy excited so far as to offer us a suit of clothing, which we have had a delicacy in accepting. Therefore, we warn those whose duty it is to attend to these affairs that their scouts and danger. If our said word is unheeded, so you know he gets his new b Hoddan. Is that from the whole sheng I think, we set out would be a good name for a collection of short stories if you're looking for one but switching back to our actual subject transport, these central pacific railroad gave him a lifetime pass to travel so not about being Emperor Norton. The first but
I'm pretty Norton, is not all about maintaining his own, serene highness, with his fancy, clothes and his time dining, and he issues real proclamations that mean real, serious business. It likely that a lot of his nations were simply made up by the newspapers, but we know at least some of them were authentic and just to give you a taste of the the the authority is he's proclamations on July, sixteenth, eighteen sixty he issued a decree dissolving the United States of America and then on October. First, eighteen, sixty He issued another barring Congress for meeting in Washington DC on August twelfth eighteen, sixty nine decree from Norton dissolved and abolished the democratic and republican parties due to party strife and on December sixteenth eighteen denying. He demanded that Sacramento clean its muddy streets and place gaslights on streets leading to the capitalist system. Civic pride there,
even went as far as to fire Lincoln and he charged the army general to use troops to break up Congress if they were maybe a little reluctant about leaving Washington D their resistance to do that, and he he's pretty serious about his banknotes to because he orders that the assets of San Francisco First National Bank be seized me a lot of very serious business fur and per Norton, and he or perhaps these sensitive newspaper editors even abolished the nickname Frisco quote, which no linguistic or other warrant, which I think everyone in San Francisco would agree with, but even though some of these decrees sound, awfully serious a really nice guy in his pretty non threatening. So it's something that makes all these. You know. I'll things he does more palatable to the citizens in San Francisco and even lovable Robert Louis Stevenson wrote
what other city, what a harmless madman has posed himself emperor have been so fostered and encouraged. So it's just the same in discussing every now. And then, though, the city would make a mistake. Some maybe over enthusiastic police officer would decide that they wanted to arrest Norton. This happened in eighteen, sixty seven, when a patrol special officer took him in for involuntary treatment of a mental disorder and it caused a city wide poor people were furious, that their emperor, then arrested and the police chief was forced to apologize to Norton and ordered his release. Editorials and the newspapers condemned the incident and first started to salute him. After this, after this big foe PA, it's not just the that loved him. He also earned the love of a couple of famous San Francisco much street dogs bummer and Lazarus who also seized the power
attention and then made eighteen sixties, and this is a weird stuff in its own right, Burma, who had a really severe under by he actually couldn't clothes. His lips ever his his big dog tee making dog faces. Sarah earlier, are you guys Mister Lowe, anyways bummer, rescues, Lazarus, whose smaller mangy dog from a dogfight? And after that the two of em stick together and also after that, the people of Zimbabwe, Cisco become obsessed with these, to my dogs, roaming around the city. They are allowed to run free, even downtown, whether really strict leash and muzzle laws, and a dog catcher caught Lazarus once a crowd raise money for his release. Colonel Lake, when Norton gets arrested
and Norton didn't claim the dogs, but they be seen together. Looking for lunch or walking with streets than I thought sounded a bit like a dismal story, the eccentric character, with his see no animal pals, Milo in Otis roaming, Sally the talk is that thing? Maybe they have funny accident will and Wayne again wrote bombers obituary. So this is one seriously famous stone notable claim for any dog definite So, on January, eighth, eighteen, eighty Norton the first dies on a street corner and that's when authority learned that he had been living at a fifty cent room at Eureka, lodging House for the past seventeen years and they go into his room for the first time in its bill, tiny, only ten by thinks and it has caught one share: a pitcher and a basin and its covered with proclamation but he's written and tell grounds and stock certificates in pictures of their reigning monarchs and his favorite Reno
other raining monarch happens to be Queen Victoria, who he hopes, will one day become. His consort was my favorite line from this entire outline. spite his meagre accommodations people sent him off in style. Citizens raised money for a new uniform and a rosewood casket, and his funeral cortege was miles long and attended by as many as thirty thousand people, so he sent off like an emperor, definitely buried in the city by the masons, but then he is exude has, I don't know the aim of their becoming ever subjects are the others this great, relocation of San Francisco bodies, which I'm sure people who live there, now but I had never heard of it. There relocated to coma and nor is examined in nineteen, thirty, four and re in Woodlawn Cemetery and us
each side note. This is the same cemetery where previous podcast mentioned, such as why Jody Margo and William Randolph hearse are now buried, so good company. I got his knee was bandied about in the past several years, due in part to and one seventy two proclamation in which he can for a suspension bridge to be built as soon convenient between Oakland Point and GOAT Island and then on to San Francisco, and some people had suggested that the Bay age be renamed in his honor. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the people in Oakland were not impressed with the idea that if you look up, the San Francisco newspaper quote some ass, for an open have them pretty funny idea, funny opinions of Norton, so we're look with a big question here,
What went wrong for Norton? You know he's he's this very successful business man. He has this great disasters ruin and then he descend into severe Jane and people thought you know. Maybe the rice, speculation and the failure with that actually drove him in thin, a nineteen thirty nine biographer Alan Stanley laying said there is no evidence that Norton revealed any striking erratic tendencies. During his business career probably held in check any irrational whims, but being a proud and sensitive man. He suffered great mental torture over his mistress but we know from other accounts so that he may have shown Self delusion, even before his great rice, failure A more modern analysis suggests that he wasn't gets a frantic or by post,
but maybe he reached a delusional state. After the strength of this failure, which is in keeping with the the earlier assessment, regardless eccentricity has lived on me public imagination and that of our listeners. Even if his name won't grace abridge, there have been books and plays and operas written about him. Henry Molly, Cones and Peru Britain and in California there have been beers. Sundays ends and aid now defunct record label named for him, which Sarah was looking up earlier now, barely enough, they represented lady drawn up, but members of the Rockets history society eat. Lamp is a virus which has also a listener. Suggestion lately by Lucy, make these annual pilgrimages to his grave, which
bless me Fidilini to again this answer here and his cane is kept at the California historical society. But Sarah has a different, a favorite fact about him here in August eighteen, seventy he responded to a census, taker listing south of living at the address six twenty four commercial street and noting his occupation as emperor. Of course. What else would it be so that answers the question of our pod cast? Title who was emperor of the United States, and that brings two listener. Now thirst emails from here on in Ireland, and she wrote that she had to choose the project for a major in them in Ireland that basically have to do well on before he got into college and she couldn't decide what egg and, after listening to a few, the mandatory podcast, she found her subjects and she just one they think
let us now you're welcome are glad that you loved the marriage. She and we have another matter gmail, and this one is from fairer in Illinois and she wrote. I liked the marriage. He super series a vague memory of reading that Catherine Domenici's course that when I was a kid The Zodiac symbols on it. I think- and I remember wanting one just like it ironic. reading that the Ladys of our court were only allowed to have a small ways. Thirteen inches are smaller and fear. This is actually something I read in a biography of cap n domenici. She kept a flying squadron of Lovely Court lady, the round her in part to counterbalance her as the very serious twitter dressed in mourning sheet. She knew it kind of better off. You know and
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you citizen critic on the eye, heart, radio, an apple pie guests or wherever you get. Your broadcasts