One of the most colorful characters in San Francisco’s history can still be spotted walking the streets of the city today despite his having died in 1880. Failed local businessman Joshua A. Norton is better remembered as Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, a title he assume via a self-proclamation published in the San Francisco Bulletin on September 17, 1859. He issue numerous other proclamations during his twenty-one year reign, calling for a bridge that would span San Francisco Bay and a X-mas tree to be installed annually in Union Square amongst other notions, many of which were eventually realized, although sadly not during his lifetime.
Currently His Imperial Majesty can be found leading walking tours around the city as part of Emperor Norton’s Fantastic Time Machine, twice daily three days a week. Choose to take the trip and in addition to tales of the city’s past, you’ll hear about your royal tour guide’s own history as a beloved eccentric who printed his own money, which was accepted by merchants all over town, and some of the many other prominent non-conformists he inspired, like drag queen The Widow Norton.
Thursdays and Saturdays Emperor Norton navigates downtown streets beginning in Union Square and regaling crowds with the hidden history of The St. Francis Hotel, the scandalous past of Maiden Lane, the identities of the figures depicted in the Monadnock Buiding’s mural, the stories of the three ladies connected with Lotta’s Fountain, and many more tales of San Francisco’s past.
Sundays the good Emperor leads his subjects along the waterfront while he discusses Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Cannery, Levi’s Plaza and many aspects of the city’s history including the Labor Movement, frequently stopping traffic as he does so and attracting the attention and good wishes of his kingdom’s denizens just as he did in his first incarnation many lifetimes ago.
Tours can be booked at EmperorNortonTour.com and advance reservations are suggested. Moonlighting as Chef Joseph, his highness also leads culinary tours which are also available for booking through the website. For more information, one can seek an audience by calling 415-644-8513
Explorer J. Eric Miller crash-landed on the alien world of San Francisco in the last millennium. Trapped in a world he never imagined, he seeks escape in his experience of living. Read more about it at: theupsanddownsofsanfrancisco.tumblr.com