Emperor Norton Celebrated on 140th Anniversary of Death

EMPEROR OF THESE UNITED STATES: Joshua Norton 'reigned' as Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico from 1859 until his death in 1880. (Wikimedia)

Havilland, WE, Jan 8 · 24 Argus 74 – Joshua Norton, who rose to fame in mid-19th century San Francisco as Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, was remembered here this evening on the 140th anniversary of his passing.

The small ceremony involved a reading of some of his most well-known proclamations and a moment of silence in his memory.

The Premier, Mr. Anderson, said that Norton was an icon of micronationalism and that his legacy was as strong as ever after 140 years.

“Nearly a century and a half later, we still pause to reflect on the man who began it all. Little could he have known what his actions would influence more than a century after his death.”

Joshua Norton was born in Deptford, England on February 4, 1818 (20 Plowshare 128 BT) but spent most of his young life in South Africa. He arrived in San Francisco sometime around November 1849 and made a living as a businessman, but lost his fortune in a failed investment in Peruvian rice.

He re-emerged in September 1859 with his now-famous proclamation of his claim to the title of “Emperor of the United States,” extending his title to include “Protector of Mexico” in 1863. Despite holding no actual political power in San Francisco, his titles were accepted by the populace and he was treated with due deference, with currency issued in his name and accepted at venues he frequented.

Among his most notable decrees were those demanding that the United States Congress be dissolved by force, and several calling for a bridge and tunnel to be constructed across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland. He did not live to see the fulfilment of his decree, with the Bay Bridge opening on November 12, 1936 (28 Grable 9 BT).

On January 8, 1880 (24 Argus 66 BT) Norton collapsed and died on the corner of California and Dupont (now Grant) streets before he could receive medical attention. On the day of his funeral, more than 10,000 people lined the city’s streets to bid him farewell. Despite speculation that he had left a significant fortune, investigations after his death found that he lived in almost complete poverty.

In the decades following his death, Norton has been celebrated in a variety of ways, including books, television shows, and video games. He is notably lauded by the Republic of Molossia, with a park and various units of measurement named in his honour. To this day, several micronations around the world, including Sirocco, formally mark Norton Day every year.

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