Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K.

Monday, July 21, 2003


Norton I, Dei Gratia, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this imperial decree.

Norton I.
Given at San Fransisco, Cal., this 12th day of August, A.D. 1869

Who was Emperor Norton?

From "Illuminatus" by Robert Anton Wilson: "Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. San Francisco is proud of him. He lived in the last century and got to be emperor by proclaiming himself as such. For some mysterious reason, the newspapers decided to humor him and printed his proclamations. When he started issuing his own money, the local banks went along with the joke and accepted it on par with U.S. currency. When vigilanties got into a lynching mood one night and decided to go down to Chinatown and kill some Chinese, Emperor Norton stopped them just by standing in the street with his eyes closed reciting the Lord's Prayer."

From :
1819 - Born in London, England on February 14 to John and Sarah Norton [John and Sarah married at Epping Essex u.k. June 30, 1793 and immigrated to S.Africa in 1820. Had two sons--Philip and Joshua - Source: Jos Driver, a decendent of Philip Norton]

1849 - Arrived in San Francisco from South Africa with US$40,000

1854 - Lost the considerable fortune he had built up in real-estate speculation by trying to corner the rice market in San Francisco

1859 September 17 - Issued the first of his now famous proclamations by proclaiming himself the Emperor of the United States

Proclamations - He continued to make proclamations throughout his reign. These included commanding that the Golden Gate bridge be built and one about the name of the city, "Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abdominal word 'Frisco,' which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor." Penalty for noncompliance was $25. Newspapers of the day printed his proclamations (and even made some up which were not from Norton!)

Many of the "decrees" attributed to Norton I were fakes; written in jest by newspaper editors at the time for amusement, or for political purposes. Those "decrees" listed here were, we believe, actually issued by Norton. - Norton I, Emperor of the United States []

Norton Notes - In order to pay his bills he issued paper notes, mostly in 50 cent denominations but some $5 and $10 notes exist. Today they are worth far more than the face value (if they can be found).

Politics - In 1869 he abolished both the Democratic and Republican parties, declaring "Being desirous of allaying the dissension's of party strife now existing within our realm, [I] do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby degree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten, nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree." --San Francisco Herald, August 4, 1869

Another time he called upon the other leaders of the world to join him in forming a League of Nations where disputes between nations could be resolved peacefully.

1880 - Died January 8, on California St. On January 10, he was buried in the Masonic Cemetery. The funeral cortege was two miles long - Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were reported to have attended. See: Le Roi Est Mort

1934 - Grave moved to Colma Cemetery.

During his daily patrol of the streets of San Francisco Norton made certain that all sidewalks were unobstructed. He reviewed the police to see that they were on duty. He checked on the progress of needed street repairs, inspected buildings under construction, and in general saw to it that all office city's ordinances were enforced.

"During one of the typical anti-Chinese demonstrations so common at the time, the emperor gave the local populace a lesson in the practical application of civics - and prayer. Sensing the dangerously heated tone of one particular meeting, Norton is reported to have stood up before the group, bowed his head and begun reciting the Lord's Prayer. within a few minutes the agitators retreated in shame without putting any of their threats into cruel action." (Source: temporarily unavailable. )

sightings ...

  • The King in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is reportedly modeled from the character of Norton I. Also mentioned in The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury and The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Principia Discordia - JOSHUA NORTON CABAL - Surrealists, Harlequinists, Absurdists and Zonked Artists Melee
  • A patron saint of the Cacophony Society
  • Discordian Saint Second Class - being Saints who, by their existence, are ineligible for higher levels of Sainthood, which are reserved for nonexistent saints.- Discordian Saints
  • Emperor Norton is the subject of the story _Sandman: Three Septembers and a January_, by Neil Gaiman. Historical fact in this story comes from Herbert Asbury's _The Barbary Coast_ and William Drury's _Norton I, Emperor of the United States_. It was inspired by Catherine Caufield's The Emperor of the United States of America and Other Magnificent British Eccentrics. - The Annotated Sandman
  • The Madness of Joshua Norton by Joel GAzis-SAx ... The members of E. Clampus Vitus come to Colma every year to rededicate themselves to absurdity. "If it is absurd, I believe it" is the Clamper motto.
  • Clampers toast Emperor Norton History buffs honor lunatic of old-time San Francisco - by Matthew B. Stannard, SF Chronicle, January 13, 2002 ... And for much of their existence -- at least since the society's rebirth in the 1930s -- the Clamper year has unofficially begun with a pilgrimage to the grave of the Emperor Norton I, held around the date of his death, Jan. 8.
  • about > emperor norton [at / Emperor Norton Records]

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