celebrated citizen of San Francisco

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?Norton I, Emperor of the United States.? In 1863, when Napoleon III invaded Mexico, he added the title ?Protector of Mexico.? Emperor Norton Muybridge 1869. The collection of the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley (part of the Lone Mountain College Collection of Stereographs by Eadweard Muybridge, 1867-1880).

?Norton I Emperor of the United States?

It?s the little Bit of Madness that keeps us Sane

Officially, the United States has had forty-five different Presidents. But at one time the country also had another head of state as well as a President it actually had an Emperor.

Although few history books mention his name, in the mid-1800’s Joshua Abraham Norton proclaimed himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. And for almost a quarter of a century, he ruled his vast domain with exemplary benevolence and kindly common sense.

Joshua Abraham Norton (c.1818 ? January 8, 1880), is also known as Norton I or Emperor Norton, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco who in 1859 proclaimed himself “Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico.” Though he was generally considered insane, or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco in the mid to late nineteenth century celebrated Norton’s regal presence and his deeds. He continues to be a patron saint of the unusual and of eccentrics, and he is recognised as a Saint in the Principia Discordia (1970), the main text of the Discordian religion.

Emperor Norton is both a legend and a historical figure. It?s not always easy to tell where one begins and the other one ends.

This much we know about his birth: Joshua Abraham Norton was born to Jewish parents, John and Sarah Norton, in the ?Kentish town of Deptford, England, which now is part of London. The precise date has been trickier to pin down. Most likely, though, he was born on 4 February 1818.

Two years later, in February 1820, young Joshua and his family ? parents, older brother Louis and younger brother Philip (who was born?en voyage) ? set sail from London to South Africa, where his father established a successful ship?s chandlery. His father headed a small Jewish community. As a young man, he initially attempted to run his own business in Cape Town but quickly went bankrupt and started working at his father?s ship chandlery instead.

A half-dozen more siblings were born over the next decade. But, while John Norton’s family had grown by leaps and bounds, his business fortunes started heading south around 1840. By the time he died in 1848 ? preceded by his wife, Sarah, and his two sons, Louis and Philip ??Joshua?s father was insolvent, if not bankrupt.

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