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oshua Abraham Norton was born in 1819 in England to a wealthy merchant. At the age of two, he moved with his parents to South Africa, and in 1849, receiving a beautiful inheritance from his father, he settled in San Francisco. After a period of prosperity, the business began to go awry, with Norton going bankrupt. Shaken by this, in 1858, he disappeared without a trace from the city. He returned after a year, but with a totally changed behavior.

“I am the Emperor”

On September 17, 1859, he distributed letters to San Francisco newspapers entitled “Norton I, Emperor of the United States” and “Protector of Mexico.” Of course, no one paid attention to him, but he took his role very seriously. In 1862 he issued a proclamation calling on the Catholic and Protestant churches to recognize him as sovereign, then dissolving the United States Congress and banning the Democratic and Republican parties. Needless to say, it was not successful!

But in other respects, Norton proved to be a true visionary. He envisioned the formation of a League of Nations and issued a decree to build a tunnel or bridge over the San Francisco Bay — all done at different times in the twentieth century.

Official “Banknote” of Norton I (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Gradually, Norton turned from a strange character into a very popular one in San Francisco. This allowed him, for example, to successfully mediate various social conflicts that took place in the city and in the face of which the authorities had proved powerless. He had been invited to the best restaurants (those honored by his presence, had a plaque at the entrance, which said that the establishment operated “with the consent of His Imperial Majesty, Norton I of the United States) and had a lodge reserved for the theater. and at the opera, he was even allowed to issue his own currency, which was accepted by merchants in San Francisco.

Norton’s funeral (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Norton died on January 8, 1880. More than 30,000 people attended his funeral, with funeral expenses incurred by San Francisco City Hall. In January 1980, numerous demonstrations took place in memory of what was considered: “the first and last emperor of the United States.”

This goes to show that you do not need to have an acquired set of skills to become an Emperor, at least in that century. It was more about the willingness of doing things and caring about the people that support you. Even if he wasn’t an official Emperor, he would probably still do a better job at running America than the President who sees himself as an Emperor.

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