Emperors of the USA: Norton I, and Aaron I


Emperor of the USA: Norton I

Well, the official history paints him as a coo-coo crazy guy, who was a citizen of San Francisco, California. He proclaimed himself "Norton I, Emperor of the United States" in 1859. He later assumed the secondary title of "Protector of Mexico".


Wikipedia continues with the following narrative:
  • Norton was born in England but spent most of his early life in South Africa. He sailed west after the death of his mother in 1846 and his father in 1848, arriving in San Francisco possibly in November 1849.
  • Norton initially made a living as a businessman, but he lost his fortune investing in Peruvian rice to sell in China due to a Chinese rice shortage. He bought rice at 12 cents per pound from Peruvian ships, but more Peruvian ships arrived in port which caused the price to drop sharply to 4 cents. He then lost a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, and his public prominence faded. He re-emerged in September 1859, laying claim to the position of Emperor of the United States.

  • Though Norton received many favors from the city, merchants also capitalized on his notoriety by selling souvenirs bearing his name. “San Francisco lived off the Emperor Norton,” Norton’s biographer William Drury wrote, “not Norton off San Francisco.”
  • Norton had no formal political power; nevertheless, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments that he frequented. Some considered him insane or eccentric, but citizens of San Francisco celebrated his imperial presence and his proclamations, such as his order that the United States Congress be dissolved by force and his numerous decrees calling for the construction of a bridge and tunnel crossing San Francisco Bay to connect San Francisco with Oakland.

  • On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed at the corner of California and Dupont (now Grant) streets and died before he could be given medical treatment. Upwards of 10,000 people lined the streets of San Francisco to pay him homage at his funeral.
From above: currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments that he frequented.
  • ...one too many to be a joke, don't you think? That's 5 banknotes below. I'm wondering how many more could be out there.


But then we have a very old article like the one below. The guy sure does sound crazy. Or... is being presented as such.


How much trust can there be allocated to the 19th century press, which produced the following pearls?
Golden Gate Bridge?
The construction of the Golden Gate bridge did not start until 1933. Naturally, this 1939 memorial plaque had to be some good-natured fun. Right?


KD: Essentially, We are being told that this Emperor Norton the First was just a local clown adorned by everybody in the 19th century San Francisco.
  • But... was he some eccentric dude, or was he a real Emperor being portrayed as a clown?

Info and Links:

Instances like the one above sure do appear funny, up to the point where we have another Emperor of the United States. In history, Aaron Burr is known as an "Outlaw Emperor", as well as the third Vice President of the United States. The story is not without a conspiracy of its own.


Anyways, I think this is something to be looked into. When the Vice President of the United States is being charged with treason for assembling an armed force to take New Orleans and separate the Western from the Atlantic states... there has to be something there. At least it's my opinion at this point. So far we have a blanket historical opinion:


Well-known member
This is just bizarre. Some "crazy" guy goes broke then declares himself Emperor and everyone thinks it's so adorably, charmingly eccentric that they accept his printed up money as legal tender to say that San Francisco lived off the Emperor Norton rather than Norton living off the generosity of San Francisco?

San Francisco has always been a bit odd but this seems odd even for San Francisco. He was buried in a Masonic Lodge at the city's expense. He was arrested once by a private (neighborhood watch) police force when they tried to have him committed to an asylum which so angered the city that he was released by them. Emperor Norton, being a benevolent "ruler", pardoned his offenders and bestowed on them some honorary title. Thereafter they saluted him when he passed by and even got him a new uniform when his started looking tattered. In a sense he became the city's mascot.

He was a bit of a visionary (as most crazy people are) and suggested a League of Nations long before there was one and recommended (in fact, insisted, issuing a mandate) on building a connecting bridge from San Francisco to Oakland (which later was done). His self-proclaimed title of Emperor later included "protector of Mexico".

I'm wondering if, during those turbulent times, maybe the Mexican government used him to further their own agenda. He does sound like a harmless eccentric that lost his mind when he lost his money and, feeling impotent by a government that didn't restore his wealth to him simply chose to be his own government. Maybe he took his cue from Aaron Burr as to the direction for the outlet of his frustration.

Also, does this guy

look anything like this guy?
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In all of this the most bizarre thing I find is this "public adornment". Logic suggests that they would only care if the guy was indeed an individual with some sort of history. From what we read in the narrative, this history is absent.


This is getting surreal look who populates this searches results, the Little emperor!
emperor aaron 1799 at DuckDuckGo
Could it just be reacting to Emperor and 1799? Though it is still interesting.

Interesting excerpt from here:
  • In December of 1799, at home in New York, Burr was contacted by a dying former president Washington. After telling the courier of the message that he would rather suck Washington's wooden balls than answer, he was told it concerned the Presidency. At that, Burr packed up and travelled five days' worth to Mount Vernon, Washington's palatial home.
  • Once Burr was at his bedside, Washington confessed to Burr that no real power had ever been invested in the Presidency, and that the office was a sham; a show put on for not just the American public but for the entire world as well. Not even the whole of Congress knew of the façade, and the select Congressmen who did know would probably take the secret to their graves.
  • At first, Washington had made an honest attempt to freely use the Presidency at whim, but it was seven years in when he realized it just wasn't working; the President had to be ceremonial. Gathering together a select number of Congressmen from the 4th Congress who agreed with him, they set about creating a new office: Emperor.


Well-known member
Could be so as regards the image search. Just struck me as odd. Have you looked through this site? New Page 2

From this page on that site February 6
Chapters 26 & 27 To Britain & on the Continent: The author dwells on Burr’s negotiations/machinations with the British and the French to wrest properties from the Spanish and create a new empire. As he observes, they bordered on the delusional and lay the base for establishing that Burr aspired to become ‘Emperor’ of same. Yet the tone of correspondence relating to his western expedition and the evidence at the trial indicate that Burr never intended to invade foreign territory unless the U.S. did declare war – in contrast to the author’s conclusion p.1 that there can be no question that he did?
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I remember reading about "Emperor" Norton before, the beloved eccentric of San Francisco. He certainly had an understanding of the corruption going on in politics of the time. However, he held no real power or ability to change the political structure of the United States back then.

If anything, he brought awareness to political corruption to local San Franciscan's in 1860's and 70's, via his proclamations. Imagine if he were alive today. He'd probably have a website, YouTube channel and following online. Today there's even a restaurant named after him: Emperor Norton's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria!

Apparently these are the proclamations he made:
  1. He Proclaims Himself Emperor
  2. He Abolishes Congress
  3. He Removes Governor Wise
  4. He Calls Out the Army
  5. He Dissolves the Republic
  6. He Declines A Gift
  7. He Asks for Blessing
  8. He Demands Suitable Attire
  9. He Fires Abraham Lincoln
  10. He Denounces an Imposter
  11. He Claims Maxmillian as a POW
  12. He Orders Andrew Johnson's Arrest
  13. He Supports a Pioneer Aviator
  14. He Gives Goat Island to Oakland
  15. He Calls for a Bridge
  16. He Invents a Better Railroad Switch
  17. He Forecloses on a Bank
  18. He Issues Imperial Bonds
  19. He Calls for Religious Unity
  20. He Corrects a Newspaper Error
  21. He Banishes a Traitor
  22. He Demands Rooms at the Grand Hotel
  23. He Blocks Spring Valley Water
  24. He Fires All Public Officials
  25. He Orders a Rebellion Put Down
  26. He Bans the F-Word
  27. He Calls for A Bridge (Again)
  28. He Demands His Share of the Octopus
  29. He Impeaches $tealin £andford
  30. He Orders Repairs to Cable Cars
  31. He Cautions Against False Reports
  32. He Calls for A Bridge (Yet Again)
  33. He Calls for One Religion
  34. He Announces His Intention to Marry
  35. He Accuses a Man of Theft
  36. He Calls for A Webring
  37. He Douses A Flame War


Thanks for another fascinating read KD!


Well-known member
We should probably have a national holiday for the day Burr killed pro bank Hamilton.


Clint Eastwood style.


Emperor of US? Sure why not. Seems about as real as Emperor of Mexico Maximilian.


How about Emperor of Virginia, Winfield Scott?


Or Emperor of Rome, Maryland Albert Pike?



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Anyone familiar with the novels of Christopher Moore will recognize Emperor Norton. Moore's character, the Emperor of San Francisco, appears in several of his novels, along with his two dogs, Bummer and Lazarus. I had no idea, until now, that he was based on a real person who had two dogs of the same names. This guy sounds like he had a lot of chutzpah. It's interesting that so many people took him seriously, even to the point of having currency printed in his name. And when he died, 10,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects.


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Bear with the tangent for a sec...

When True Detective first came out, I was blown away by the occult mysteries and ended up reading Robert W. Chambers "The King in Yellow and other stories". Altogether, you won't miss out on anything if you don't read his works. H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulu Mythos is far more engrossing. But, there is one story by Chambers that is extremely relevant to the idea of an "American Emperor." It is the short story:
Short Stories: The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers

"The Repairer of Reputations" deals with a young man who is angling to become The King in Yellow. Throughout the story the question constantly arises, is he mentally ill, or is he perfectly sane?

This is genesis of the whole Carcosa and The Yellow King theme throughout True Detective. Although, Chambers seems less interested in the occult, but, more on an alternate version of America. A steampunk Imperial Empire.


Active member
I believe I am at the point where I doubt 99% of what the main-stream history of the 1800's has been said to be. There are so many characters like this across North America in the 18th century that makes you wonder. You could tell the world has always been full of unexplained and unbelievable stuff. Until the 20th century though they were unable to control the narrative of history like they are now so I believe a lot of older "tales, legends, folk stories" are probably based more in fact that accredited history written up by PhDs in ivy league universities. I am from one of the oldest cities in Canada. In a province that is now super poor but legit historically speaking not even a century ago it was booming for over a hundred years. A lot of the stuff talked about on this site has physical examples right here, that I've seen first hand.

wild heretic

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Mmmm. Very much reminds me of Lord Steven Christ in both looks and claims to fame lol.
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I can't see any resemblance, especially given whatever that is around the pictured head

Was that cut out of another photo and glued on, or maybe a hand drawn original? Look at the straight lines around his hair...exacto knife? lol, that's a terrible job. Heck you can count the cuts!
That cut and paste is so bad I only looked at the head and thought I was looking an illustration the whole time. I was shocked after you pointed out it was a photo.

Why hide his head. So bizarre.
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Emperor of US? Sure why not. Seems about as real as Emperor of Mexico Maximilian.

View attachment 19489

Is that a woman? Beard looks very fake and "his" hair looks to be tied up in a bun.


Well-known member
Is that a woman? Beard looks very fake and "his" hair looks to be tied up in a bun.
Seeking to legitimize French rule, Napoleon III invited Maximilian to establish a new pro-French Mexican monarchy.


While northern Northern North America was about escaping religious prosecution.
The gulf of Mexico was about escaping another kind or prosecution.

Perhaps you heard of the term "Sally"

la salle2.jpg

There was already a pre existing culture where two spirits had an accepted ceremonial role.

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