America didn’t always have presidents

Did you guys know that America had an Emperor once? Now I know that may sound completely absurd, but one guy from San Francisco managed to obtain this title.

   His name was Joshua Abraham Norton. He was born in England and lived the majority of his early life in South Africa. After the death of his parents, he sailed to San Francisco and finally set foot in the USA in 1849.   

   Norton tried to make a fortune selling Peruvian rice. There was a shortage of Chinese rice, so he hoped that his investment in the Peruvian product would result in him becoming wealthy. The only problem was that more people started to import it, so the price collapsed and he lost his fortune.

   After facing financial ruin, he filed for bankruptcy in 1858. He moved to live in a boarding house. By 1859, Norton despised the political system of the United States. Due to this fact, he started to deliver letters all across San Francisco.   

   He declared himself the Emperor of the United States and condemned the Congress in Washington D.C.

   He demanded that General Winfield Scott march on the capitol and overthrow the pretender government.

   His time in office as Emperor was marked by the many decrees he stated.  They included mandates abolishing the Democrat and Republican parties, ordering the Protestant and Catholic churches to ordain him Emperor, and even calling for a supension bridge in San Francisco. I find one of them very entertaining, and I will quote it below.

   “Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word ‘Frisco,’ which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars.”

   Emperor Norton was often dressed in an elegantly decorated, blue military uniform. He had a hat with peacock feathers and walked with an exaggerated posture.

   The man became a local celebrity. He was well-loved by the people of San Francisco. He even managed to get a short meeting with Emperor Pedro II of Brazil

   His reign came to an end on January 8th, 1880 when he suddenly died. The people of San Francisco worked to say their final good byes. Nearly 10,000 people lined the streets to watch his funeral and his move to his final resting place.

   He truly was interesting.