Posted by Brad @ 2:02 pm on May 27th 2008

Emperor Norton’s Greatest Public Work 71 Years Old Today

Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

The idea to span the Golden Gate, the mile-wide strait connecting the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, was originally proposed by a madman. Joshua Norton — a San Francisco merchant who went bankrupt and lost his marbles, declaring himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico — decreed the building of the bridge in 1869.

A few years after Norton’s decree, railroad magnate Charles Crocker, a lot less endearing but a lot more influential than the good emperor, presented the first concrete plan, with cost estimates, for spanning the Golden Gate. Despite his clout, Crocker got about as far with his plans as his dotty predecessor did.

Rojas and I are still going to strike it rich by writing the Emperor Norton screenplay.


  1. I’ve always thought this is an awesome part of San Francisco history. More cities need to adopt their local crazy people and follow their every command.

    Oh and Brad, this seems faintly familiar. It’s like I saw it this morning on some other website that rhymes with

    Comment by Cameron — 5/27/2008 @ 3:44 pm

  2. Norton issued currency that was adopted and used by the locals too, I believe. Yeah, its a story worth telling (and might even be a good seed for spinning off of).

    Comment by Jerrod — 5/27/2008 @ 5:23 pm

  3. He also stopped an anti-Chinese riot by standing betweem the rioters and their targets, reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

    Christopher Moore uses an immortal equivalent of Norton in his books. I really think a stand-alone screenplay is a necessity, though.

    Comment by Rojas — 5/27/2008 @ 5:25 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.