Moments in History

Delayed Action


That man in the lede photo is His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States. Born Joshua Abraham Norton in England, he grew up in South Africa before moving to San Francisco in 1849 after receiving $40,000 from his father’s estate. He became a businessman and, apparently, did alright until he lost all of his money investing in Peruvian rice. After a failed lawsuit he left San Francisco only to return a few years later to set up his imperial government. Regarded by locals as an eccentric, possibly insane but harmless man, Emperor Norton I issued his own currency which was actually accepted by some San Francisco businesses. He also issued several decrees. One such decree was that a bridge and tunnel should be built across San Francisco Bay to connect San Francisco and Oakland. Emperor Norton I died on January 8, 1880.

The Oakland Bay Bridge opened on November 12, 1936. BART’s Transbay Tube was completed in 1974, though plans for a cross-bay tunnel had been around since at least 1920. In fact, the Transbay Tube lies almost exactly where a tunnel was proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1947. It took a while, but San Francisco eventually fulfilled the decree issued by its ruler. In doing so, they created two of the world’s modern marvels.

[Image Credit: Public Domain]

Spread The Word:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Tumblr
  • tiberiusẅisë

    He should have had a flag. All the best Emperors have flags.

    • Tanshanomi

      If it wasn't for the church, this flag would be flying at the U.N right now. But no… they stand in the way, THEY STAND IN THE WAY!

  • Stu_Rock

    This last weekend, I drove over the new Emperor Norton Bay Bridge twice. It's pretty nice.

    • jeepjeff

      I rode on the bike path the day it opened! It is a lovely bridge.

      (And I think you're right. Part of the way to get it named right, is to just use its rightful title. I'm calling it the Emperor Norton Bridge from now on.)

  • name_too_long

    Everybody forgets the "and protector of Mexico" part of his title.

  • Batshitbox

    The bridge he decreed just opened a new Eastern Span (it's two bridges joined by a tunnel through an island) to much fanfare.

    The whole assembly has been called The San Francisco Bay Bridge since 1936. Until last week, when a bunch of Southern Californian political cronies of one of our more corrupt, and still regretfully not dead, politicians voted a name change through the State Assembly. We are now expected to call it "The Willie Brown Bridge"; actually, just the Western Span (the old suspension part with the lights on it.)

    This is, of course, patently ridiculous. The name of the body of water the bridge spans has not been changed to Willie Brown, therefore it cannot be The Willie Brown Bridge.

    In even sadder news… RIP Empress José I, The Widow Norton

    <img src="; width=250">

    In 1964 one of the most influential drag queens of this age was declared Empress José I, The Widow Norton and proceeded to do works that met or exceeded the expectations of the title. She ruled over The Imperial Court System until sadly, The Widow Norton also passed on just last month.

  • Alff

    As emperor of all the lands I survey (consisting of my living room at the moment), I decree that Canada and the United States should merge into a single governmental and regulatory entity, joined by a common currency and henceforth referred to as the AU. History will ultimately validate the wisdom of this.

  • B72

    Reminds me of a similar situation in Florida, but in Florida they went as far as issuing passports and throwing bread at the US Navy. I don't think they were prognosticators though.