Moments in History

Delayed Action

His-Imperial-Majesty-Emperor-Norton-I-portrait-crop

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]

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