HumpDay is Away- Week 2
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
Happy HumpDay! Hope you are all off to a great start to the week! HumpDay is still away for one last week and we hope that this weeks abridged newsletter helps you make it through to the weekend! If this newsletter isn't enough to get you through to Sunday night, check out the HumpDay website here and read all of the issues of the HumpDay Newsletter.
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HumpDay has covered a lot of topics related to America’s founding fathers and early presidents but today’s newsletter covers the only man to have complete executive control of the United States, Emperor Norton I. You may be wondering… When did the US have an emperor? Why isn’t he on any of our money? Who the heck is Emperor Norton I?
Joshua Norton was born in February of 1818 in London, England. His father was a successful merchant and when Joshua was just a boy his family moved to the English colony of South Africa. Much of his life in South Africa is undocumented but in 1845, Joshua made his way to the American western frontier in San Francisco.
Upon arriving in America, Joshua made his way up the ranks of San Francisco’s society and created multiple successful businesses. He held lucrative investments in real estate, commodities, and local infrastructure which made him very rich and highly respected.
Tragically, Joshua made a drastic mistake when he tried to capitalize on a world-wide shortage of rice by purchasing a while ship worth of rice to sell it at a huge profit. Unfortunately for Joshua, extra shipments of rice coming out of Peru caused the price of rice to collapse and Joshua lost his entire fortune.
His sudden loss of fortune caused him to decend into a mild form of madness and caused him to express some wild beliefs. Growing up in England, Joshua always had a love for the efficiency of the British monarchy and as he lost his fortune he became very critical of the American government. He began distributing letters to the citizens of San Francisco with his ranting thoughts on the state of the world. Eventually, he decided to stop talking and start walking by taking control of the “dire” situation in America. In 1859, Joshua Norton declared himself the first Emperor of the United States.
The announcement of his self-appointment was printed in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin and was well received by the people of San Francisco. Not because Joshua was seen as a hero but because his story was considered so ridiculous that it was funny.
For 21 years after the beginning of his reign, Emperor Norton would periodically issue decrees in the local newspapers and the people of San Francisco loved it. In 1849, Emperor Norton issued a decree to abolish the US Congress, which never happened.
The people were very entertained by Emperor Norton’s decrees and he eventually earned a cult following around town. He always wore a blue naval uniform and a top hat with a peacock feather in it. He would walk about town signing autographs for tourists and handing out flowers to young children. He spent the rest of his life as a local celebrity and village idiot.
Emperor Norton had an uneventful reign, but he was a visionary. Some of his decrees turned out to be good ideas later on. He was among the first to suggest forming a League of Nations with ally countries. He also recommended building a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland which would later become the Golden Gate Bridge.
The saddest thing about the life of Emperor Norton is that his legacy as the United States first supreme ruler and defender of the states and Mexico goes tragically unremembered. We should honor our insane but fearless leader for the great man he was!
This Week in History
On this week in 1800, President John Adams ordered the federal government to pack up their offices in Philadelphia, PA to move to the newly formed federal capital in Washington D.C. The newly formed capital was created so the federal government would have a seat of government independent of any other state government. The founding fathers found an area along the Potomac river to establish the capital on. The location of Washington D.C. was meant to be a compromise between northern and southern states in order to even out the distribution of power among the colonies.
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