Emperor of the United States
Emperor Norton of the United States was born to John and Sarah Norton in London on February 14, 1819. His parents immigrated to South Africa when Joshua was one year old. In 1849, Joshua moved to San Francisco where he speculated in the real-estate market with his $40,000 inheritance.
After considerable initial success, he lost his fortune in speculating on rice imports.
On September 17, 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton declared himself Emperor of the United States:
“At the pre-emptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself the Emperor of These United States.”
On occasion, he would also act as “Protector of Mexico.” He continued to make proclamations throughout his 21-year “reign.” Newspapers of the day printed his proclamations (and even made some up which were not from Norton).
In order to pay his bills Emperor Norton issued paper notes, mostly in 50 cent, $5 and $10 denominations. Worthless at the time, today they are worth far more than the face value.
In 1869, Norton “abolished” both the Democratic and Republican parties.
He also called upon the leaders of the world to join him in forming a League of Nations where disputes between nations could be resolved peacefully. It was a visionary concept but not many nations cared for the idea at the time. However, after WWI an official League of Nations was established, active from from 1920 until it was dissolved in 1946. The United Nations intergovernmental organization was established in 1945.
Joshua Norton died on January 8, 1888. Thirty-thousand people attended the funeral.