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Emperor Norton I

Quiz: How Well Do You Know San Francisco's Emperor Norton

Scott Lucas | November 17, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

San Francisco residents Jesse Chandler and Kat Shreve have launched a Kickstarter to help fund their new documentary about Emperor Norton—the beloved 19th century San Francisco eccentric whose whimsical reign is fondly remembered even today. As Bernalwood correctly points out, “a proper documentary on Emperor Norton is long overdue,” so head over to their Kickstarter page to learn more about the project and make a donation.

But how do you really know about Joshua Abraham Norton? Here’s a quiz on the life and times of the Emperor of these United States that will separate the peons from the Emperors:

1. True or False: Joshua Norton was a prosperous businessman who lost his fortune after a disastrous attempt to corner the market on rice.
False. Norton actually lost his money after mortgaging his real estate holdings to invest in a failed scheme to outfit feral cats with Google Glass.

2. Norton lived with two dogs named Bummer and Lazarus.
False: Norton lived in a co-working space/intentional community that considered keeping pets a vestage of the patriarchy. They were cool with him being Emperor though.

3. True or False: Dressed in mock imperial regalia, including a feathered hat and a ceremonial sword, Norton became a figure beloved by both locals and tourists.
False. Tourist never really “got” the joke, frequently mistaking Norton for a tour guide.

4. True or False: Norton named himself Emperor of these United States by placing a proclamation in a local newspaper—the first of many.
False. Norton claimed the title first on reddit and then on a post on Medium.

5. True or False: Mark Twain used Emperor Norton as the model for the character of the King in his novel Huck Finn.
False. However, Dave Eggers did use Norton as the protagonist of The Circle.

6. Norton made his living by issuing mock dollar notes in exchange for United States currency.
False. Norton was a Bitcoin speculator.

7. Emperor Norton also declared himself the “Protector of Mexico.”
True. However, contrary to common opinion, the title actually indicated that Nate Silver had proclaimed Norton's home-made tacos the best in America.

8. Norton famously intervened to prevent an anti-Chinese mob from committing violence.
True. Norton broke up the mob by repeating his catchphrase, “Hello, Newman.”

9. Norton was noted as legally insane by the United States census in 1870.
False. Isn’t it more like that society is insane, man? What is sanity anyway?

10. Norton decreed the abolition of the United States congress and the Democratic and Republican parties.
True. You know who else shuttered the legislature and banned political parties? Hitler.

11. Norton decreed the building of the Bay Bridge and a transbay tunnel, both of which later were actually built.
True. However, Norton also decreed the creation of the Embarcadero freeway. So, a mixed record there.

12. When Norton died in 1880, after collapsing on the corner of California and Grant, some 10,000 people lined the streets to watch his funeral procession.
False. Norton did not die in the conventional sense, but rather uploaded his consciousness into the cloud, where he continues to advise Mark Benioff on real estate deals and hair care products.

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