Joshua Abraham Norton became a prominent name in San Francisco, proclaiming himself Emperor of the United States in 1859. He was born in England, spent his early life in South Africa, and emigrated to the United States with an inheritance worth a little over a million dollars in inflation adjusted value. He lost most of his fortune in a bad investment in Peruvian rice that he overestimated the value.
Disenfranchised with the state of things, he sent a decree to a San Francisco newspaper with a decree making himself the top imperial authority in a new monarchy. The newspaper went on to humor him, reprinting dozens of imperial decrees over the years. The most written about concerning his legacy have been his declarations, his decrees concerning abolishing congress, as well as political parties, banning the use of the word “Frisco”, and demanding a bridge be built across the San Francisco bay.
The Emperor kept watch over the city, walking the streets in full regalia, sometimes issuing his own currency and bonds. His popularity in the newspapers, and as a one of a kind personality, led to restaurants across the city accepting his personal currency. At one point, all large theater productions opening in San Francisco reserved a seat for him.