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Founder at KinkBNB. Writer of fiction and nonfiction.

Chapter Nineteen

Emperor Norton’s First Proclamation in the Daily Evening Bulletin. Courtesy the San Francisco Public Library.

September 17th, 1859

Norton awoke this morning, feeling clear-headed for the first time in a very long time.

He went through his morning ablutions as he had for the previous ten years, but today there was a significance about the ritual he hadn’t expected. He looked at himself in the mirror, yet nothing seemed different. It was, however. His friend David Broderick was dead. The entire city was in mourning. The continental government had succeeded in tearing apart a nascent state with its politically poisonous ideas that some people could own other people. …

Chapter Eighteen

The site of the last duel in the United States, courtesy

November 20th, 1858

Norton held his anniversary dinner at Macao and Woosung again for the ninth anniversary of his arrival in San Francisco. He had gotten a temporary job as an agent for some goods that arrived in October and managed to sell them all, but his casual talk of monarchy turned his employer off and he did not get another chance at business with him. He had money to pay for dinner, but Eastland would not hear of it.

He had a motley crew of guests this year. Abe Warner showed up with a tiny squirrel monkey in his…

Chapter Seventeen

Monumental Fire Company #6, 1856 — Courtesy

November 21st, 1857

Eastland talked Norton into reviving his anniversary dinner by offering to pay for it at Macao and Woosung. It was 8 years since Norton stepped off the boat in San Francisco, and the ship that he’d arrived on now lay broken up and scattered underneath the foundations of Eastland’s new Gas Works. Besides, being the head of the gas company gave him unexpected pull with Norman Asing. Norman recalled with glee the week that Eastland had shut the gas off for nonpayment to the City Hall last January. Norman disliked the city government because he believed they…

Chapter Sixteen

Washerwoman’s Lagoon, courtesy

July 6th, 1856

The days that followed the hangings of Casey and Cora were among the strangest that Norton had seen so far. The events would normally be alarming to him, as the rights of ordinary citizens were trod upon hourly by the vigilantes in their attempts to clean up the town. The people they targeted were mostly politicians this time, which made it doubly consterning to Norton. He felt as if he dodged a bullet when Broderick declined to employ him now. So far his old friend Broderick was untouchable, but a scandal developed when it was discovered that…

Chapter Fifteen

Fort Gunnybags, courtesy of OpenSFHistory

May 14th, 1856

Norton found his life without an office to go to rather unfocused. He continued his twice daily constitutionals but now paid no attention to the time it took him to make his rounds. He had no set path, but made his way from Meigg’s Wharf to the site of his Genesee Warehouse much in the same way he did when he owned the warehouse.

His friend Eastland bought the Genesee Warehouse so that Sherman’s Bank would not have to carry the debt. Norton watched earlier that spring as they’d razed the ship and erased the bay around…

Chapter Fourteen

Abe Warner (in top hat) standing outside his Cobweb Palace (to the left down the stairs). Courtesy

February 15th, 1856

Joshua Norton and Tom Sawyer walked down Powell Street towards the now-ownerless Meiggs’ Wharf. Everyone still called it that despite Meiggs being in South America. Messages were repeatedly sent back to various creditors of his along with payments, as Meiggs seemed very keen to come back. The messages back were nothing but threats of legal action, which served to keep him in Peru.

Norton noted that this address was directly across the street from the Pleasant Laundry. He had no idea what to expect from the event, but he did not drink so the opening of a…

Chapter Thirteen

Miner’s Exchange on Montgomery, 1855 courtesy of

May 15th, 1855

Norton read the paperwork with a grim look on his face. Nearly three years of legal wranglings had led to this moment. He paused for a second, and looked around the room.

He was sitting in William T. Sherman’s office at Lucas, Turner and Co. bank. The angry looking man watched him as he read the document, making him all the more nervous.

Hall McAllister’s best arguments were all for naught, and the judge decided against Norton. He was on the hook for twenty thousand dollars. The years of fighting the contract in court had…

Chapter Twelve

Chinese New Year in San Francisco, 1875 courtesy University of California

January 29th, 1854

Norton and Sawyer sidestepped their way past a crowd a Chinese men clustered outside the Macao and Woosung restaurant. The smell of gunpowder filled the air, and the street in front of the restaurant was thick with expended firecracker paper. Smoke wafted and the loud pop-pop-pop of explosions reverberated off the buildings.

“Good heavens, what is all this?” asked Norton.

“I have no idea,” said Sawyer.

At the entrance to the restaurant stood Norman Asing, beaming proudly. The pair walked up to the door, intent on getting their weekly meal there.

“I say, Norman, what is with…

Chapter Eleven

Meigg’s Wharf, as seen from Telegraph Hill in 1870. Courtesy OpenSFHistory.Org

May 16th, 1853

Norton stood in the crowd at the foot of Honest Harry Meigg’s new wharf and marveled at it.

It was the sheer size of the thing. Harry was proud of boasting that it went 2000 feet out into the bay. This was certainly believable. He’d taken giant redwood trees that he’d fashioned into piles and driven them into the bay mud up to sixty feet deep. Then he’d poured sand between the piles and built an extension of Powell Street out into the bay. …

Chapter Ten

“Sherman’s Bank”, Lucas, Turner & Company building (center) in 1906.

January 15th, 1853

Norton threw the newspaper down on his roll-top desk in exasperation.

It was a month since he’d negotiated a contract for two hundred tons of rice at twelve cents a pound. The day after he had signed that contract, another boatload of unmilled rice came in and was sold for eleven cents a pound. Norton expected that someone bought it in speculation to ship to China.

The day after that, another boatload of rice came in, except this was two hundred thousand pounds of unmilled rice and five hundred thousand of milled rice.

Every day…

Darren Mckeeman

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