America’s Last Emperor: Bulletin

Darren Mckeeman
12 min readApr 5, 2021

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. Norton felt this was somehow the sign that he waited for his entire life.

He sat down at the desk in his room and thought harder when a tiny voice in his head provided the obvious solution — why not just announce himself to the world as he was, child of Napoleon III? When the idea hit him, he immediately set about to writing his announcement. After about thirty minutes he had the perfect message to his people. Now to choose which paper to send it to.

After another five minutes of consideration, he decided that the best place to announce his good news would be the newspaper started by James King of William. It was an evening edition at any rate — if he gave his news this morning, it would be printed by nightfall.

He dressed and walked down to Mrs. Carswell’s breakfast table, to prepare for the day.


Norton walked down Kearny Street towards Market from the boarding house. Abe Warner had given him one of his old beaver felt top hats, and he felt like today was a good day to start wearing it. He made his way down past Portsmouth Square on his usual route, greeting friends on his way. He doffed his hat at Norman Asing as he got to Clay Street. Macao and Woosung was at Commercial Street, and Norman was usually on the street sweeping trash off of the wooden sidewalks into the gutter. Today was no different, except instead of carrying on past Norman, Norton turned down Clay Street.

He walked down Clay past the Montgomery Block, on the other side of the street. The newspaper offices were in the building in front of where Charles Cora had shot the marshall as well as being where James King of…

Darren Mckeeman

Founder at KinkBNB. Writer of fiction and nonfiction.