Emperor Norton of San Francisco issued scrip notes or "bonds" that are quite rare and collectible today. John Lumea runs The Emperor's Bridge
Campaign to keep alive the memory of this notable eccentric who issued proclamations published in local papers and reprinted worldwide, spreading his fame and
bringing curious tourists who purchased the Emperer's notes as souvenirs. New research has revealed a reference to what could be the earliest known Emperor
Norton bonds. Here's an excerpt from John's campaign blog article published July 10, I've added an image of a Norton note from an earlier
E-Sylum article. -Editor
According to those who study the history and production of rare coins and currency — they're called numismatists — particularly to those who, within that
already specialized field, are experts in Western Americana…
The earliest extant example of Nortonian scrip — promissory notes, or bonds, sold by the “The Imperial Government of Norton I", and signed by him — is
dated 11 November 1870.
The 50-cent note was designed and printed — in red ink — by the firm of Cuddy & Hughes. It is in the collection of the California Historical
In November 1870, the Emperor Norton had just started having his Proclamations published regularly in the Pacific Appeal, an African American-owned
and -operated weekly newspaper which — as it happens — also was printed by Cuddy & Hughes. In fact, both the paper and the printer had their offices and
operations in the same building: 511 Sansome Street, at the southwest corner of Sansome and Merchant (the latter of which now is called Mark Twain Street, at
Six weeks after the Emperor sold his bond on 11 November 1870, he designated the Pacific Appeal as his official “weekly imperial organ.”
Western Americana specialists within numismatics seem generally to agree that the mutually beneficial relationships between both the Appeal and Cuddy &
Hughes to Emperor Norton came together during this period — and that late 1870 is when the Emperor started selling his scrip.
So, I long have been mystified by the claim of Emperor Norton's biographer, William Drury — the author of Norton I: Emperor of the United States
(Dodd, Mead & Company, 1986) — that the Emperor started selling scrip in June or July of 1869.
But, here's a document we hadn't seen: On the front page of its edition of 18 September 1867, the Daily Alta California newspaper reported the
To be sure, the Alta — led by its editor, Albert Evans — pen name, Fitz Smythe — practically originated the habit of writing fake proclamations and
otherwise making journalistic sport of Emperor Norton. The paper did this for years.
But, this item doesn't read like a prank.
The details — bonds of “fifty cents, convertible into seven per cent” — line up with what the Emperor actually did.
What are we to make of this?
Perhaps someday a genuine Emperor Norton note dated 1867 will come to light. Be on the lookout! -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
Emperor Norton Scrip in 1867?
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
EMPEROR NORTON'S GARDEN PARTY (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n39a26.html) EMPEROR NORTON BOND IN KAGIN'S SALE (https://www.coinbooks.org/v21/esylum_v21n35a25.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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