Norton, Joshua Abraham, 1818–80, colorful eccentric of San Francisco known as "Emperor Norton," b. London. He went (1820) with his parents to Cape Town, South Africa, and news of the California gold rush brought him to San Francisco in 1849. He became a merchant but went bankrupt trying to corner the local rice market. After his financial failure he apparently went insane. Styling himself "Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico," he dressed and acted extravagantly, issuing his own paper money and grandiose proclamations; for 20 years he was an object of fond and humorous attention locally.
See biographies by A. S. Lane (1939) and W. Drury (1986).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.