“Being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, I do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than 10, nor less than five, years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree.”—Emperor Norton I, an Imperial Decree, dated August 12, 1869, and published in the San Francisco Herald the next day
Emperor Norton I (above) outlawed the Democratic Party and Republican National Committee on this date in 1869. Emperor?
Joshua Norton was a San Franciscan who lost his fortune in a wild investment speculation in the 1850s and then began suing any party he could think of—including America—to void the contract that had ruined him. Frustrated, and possibly driven insane by the effort, he proclaimed himself Emperor, or, officially, “Norton 1, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.”
This is even what is inscribed on his gravestone. Until his death 20 years later in 1880, citizens of San Francisco, California, treated him with deference and respect: Restaurants reserved seats for him (and his dogs—or any dogs that he adopted on the spot that day and decided looked hungry); the banks issued fake currency that only he could use, and businesses always accepted this money from him; the newspapers printed his many decrees on their front pages and noticed that sales spiked for those editions, so they sometimes published fake decrees to pump up sales; businesses that he approved of received personal seals of approval, which they displayed proudly. He walked the streets wearing one of many self-designed uniforms and military-style hats. When he died, 30,000 turned out to mourn him. Among his decrees: that a bridge be built where the Golden Gate Bridge ultimately was built decades later.
But he outlawed our political parties on this date in 1869, and that is worth noting. If only we had lived in his world along with him.
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William Blake died on this date in 1827. Thomas Mann died on this date in 1955. Henry Fonda died on this date in 1982. Jean-Michel Basquiat died in 1988. John Cage died 24 years ago today. Merv Griffin died nine years ago today. Les Paul died seven years ago today.
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Erwin Schrödinger was born on this date in 1887. Cantinflas was born on this date in 1911. Michael Kidd was born in 1915 on this date. Ross McWhirter and Norris McWhirter, the twin brothers who founded Guinness World Records, were born on this date in 1925. Buck Owens was born in 1929 on this date. John Cazale was born in 1935 on this date.
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William Goldman is 85 today. Mark Knopfler is 67. Pat Metheny is 62. Pete Sampras is 45.
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