Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Among the many eccentric characters in San Francisco history, Joshua "Emperor" Norton is near the top of the list. Business failures prompted him to move there in the wake of the Gold Rush. He became wealthy in the commission business, then lost it all by speculating on rice. Following his bankruptcy and an illness, the once respected Joshua declared himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Norton was a strong advocate for what would become the Oakland Bay Bridge.