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January 10, 1880, Call, San Francisco, California – Emperor Norton I, first citizen of San Francisco, was laid to rest today at the Masonic Cemetery in a service that saw a royal cortege more than two miles long. An estimated 20,000 citizens came to say farewell to this self-appointed supreme leader of the United States of America. He was laid to rest in a black robe with a white starched shirt and black bow tie.
He died shortly after collapsing on California Street near Grant on the evening of January 8th on his way to a debate at the Academy of Science. Businessman William Proll was first to arrive to his aid, and knowing him to be a temperate man, believed the Emperor was distressed. A police officer ordered a carriage to convey him to the hospital. Alas, by the time a hack arrived, Emperor Norton had departed this life.
Joshua Abraham Norton, born London, England on February 14th, 1819, came to this city in 1849 from South Africa. Although he arrived with a $40,000 fortune, a failed attempt to corner this city’s rice market in 1854 separated him from his money. His venture, the result of a rice famine in China, caused the price of rice to skyrocket from four cents to 37 cents a pound. Norton bought the entire cargo of the first ship of rice arriving from Peru for 12 cents a pound, little realizing that more Peruvian rice-laden ships were due to arrive the following day. The glut of rice to this city dropped the price to three cents a pound. Norton, gold-seeker turned rice-seeker, was financially ruined.
Penniless but not without temerity, he arose again and on September 17, 1859, he proclaimed himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States in a declaration concluding:

“In virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different Sates of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.”

Many citizens of San Francisco were amused by the Emperor’s Decrees, but many citizens saw him as an honest and noble man, and above all, a diviner with an eye to the future. Under the Emperor’s imperial hand, proclamations were published, most notably: dissolving the Union (July 16, 1860), barring Congress from meeting (October 1, 1860), abolishing both the Democratic and Republican parties (August 12, 1869), that a suspension bridge be built between San Francisco and Oakland Point (September 21, 1872), and that a Bible Convention be held “for the purpose of eliminating all doubtful passages contained in the present printed edition of the Bible, and that measures be adopted toward the obliteration of all religious sects and the establishment of a Universal Religion,” (January 2, 1873). Perhaps most far-reaching was his call upon the leaders of the world to form a League of Nations where disputes could be resolved peacefully. His letters to Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria were seriously deliberated.
With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, tourist arrived daily to this city, and Emperor Norton offered them fine sights worthy of their trip. San Franciscans knew Emperor Norton to be a temperate man, and although he had no visible means of income, he issued paper notes in denominations of fifty-cents to ten dollars with which to obligingly pay his bills, signing and dating each to make the transaction official. He had been known to disperse riots against the city’s population of Chinese by reciting the Lord’s Prayer before the aggressors.
This city will miss him walking with his dog, returning the salute of police officers, ordering the cleanliness of our streets, tempering foul language, and in general, making San Francisco a more royal city for his presence.


If you go to a classic car show, you’ll see a number of Studebaker cars and trucks.  But, did you know that the StudebakerStudebaker family started making vehicles back in 1852?

Here’s the story. The Studebaker family was known for being great blacksmiths.  Looking to take advantage of the westward movement, brothers Henry, Clem and John started the “H & C Studebaker Company” to make their version of a Conestoga wagon.  They started with $68 in capital. After a year, they had sold two wagons.

Realizing they needed more capital to be able to buy materials in quantity, brother John agreed to go to California and get some capital in the gold fields.  When he got to what is now Placerville, he realized he could generate more money by making wheelbarrows for the gold miners than mining gold.

John did well.  In a couple of years, he had saved $8,000.  On his way home, John picked up a copy of the great promoter, P. T. Barnum’s book The Art of Money Making.  When John got back to Indiana, he was totally excited with the possibilities of making a fortune.

By December 31, 1860 the Studebaker brothers, John and Clem…Henry had decided to leave the business and become a farmer…had 14 employees and a successful business.

During the Civil War, the Studebakers made supply wagons and ambulances for the Union Army.  The two brothers were so busy that they grew beards to save time normally used for shaving.

It became an annual ritual to tally the books at the end of each year. Following the Civil War, on December 31, 1867, John tallied the assets.  That year they had profits of $223,269.

Texas RangersBack in 1835 there was an area of North America that, like the United States some fifty plus years earlier wanted to become independent of their mother country. On October 17, the people of that rebelling area approved the forming of a group of armed and mounted men whose duty was to range the borders and protect them. Some 175 years later that organization is still in existence and going as strong as ever.

That area of North America seeking independence? It was Texas. That group of armed and mounted men? The Texas Rangers.

In 1835 Texas comprised of isolated pockets of frontier settlers. And Texas leaders needed someone to “range” the frontier and protect the borders from Santa Ana’s soldiers as well as hostile Indians within the territory. And that’s exactly what the Texas Rangers did.

Then, a year later when Texas got its independence, it was decided to upgrade this semi-official force into the primary law enforcement authority.

Although they were created by the Texas government, they were an irregular group of civilians who provided their own horses and guns.

They were given considerable independence, carrying out the duties that would normally be done by the army…such as fighting Indians, and law enforcement agencies…tracking down cattle thieves, train and stage robbers and murderers.

As Texas entered into the 20th century the Texas Rangers were still very much an independent agency. But, they were receiving more and more criticism about their using excessive violence and ignoring the finer points of the law. So, in the 1930’s, the state got control of the Rangers, making them a modern and professional law organization.


If you wanted to send a valuable package in the early 1800’s, your only option was to find an honest looking person going there, and then ask them to carry your package. But all that changed on October 10, 1839.

Sending any type of valuable package in the early 1800’s was a very risky process. First you would try tWells Fargoo persuade a stagecoach driver or steamboat captain to take it for you. If they didn’t want the responsibility, you would then look for a passenger with an honest looking face to take it. And sometimes that “honest person” and your package would disappear.

But on October 10, 1839, a former railroad conductor by the name of William Harnden came up with what could be called the first express company. He started out modestly with deliveries between Boston and New York. Most of the items carried were business documents, bank drafts, currency and newspapers.

The fee was a few cents to a few dollars, depending not on the size of the document, but its value. At first William Harnden made the deliveries himself, carrying the items in a carpetbag.

By 1841, just two years later, he had offices in Philadelphia, Albany, London and Paris. An employee by the name of Henry Wells suggested that instead of expanding to the east, he should expand to the west.

Harnden looked to the west and saw nothing but wilderness and Indians and routes that were hardly traveled, as opposed to messengers traveling by steamship or stagecoach over populated areas. So William Harnden told Henry Wells to “do it on your own account.”

William Harnden died at the age of 33, the result of tuberculosis and overwork. And he was not able to see what happened when Henry Wells took his advice, and along with a partner named William G. Fargo started a company with a name that’s familiar even today, called Wells-Fargo.


We’re getting reCowboyPoetsWebady to head over to the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, AZ.

We’ll be there Friday and Saturday enjoying the music and poetry, as well as having conversations with the entertainers and attendees for our weekly radio show.

I would highly recommend this event. Hope to see you there.

Their web site is: http://www.ycpac.com/portfolio/arizona-cowboy-poets-gathering/

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