"Emperor" Joshua Norton

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"Emperor" Joshua Norton's Geni Profile

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Joshua Abraham Norton

Birthdate:
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Death: Died in San Francisco, CA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of John Norton, SV/PROG and Sarah Norton, SM/PROG
Brother of Louis Norton; Philip Norton; Esther Kisch; Benjamin John Norton; Edward Henry Norton and 6 others

Managed by: Ross Norton
Last Updated:

About "Emperor" Joshua Norton

1820 British Settler

   

John Norton 25, Farmer, together with his wife Sarah Norden 25, and their 2 sons, were members of Thomas Willson's Party of 307 Settlers on the La Belle Alliance.

Party originated from London.

Departed London, 12 February 1820. Arrived Table Bay, Cape Town on 2 May 1820. Final Port - Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth May 1820.

Area Allocated to the Party : Beaufort Vale on the Bush River Lynedoch River

Children :

  • Lewis/Louis Norton 3
  • Joshua Norton 2

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"Emperor" Norton: Norton was born in England, but scholarly works disagree as to the date and exact town of his birth. His obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, "following the best information obtainable", cited the silver plate on his coffin which said he was "aged about 65", suggesting that 1814 could be the year of his birth. Other sources claim that he was born on February 4, 1819 in London. Immigration records indicate that he was two years old in 1820 when his parents moved to South Africa. South African genealogies suggest that his parents were John Norton (d. August 1848) and Sarah Norden. Sarah was a daughter of Abraham Norden and a sister of Benjamin Norden, a successful Jewish merchant.

Norton emigrated from South Africa to San Francisco in 1849 after receiving a bequest of $40,000 from his father's estate. He enjoyed a good deal of success in the real estate market and by the early 1850s had accumulated a fortune of $250,000. Norton thought he saw a business opportunity when China, facing a severe famine, placed a ban on the export of rice, causing the price of rice in San Francisco to skyrocket from four cents per pound to thirty-six cents per pound (9 cents/kg to 79 cents/kg). When he heard that the Glyde, which was returning from Peru, was carrying 200,000 pounds (91,000 kg) of rice, he bought the entire shipment for $25,000 (or twelve and a half cents per pound), hoping to corner the market.

Shortly after he signed the contract, several other shiploads of rice arrived from Peru causing the price of rice to plummet to three cents a pound. Norton tried to void the contract, stating that the dealer had misled him as to the quality of rice to expect. From 1853 to 1857, Norton and the rice dealers were involved in a protracted litigation. Although Norton prevailed in the lower courts, the case reached the Supreme Court of California, which ruled against Norton. Later on, the Lucas Turner and Company Bank foreclosed on his real estate holdings in North Beach to pay Norton's debt. Norton's mental state was severely affected by these financial setbacks. He declared bankruptcy in 1858 and left the city for a time. There are no known documents noting that Norton had an eccentric personality prior to the loss of his fortune, so it is not known whether his pronounced eccentricity was a permanent aspect of his character or arose as a result of the stressful financial straits he found himself in during the 1850s. Nonetheless, after his sudden loss of financial stability, Norton became (in the absence of a proper diagnosis) somewhat "odd", exhibiting the symptoms often referred to as "delusions of grandeur".

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"Emperor" Joshua Norton's Timeline

1819
February 4, 1819
London, United Kingdom
1849
1849
Age 29
San Francisco, CA, USA
1859
September 17, 1859
Age 40
1880
January 8, 1880
Age 60
San Francisco, CA, USA
January 10, 1880
Age 60