Available in hardback, softcover, and as an e-book, "An Emperor Among Us" by author David St. John is a "simple yet ambitious novel" about Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States. It is available from Amazon.Com and BarnesAndNoble.Com, among other online retailers.
Of course, he wasn't really an emperor. Joshua Norton sailed into San Francisco Bay in 1849, at the age of 30, with $40,000 in his pocket. Within four years, he had increased his fortune to about a quarter million dollars. But in another four years, he was penniless. In a singular stroke of bad luck, he had lost it all, including his sanity and sense of reality. He disappeared for a time, then reappeared, proclaiming himself to be the Emperor of the United States, and spent the rest of his life wandering the streets of San Francisco, making and enforcing his proclamations, selling his own private currency, and looking out as best he could for the best interests of his adopted city.
Emperor Norton became a fixture in early San Francisco society. From the day he sailed into the bay in the autumn of 1849, to the day he declared himself "Emperor of the United States" in 1857, until his death on a cold, wet January evening in 1880, Joshua Norton's life was an important part of the life and growth of this city.
Although a pauper, the people of the city fawned over him. Bankers bowed to him. Politicians groveled. Business leaders gave him gifts. And policemen saluted. He dined in some of the city's best restaurants for free. He always had complimentary seats at the theatre. And he travelled gratis on the railroads.
His death was reported across the country. Newspapers in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and New York devoted a great deal of space to his death. Mark Twain, once a reporter with the Morning Call newspaper in San Francisco, had known Emperor Norton, and now, living Hartford, Connecticut, read of his death in the New York Times while vacationing at his wife's family home in Elmira, New York. "I found a great deal to admire about him," said Twain. "I thought he was a lovable old humbug!" So Mark Twain devotes an evening presentation before friends to telling the story of this remarkable man.