Emperor and the President – California’s Gold (2013)

Like other states, the hierarchy of California’s government begins with our Governor and weaves its way down through offices such as Secretary of State, Attorney General and Senator. What is surprising about California, is that we once had an Emperor and a President.

California’s President William Ide emerged during the 24 days of the Bear Flag revolt of 1846. Ide posted a proclamation in Sonoma declaring liberty for California settlers, which set the stage for California’s statehood. In admiration of his bravery and leadership, his fellow Bear Flaggers and other pioneers dubbed him President.

Later in the 19th Century, a wealthy businessman who had lost a huge fortune, walked into the office of the San Francisco Bulletin and proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

From 1859 until his death in 1880, the eccentric Emperor Norton continued to issue proclamations, circulate his own currency and roam the streets of San Francisco dressed in a Civil War uniform. Residents and business owners humored the loveable character by paying him “taxes,” providing him with meals and transportation, and saluting him.

Although their titles are unofficial, Huell discovers that the legacy of our Emperor and President continues as he visits the locales frequented by Emperor Norton in San Francisco, Sonoma and the popular adobe named for President Ide in Red Bluff. Huell also pays tribute at both of their gravesites, permanent reminders of their contribution to California.