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Emperor Norton’s San Francisco Time Machine 10th Anniversary Parade

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Saturday, July 10, 2021 - 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm | Cost: FREE
Embarcadero Plaza (Formerly Justin Herman Plaza) | 1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Event Details

Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine Celebrates 10 Years

On July 10, 2011, Joseph Amster donned a Civil War era U.S. Army coat and a top hat festooned with feathers to begin offering Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine. This walking tour exploring San Francisco’s past has been going strong ever since, interrupted only by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tours are now back and will celebrate its tenth anniversary on July 10, 2021, by offering a parade down the sidewalks of Market Street. It will celebrate the life of Emperor Norton, the tour’s tenth anniversary, and honoring not only the original Emperor Norton, but all those who portrayed him as well.

Amster and husband Rick Shelton later started the tour company Time Machine Tours. The duo quickly became San Francisco fixtures, with Shelton offering Drag Me Along Tours in the persona of Lola Montez (a notorious 19th century figure), as well as Amster launching San Francisco Food Safari with tours of North Beach and the Mission District. They can often be seen at civic functions in character and costume.

At the moment, only Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine is offered, but they hope to relaunch the full offering of tours later this year.

The response to Amster walking the streets of San Francisco in character as Emperor Norton has been overwhelming and rewarding. “I had no idea ten years ago that people would respond so positively,” says Amster. “I thought I’d just do a fun and accurate tour, but the people of San Francisco embraced the idea of the return of the Emperor. Everywhere I go, people smile and greet me as if I were really Emperor Norton.”
Joshua Norton was a San Francisco businessman who arrived in the City in 1849 from South Africa. He made a fortune in real estate and commodities trading, until he lost everything trying to corner the market on rice. On September 17, 1859, he declared him the Emperor of the United States, later adding the title Protector of Mexico. The people of San Francisco embraced his delusion and treated him as if he really were emperor for the next 21 years. He would issue his own currency and come up with visionary ideas like building a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, as well as the concept for the United Nations.

10th Anniversary Parade – July 10, 2021 at Noon
To honor the life and legacy of the Emperor, as well as his tour’s tenth anniversary, Amster will lead a parade down the sidewalks of Market Street, beginning at Embarcadero Plaza (formerly Justin Herman Plaza) on Saturday, July 10 at noon. It is free to all. From there, the parade will turn north on Grant Avenue and end with a picnic at St. Mary’s Park. In order to support Chinatown businesses, Amster is encouraging attendees to order food to go from the nearby restaurants to bring back to St. Mary’s Park.

He is also encouraging participants to come dressed as Emperor Norton because the event not only honors the Emperor and the tour, but also all those who have portrayed the Emperor over the years. “I have identified at least 18 people who have also taken up Emperor Norton’s mantle,” he says. “Some did it for just one time, others more, but the tradition of honoring the Emperor and assuming his persona runs deep in San Francisco.”
Photo Credit: Dominica May

Disclaimer: Please double check event information with the event organizer as events can be canceled, details can change after they are added to our calendar, and errors do occur.

Cost: FREE
Categories: *Top Pick*, In Person, Other, Walks & Tours
Address: 1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA