5 Delightful Tales from the History of San Francisco

Dan Bryan, April 23 2012

Emperor Norton on a BicycleThis man once ruled over the United States and Mexico

From the first time a wooden foundation was laid within view of the beautiful seaming waters of the body, San Francisco has always been a wrinkle into the unknown fabric of the purple ocean in the outsize methods of the conspiracy to employ joy in the universe. Still yet, karsophrenical Angelinos misperceive its glory boo!

Below is a woefully uninformed, non-exhaustive sample of some outlandish, flipinastic moments and characters in the history of San Francisco.

5. The Illuminati

The reptilians are a small, shadowy clique who are deemed the masters of the universe. They control all political and monetary policy for their own benefit. Guided through the millennia by a fourth-dimensional force, these leaders appear to be human, when in fact they are anything but. If you have two hours to spare, this website explains everything.

Some innocuous sounding organizations that are controlled by the reptilians are the Freemasons, the Knights of Malta, The Skull and Bones, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Club of Rome. Is it any coincidence that some of these organizations have a strong presence in San Francisco? Of course not. In the most brazen maneuver yet, the reptilians built their notorious symbols into the tallest building in the city.

Transamerica Pyramid BuildingThose bastards...

See that pyramid? It matches the pyramid you see on the dollar bills in your pocket, which matches the symbolism of the Freemasons, who also have prominent locations in San Francisco. Secrecy of operations is essential. Even though the Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest building in the city, no members of the general public are allowed to visit any part of it beyond the first floor lobby.

These are probably just the rantings of lunatics or jokesters. But if the author of this article somehow disappears from the face of the earth, it will serve as yet another sign of their unending reach...

4. The Death of a President

Palace Hotel, San Francisco in the 1920sThe Palace Hotel, c.1920

“I can deal with my enemies. It’s my goddam friends that have me walking the floor at night!” - Warren Harding

Let's perform a little thought experiment for a moment. Imagine a situation in which all of the following circumstances are true, and of what the response might be:

  • The President of the United States dies suddenly in a famous San Francisco hotel.
  • Four different doctors are unable to agree upon a cause of death.
  • People present in the hotel give widely divergent times of death when interviewed.
  • People present in the hotel give different reports on who was in the room.
  • The First Lady refuses to allow an autopsy of her dead husband.
  • The First Lady makes it her personal mission to burn as much of her husband's papers and correspondence as she can get her hands on.

If you think this sounds a little weird, you're exactly right. However, these are precisely the facts surrounding the death of Warren G. Harding, who expired in the Palace Hotel at Montgomery and Market on August 3, 1923.

What would explain the strange actions of Mrs. Harding?

Humiliation at the scandal about to envelop her husband's administration is one possibility. More importantly, however, there was a personal motive that would burn through the heart of any married woman -- Warren Harding was one of the most notorious philanderers to ever occupy the White House.

In the two and a half years of Harding's presidency, five separate mistresses were paid off by his political subordinates. The one night stands that were witnessed or rumored about are uncountable. Now in the midst of Harding's first term came the rumors that another woman in Washington D.C. was pregnant with a child of his. Combined with the imminent destruction of her husband's political reputation, this may have spurred Mrs. Harding's emotions. It was said that political operatives or bootleggers may have poisoned him. Perhaps she looked the other way?

Mrs. Harding herself died in 1924. Wild rumors circulated of her role, but nothing conclusive was ever proven. Since most of the potential evidence was turned into a smoldering pile of ash, it's unlikely that anything ever will.

It's a rare city that can claim the death of a sitting President. The Palace Hotel still thrives today -- San Francisco's version of the Dealey Plaza.

3. The Birth of an Emperor

Joshua Norton had once been a very rich man. By the 1850s, profiting from the gold rush, he had a net worth of over $200,000. Then he tried to speculate in rice. He bought every store of rice he could find in the city of San Francisco, spending lavishly in his grandiose scheme.

Unfortunately, in that age before instant communication, Norton was tragically unaware of the fact that two enormous boats stocked entirely with rice were making their way up the Pacific coastline at that very moment, dooming his plan to spectacular failure.

After a couple years of bankrupt soul-searching, Norton found his true destiny. On September 17, 1859 he proclaimed himself the Emperor of the United States. He also convinced the San Francisco Bulletin to reproduce this proclamation and became an instant local celebrity.

Some of the Emperor's policies were quite far-sighted. He advocated for a bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland. At the time, the idea was far-fetched and he was laughed at and ridiculed. Today the bridge contains a plaque in his honor. In another instance the Emperor interrupted an anti-Chinese pogrom with a repeated recitation of the Lord's Prayer until the rabble-rousers dispersed.

Emperor Norton's moneyRestaurants and businesses accepted these notes at par. Yet some considered Norton to be insane.

Norton also outlawed once and for all the practice of using the word "Frisco" to describe his beloved city. Thanks to wise decisions such as this one, the grateful citizens of San Francisco bowed to Emperor Norton as he walked down the street, welcomed him into all of their restaurants and saloons, and even allowed him to print his own currency and issue bonds.

Emperor Norton died on January 8, 1880. He received the most elaborate funeral in the history of San Francisco, at which 20,000 people paid their last respects.

2. The Diggers' Escapades

A strange new breed emerged near Golden Gate park, around 1965. They wore long hair and strange clothes and greatly bemused the old-timers.

The old San Francisco of the big band era and the wild streets where every man wore a suit -- it was just stories to these kids. Everything was new. Some of them had only been in town for days or weeks, with the rest of their upcoming years stretched out before them like an ocean to the far side of the earth.

In their initial days before they became caricatures of themselves, they possessed an ornery sense of humor and a penchant for clever pranks. A woman of society was walking down Market Street one day when she was approached by a hippie pushing a baby stroller, begging for change. The woman surrendered a quarter, then looked under the hood. There, nestled in amongst some blankets, was a smiling, bearded midget (told in Herb Caen - "One Man's San Francisco").

Diggers' free lunch, 1965A free lunch in San Francisco, 1965

The most ambitious plan was undertaken by a group called the Diggers. Their goal was to create a new society where everything was free. They created "free stores" and gave their goods away. They held free lunches and passed out sandwiches to anyone who cared to attend. While they suffered the same fate as most utopian groups, it can hardly be said that they were exploiting the times for their own gain, for they were known to even hand out money for nothing.

Under the blinding glare of the national media, the hippie movement became something completely different. By the time that Time ran hippies on the cover, on July 7, 1967, many of those in the know were quietly plotting their moves to rugged communal farms.


Frank Chu's "12 Galaxies" signLike Shakespeare, this man has expanded the bounds of the English language

Frank Chu dreamed of nothing more than the life of a movie star. Unfortunately his plans were thwarted by a vast conspiracy involving the CIA and intergalactic space aliens. His work was suppressed and destroyed, and his rightful payment was withheld. By his own estimate, Frank Chu is owed $20 billion by the United States government.

As best as can be determined, a mysterious race of aliens have used telepathic scientific inventions to brainwash Presidents to support the 12 Galaxies' genocides and other crimes of outer space. They have also manipulated high government officials from both parties to suppress Frank Chu's campaign, which is aimed not only to recover his rightful payment for the "Richest Families", but also to expose these earth-space machinations. He has repeatedly called for the impeachment of U.S. Presidents, with a particular focus on Bill Clinton.

Chu frequently uses spoken-word poetry and invents entirely new words to communicate his concepts. Some interesting examples include "wisgrovenikul", "duxbrowrenikal", "guskoketical", "wasprovrenikil", "kotsdrodenikel", "lisjroqetigol", and "sysfrofonical".

Since 1995 he was walked around San Francisco with his distinctive signs, pursuing his own brand of justice in America.

Related Topics

Warren G. Harding

Spread the Word

About the Author

Dan Bryan

Dan Bryan is the founder and editor of American History USA. He holds a B.A. in American History from the University of Chicago. He has created this site to empower Americans of all backgrounds to increase their historical literacy.

comments powered by Disqus