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Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf

The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf brings the legendary “Emperor Norton”

Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf

The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf brings the legendary “Emperor Norton” back to life for the San Francisco Welcome Center & History Museum

11 October 2012, San Francisco, CA — The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf ( has completed a new wax figure of one of San Francisco’s most colorful and celebrated early citizens — Joshua A. Norton, known to all as “Emperor Norton.” Crafted over the last six months by the Wax Production Studio of The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, the life-size figure is dressed in Civil War-era military attire, based on contemporary photographs of Emperor Norton in full regalia befitting his noble title. The Emperor Norton from the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf was created to help mark the Grand Opening of the San Francisco Welcome Center & History Museum at 449 Powell Street. “Emperor Norton” will move to his new home on October 11, 2012, where it will remain on loan.

“No one waxed more eloquently in his heyday than did the Emperor Norton, so it’s only fitting that a San Franciscan with an immortal legacy is now preserved immortally in wax” said Rodney Fong, owner / president of the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. “We’re thrilled to see him make history again at the San Francisco Welcome Center & History Museum.”

Museum Curator Curtis Huber and staff in the Wax Production Studio of The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf relied particularly on a photograph that shows Norton posing formally in Civil War attire. The wax figure is clothed in a Navy blue Union Army tunic with gold bullion epaulettes, and dark heather grey wool pants. He wears a Civil War leather sword belt with brass eagle buckle and shoulder strap, and a U.S.1860 Light Cavalry War Sword. On his head is a white beaver top hat with ostrich and peacock feather adornment, and a ribbon rosette with rhinestone broach. “We are very excited to highlight San Francisco history at its best including SF’s forever reigning Emperor Norton, as created by the famed Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf,” said Barry Barsamian, Curator of the SF History Museum. “We will be highlighting many of the City’s legends from Mark Twain and Jack London to Cecil Williams and Natalie Wood. Our goal is to preserve our rich historical past, blended with our present day history-in-the-making.”

On September 17, 1859, Joshua A. Norton, a Gold Rush-era San Francisco entrepreneur, published a decree declaring himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Known to all in San Francisco, his early headquarters were at Platt’s Music Hall on Montgomery Street. Over the next twenty years, Norton I issued numerous decrees published in San Francisco newspapers. By decree, Emperor Norton dismissed the Governor of Virginia for hanging John Brown; dissolved the United States of America; barred Congress from meeting in Washington, DC; dissolved and abolished the Democratic and Republican parties due to party strife; and declared in 1872 that a suspension bridge be built to connect Oakland and San Francisco, among other things.

In January 1867, an overzealous patrol officer created a civic uproar when he arrested His Majesty Norton I for involuntary treatment of a mental disorder. This faux-pas led to an apology from the city’s Police Chief, and from that time on police officers saluted His Majesty when he passed them on the street.

On January 8, 1880, Norton I dropped dead on California St. at Grant Ave., on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Ten thousand people turned out for his funeral, forming a cortege two miles long. His eccentricities and sincerity earned love from his fellow citizens, and he has lived on in the popular legend of San Francisco. (Information from San Francisco Almanac by local historian Gladys Hansen, published by Chronicle Books, 1995.)

Opened in 1963 as the largest wax museum in North America, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular landmarks in San Francisco’s busy waterfront neighborhood. The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf features one of the foremost collections of wax figures in the world, where the magic of 50 years of wax artistry transports you through time. The Wax Museum is “home” to a legion of notorious characters, with over 250 internationally-known personalities past and present in fabulous scenes, representing a millennium of history and fantasy, from King Tut’s Magnificent Tomb to the Yellow Brick Road, from the majesty of the Titanic to the ghouls of the underground Chamber of Horrors. At the Wax Museum, royalty and presidents rub shoulders with today’s pop celebrities, and famous artists and scientists display their masterpieces and discoveries.

Open daily from 10am to 9pm, The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf is located at 145 Jefferson Street, San Francisco. For full information, visit