Celebrations | Original ceremony for a San Francisco original

More than 135 years after his death in 1880, Emperor Norton has finally received a worthy Jewish sendoff — a May 3 celebration during which he was feted and a memorial plaque in his name was unveiled.

Born Joshua Abraham Norton in England, the beloved character in San Francisco history never received a Jewish burial, though he attended services every Saturday at Congregation Emanu-El.

Joseph Amster (left) and Rick Saber in their Emperor Norton garb. photos/mia bernt

To right the wrong, Emanu-El organized the ceremony at Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma. About 50 people attended, including two dressed up as the emperor: Joseph Amster, who leads local tours as Emperor Norton, and Rick Saber, a local history buff.

Norton lived in San Francisco and in 1859 proclaimed himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States.” Strolling about town in a military uniform and decorated hat, he became a celebrity as residents celebrated his regal presence and proclamations, though some considered him mentally unbalanced.

The plaque in his honor is not yet a permanent part of the cemetery, but synagogue officials are working on it.