^ excellent submissions.
I haven't decided if today's subject is a hero or a villain. His life was perhaps the archetype of the Bay Area individualist cliche. I'm inclined to think he exists somewhere between, because although San Francisco is full of this sort today, he was in his day an anomaly. An eccentric, not an "eccentric." In any case:
the self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself "Emperor of these United States" and subsequently "Protector of Mexico".
After losing a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton left San Francisco. He returned a few years later, apparently mentally unbalanced, claiming to be the emperor of the United States. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.
Norton spent his days as emperor inspecting the streets of San Francisco in an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulets, given to him by officers of the United States Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco. He also wore a beaver hat decorated with a peacock feather and a rosette.
Norton was much loved and revered by the citizens of San Francisco. Although penniless, he regularly ate at the finest restaurants in San Francisco; these restaurateurs then took it upon themselves to add brass plaques in their entrances declaring "by Appointment to his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States." By all accounts, such "Imperial seals of approval" were much prized and a substantial boost to trade. Supposedly, no play or musical performance in San Francisco would dare to open without reserving balcony seats for Norton.
In 1867, a police officer named Armand Barbier arrested Norton for the purpose of committing him to involuntary treatment for a mental disorder. The arrest outraged the citizens of San Francisco and sparked a number of scathing editorials in the newspapers. Police Chief Patrick Crowley speedily rectified matters by ordering Norton released and issuing a formal apology on behalf of the police force. Chief Crowley observed of the self-styled monarch "that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line." Norton was magnanimous enough to grant an "Imperial Pardon" to the errant young police officer. Possibly as a result of this scandal, all police officers of San Francisco thereafter saluted Norton as he passed in the street.