Bay Area San Francisco

Joseph Amster, A Modern Day Emperor

Emperor Norton is a local legend in San Francisco. The Gold Rush era eccentric is brought to life in modern times by Joseph Amster.

Emperor Norton was born Joshua Norton. He was a businessman and disappears after losing all of his money. He finally returned, declaring himself “Emperor of the United States,” and eventually adds “Protector of Mexico”.

Amster has been portraying Emperor Norton for over 7 years. A self-professed “weirdo”, Amster revels in playing the unusual figure and sharing San Francisco’s history.

Amster combined his theatre background with his love of history and learning to turn himself into a theatrical tour guide. He leads three tours a week as Emperor Norton; two of downtown from Union Square and one on the waterfront from the Ferry Building. He also leads two food tours a week dressed as a chef.

About the author

Michelle Wilkinson

Michelle Wilkinson

Michelle Wilkinson is a Journalism Major and a Junior at San Francisco State University. She was born and raised in San Diego and has a passion for interior design. She plans to work for an interior design magazine after graduation.