Willard knocked at the door of a boarding house at 624 Commercial Street and readied his clipboard. In his mind, he went over his prepared opening lines, “Good evening sir, in an effort to better serve and represent the people of the Republic of the United States of America and all of its settled territories ...”
He could hear the sound of dogs barking and a man yelling: “Bummer! Lazarus!” A moment later, the door cracked open and two snouts poked out and sniffed at Willard’s knees.
Willard wasn’t prepared to be greeted by canines and suddenly forgot his much-rehearsed speech when a bearded man in a feathered hat stepped onto the porch. Hanging from his hip was an ornate sword.
“Yes? I don’t have all day, young man, what is it?”
“Ah! Get on with it then, I have affairs to attend to.”
Willard shrugged his shoulders and dove straight into his questions. He just wanted to go home.
“Norton, Joshua Abraham. The first.”
“Never, sir. I have no heirs.”
Willard hesitated for a second before checking NO on his form. He then sped through the remaining questions and was just about to take leave when he realized he had missed the “Occupation” box on his questionnaire.
“And lastly, what do you do for a living?” he asked.
Joshua Norton cleared his throat and raised his chin as he replied.
“Pardon?” Willard said.
“... and the Protector of Mexico.”
Willard stared at the ground, his eyes glazed over.
“Okay, sir... thank you for, uh... “ he mumbled and turned and walked away mid-sentence.
On August 1st, 1870, the census-taker listed the occupation of Joshua Abraham Norton, the eccentric, beloved, folk-hero of San Francisco, as “Emperor;” of these United States; and the Protector of Mexico.