Emperor Norton Trash Cans Arrive In Downtown SF
It’s not the renaming of the Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton that we’ve been hoping for, but it’s something. A Facebook post from the Emperor Norton Trust points out there is one newly installed Bigbelly trash can dedicated to Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico near the Mechanics Monument at Market and Bush Streets. And a second Emperor Norton trash can has been spotted at Montgomery and Pine Streets.
“Both ‘Emperor Norton bins’ were placed by the San Francisco Downtown Community Benefit District,” the Trust says in their Facebook post. “And — based on Google Street View date stamps — it appears that both bins were installed sometime after March 2021. They are new on the scene.”
We reached out to the Emperor Norton Trust for a response. “Of course, I’m delighted to see the Emp getting attention on the streets, where he held sway,” the Trust’s founder John Lumea tells us. “At the same time… Opportunities to educate the public about the real Emperor Norton are few and far between. So, there’s a part of me that laments the trash bin’s tour book, tour guide characterization of the Emp as ‘San Francisco’s OUTRAGEOUS Emperor Norton.’”
“Was it ‘outrageous’ that the Emperor pushed for racial equality? Was it ‘outrageous’ that he advocated for immigrant rights? Was it ‘outrageous’ that he called out political and corporate corruption?,” Lumea adds. “I’d like to see the trash bins used as an opportunity to introduce passersby to the actual Emperor Norton, not the cartoon version of the Emperor that too often reduces him to a lovable kook without saying why he matters.”
You may get a better sense of the actual Emperor Norton from the Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine tour, which started back up again this past weekend. And as cool as it is to see Emperor Norton on these cans, these are the Bigbelly trash cans that have been criticized for their absoritant cost, overflow issues, and have drawn charges that they are hostile architecture.
But all that said, we still declare and proclaim on this 19th day of July 2021, that these are our favorite trash cans in all of San Francisco.