Myths & Apocrypha
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A Total Solar Eclipse Occurred When Norton Died
This Legend Is & Isn't Myth Depending on What Happened When

These are the known versions of the legend:
1) San Francisco had a total eclipse of the sun the day the Emperor died.
2) A total eclipse occurred for the Emperor's funeral.
3) The Emperor was buried on the 10th, some say 11th, of January 1880.
4) San Francisco had a total eclipse of the sun on 11 January 1880.

Truth is...
All accounts agree Emperor Norton-1 died on 8 Jan. 1880. However, various histories have him buried 2 or 3 days later. Most now agree on the 10th.

On 11 January 1880 at 2:49pm Pacific Standard Time a nearly complete solar eclipse crossed into Northern California. It reached 95% of totality over The City at 4:01pm and concluded at 5:05pm. (Click here for too much info, or NASA map right for tax supported eclipse data.)

Solar Eclipse 1880 from NASA

No doubt people's minds melded the two great happenchances whether overlapped, abutted, or not, i.e. the solar eclipse and His Highness' death. ["The Emperor is dead!  Long live the sun!"]

IF the mourning period for Joshua Abraham Norton was shadowed-over by the moon, in the very strictest sense, alas, this story remains 5% myth as a narrow crescent of sunlight should have been visible. Therefore, let us glorify our Sovereign with a generally precise truth such as Mark Twain might have composed to avoid the limitations of factual small-mindedness.

Even as San Francisco was draped in widow's black, mourning the passing of Norton-1, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, the city was further darkened by a solar eclipse of such magnitude and timing as to make even the most skeptical of non-believers ponder the coincidence and timing of profound events and thus reassess their theretofore certainty as to what was and what could not be true. And those skeptics were not limited to the atheistic. No, many the anti-royalist converted from the darkness as a result.

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