Bay Lights Blog

Set Sail with Emperor Norton and Countess Lola Montez Aboard GAS LIGHT

by Rich Goldman

Bay Lights Charters invites you to step back in time with two of San Francisco's most notable historical characters, Emperor Joshua Norton and Countess Lola Montez. Enjoy an entertaining 2-3 hour cruise aboard the schooner GAS LIGHT and learn more about the Emperor and the Countess as period dressed actors bring the characters to life.

Related Blog: Hosting a Top-Notch Event on the San Francisco Bay

A San Francisco Bay Tour Like No Other

Ongoing stories and acts take place above and below deck throughout the cruise. Guests are free to linger at their leisure during the performances. Norton and Montez also mingle among tour participants as GAS LIGHT sails along the city front, then toward Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and possibly to Angel Island or Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island.

If you're searching for a unique experience, gather friends, family, and coworkers and book this tour today. Not only do you get to sail aboard the beautiful GAS LIGHT, a replica of the steel-hulled schooners that sailed the Bay in the 1800’s, but you will learn about two people who left a lasting impression on the City by the Bay.

Just Who Were Emperor Norton and Countess Lola Montez of Lansfield? Emperor Norton

Joshua Norton was a self-appointed "Emperor of the United States"—and later "Protector of Mexico" after Mexico's invasion by Napoleon III in 1863. Born in England, Norton arrived in San Francisco around 1849 from Cape of Good Hope via Rio de Janeiro. Upon establishing Joshua Norton & Company, Norton became quite wealthy and well-known in the high-society circles of San Francisco. Norton enjoyed this lifestyle until a bad investment in the rice import business resulted in his financial ruin.

Norton's life is one of both legend and historic fact. Described as a bit eccentric, Norton also possessed ideas that were ahead of his time, such as his belief in voting rights for women and he advocated for fair treatment of immigrants and ethnic minorities. Another interesting note is that he produced his own currency—in 50 cent denominations—that occasionally appear on eBay for as much as $15,000.

Countess Lola Montez of Landsfield, a.k.a. Eliza Gilbert, arrived in San Francisco in May of 1853. Montez was already world famous for her erotic exploits and political intrigues. A natural beauty with an explosive temper, Montez pushed the envelope with her performances in "School for Scandal" at the American Theater. The public's interest in the Countess allowed the theater to charge $5 for the best seats.

Countess Montez was perhaps most famous for her performances of the Spider Dance. The dance was a version of the tarantella, a southern Italian dance. Montez danced as a country maid who discovered a spider in her clothing. She wore flesh colored tights and multi-color petticoats as she contorted her body in ways that shocked audiences. Montez served as a mentor and dance instructor for actress Lotta Crabtree, who ironically was later deemed "The Nation's Darling." In 1861, Countess Montez died alone and broke in New York at the age of 39.

Bay Lights Charters

The Schooner GAS LIGHT accommodates up to 48 passengers and is easily accessible at South Beach Harbor, Pier 40, adjacent to AT&T Ball Park. The captain and crew have decades of experience sailing the waters of the San Francisco Bay. For more information about Bay Lights Charters and the Emperor Joshua Norton and Countess Lola Montez of Landsfield tour, including available dates and food options, contact us.

Bay Lights Charters

Reward your hard working team or spend time with family and friends with this fun and unique adventure. The captain and crew are trained and certified in safety techniques, including adult and pediatric first-aid. Pack a fleece—temperatures tend to be cooler when sailing the bay.

Take your summer from ordinary to extraordinary by setting sail with two San Francisco legends this summer.  Call 415-766-9874 or contact us online to schedule your tour today.

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