25 Famous Americans
There are literally millions of famous Americans, but here are the most noteworthy ones according to us at gapyear.com…
1. George Washington (1732-1799)
In 1789 Washington became the first president of the United States. Even during his life time Washington was labelled ‘father of his country’. Many observers praised his horseman ship and great physical strength – he privately opposed slavery.
2. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Lincolnwas the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln was from a poor family and was self educated. During his time as president he led the United States through the American Civil war, helped preserve the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the national government and modernised the economy.
3. Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Although better known by his pen name, Twain’s birth name was actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was an American author and humorist made famous by his ‘great American novel’ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. William Faulkner called Twain the father of American literature.
4. Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Famous for being the founder of the Ford Motor Company – whilst he did not invent the first automobile, he did manufacture the first affordable automobile. He became one of the richest and well known people of the world. He ultimately revolutionised transportation and American industry.
5. Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)
In 1999 the American Film Industry labelled Bogart the greatest male star in the history of American Cinema. During his time as an actor he was widely regarded as an American culture icon. His performance is Casablancaraised him to the peak of his profession.
6. Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Born as Eleanora Fagan, Holiday had a rough childhood. Her mother often worked away, she was sent to Catholic reform school twice before the age of 14 and spent time in prison. She started singing in 1929 at various clubs in Harlem and by 1940 she was signed. She is said to have changed the art of American pop vocals forever; famous songs include God Bless the Child and Don’t Explain.
7. Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
Often referred to as ‘the King’, Elvis was one of the most important cultural icons of the 20th century. A shy boy he was often bullied at school and told he could not sing. He began to stand out more in his junior year due to his appearances. His first recordings were with Sun records in 1953 but his debut album was released in 1956 which is famous for the single blue suede shoes.
8. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Hemingway was an American author and journalist who had a strong influence on 20th Century fiction. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in literature and to this day many of his works are known as American classics. Hemingway had four wives in his lifetime and tragically committed suicide in 1961.
9. Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Born as Norma Mortenson, Monroe spent much of her childhood in foster homes. She started her career as a model but was offered a film contract from twentieth century-fox in 1946. She starred in a number of successful motion pictures during the 1950’s and became a major sex symbol. The film Some like it Hot was one of her biggest successes for which she received a Golden Globe Award.
10. John F Kennedy (1917-1963)
Often referred to as JFK, he was the 35th president of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. At 43 years old he was the second youngest president after Theodore Roosevelt and as a Catholic he was the only non-Protestant president. He was also the only president to win a Pulitzer Prize. In 1961 JFK announced the goal of landing a man on the moon.
11. Bob Dylan (1941)
Born as Robert Zimmerman he legally changed his name to Bob Dylan in 1962. In 1959 Dylan enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he discovered his passion for American folk music. In the 1960’s Dylan moved to NYC and signed a contract with Albert Grossman. He is now known as an American musician, singer-songwriter, music producer, artist, and writer. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades.
12. Muhammad Ali (1942)
Ali is considered one of the greatest professional heavy-weight boxers in sports history. He is not only praised for his skills in the ring but for the values he expresses out of it: religious freedom and racial justice. Born Cassius Clay he changed his name to Muhammad Ali at the age of 22 when he converted to the Nation of Islam after he won World Heavy-Weight Champion in 1964. He later went on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.
13. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
MLK was an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights in a non-violent manner and his speech ‘I Had a Dream.’ MLK has since become a national icon in the history of American progressivism. His assassination in 1968 led to a wave of race riots across America.
14. Neil Armstrong (1930 -2012)
A famous American astronaut, Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. Armstrong was a very humble person and was referred to as a reluctant American Hero. Before becoming an astronaut Armstrong was an officer in the U.S Navy and served in the Korean War.
15. Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970)
Hendrix is regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of pop music. Although he only had 4 years of mainstream exposure he is still one of the most celebrated American musicians, singers and song-writers of the 20th century. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
16. Billie Jean King (1943)
King is a former World No.1 American professional tennis player. She has won thirty nine Grand Slam titles in her time. King was the USA’s captain in the Federation cup for 3 years. At 29 years old she won the battle of the sexes match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 as part of her stand up for sexual equality. In 1987 she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
17. Bill Gates (1955)
Bill Gates is the current chairman and former CEO of the world’s largest personal-computer software company, Microsoft. A Company he co-founded with Paul Allen. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires List, Gates is the world’s richest person this year – a title he also held in 2007. Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century.
18. Oprah Winfrey (1954)
Born in to poverty, Winfrey had a hard time throughout childhood. After landing a radio job and co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19 she eventually got transferred to the daytime-talk show arena. After boosting her 3rd place local Chicago talk show to 1st place, she launched her own production company. She is now the internationally recognised talk show host, actress and producer you see today; best known for her multi-award winning talk show: The Oprah Winfrey Show.
19. Monica Lewinsky (1973)
Lewinsky is known for her affair with President Bill Clinton, which took place while she worked in the White House from 1995 – 1996. The affair became known as the Lewinsky scandal and caused serious repercussions such as Clinton’s impeachment. She later created a line of handbags, became an advertising spokesperson for a diet plan and obtained a masters degree in psychology in London.
20. Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
The well known singer-songwriter, dancer and business man, Michael Jackson is referred to as ‘The King of Pop.’ The Guinness book of world records recognised him as the most successful entertainer of all time; he was a global figure in popular culture for over 4 decades. MJ started off his career in the Jackson 5 and later became a solo act. His album Thiller is the best selling album of all time.
21. Britney Spears (1981)
Britney is an American pop singer, dancer and actress. After appearing in stage productions and TV shows as a child she was signed to Jive records in 1997, shortly after she was established as a pop icon and credited with the revival of teen pop. She is best know for tracks Baby one more time and Oop’s…I did it again; as well as her personal struggles, such as shaving her head in 2007. She made a comeback with the album Circus and has since been an X Factor judge and released her 8th album.
22. Johnny Depp (1963)
Depp is a much loved and swooned after actor, film producer and musician. He became a teen idol in the 1980’s due to the TV series 21 Jump Street but later turned to film. In 1990 he had a break through as Edward Sissorhands and has since won best actor awards such as the Golden Globe for Sweeny Todd and Screen Actors Guild for Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by People magazine.
23. The Simpsons
Everyone knows the longest-running American sitcom the Simpsons. An animated cartoon created by Matt Groening in 1989. The cartoon parodies American culture, society, television and many aspects of the human condition by following the lives of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – a middle class American family who live in the fictional town of Springfield.
24. Sarah Palin (1964)
Palin is an American politician, commentator and author; she was the first Alaskan on the national ticket of a major party and first Republican woman nominated for the vice presidency. Palin was considered a potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election until she announced in October 2011 that she would not run Her book Going Rogue has sold more than two million copies and since January 2010, she has provided political commentary for Fox News, and hosted a television show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska.
25. Barack Obama (1961)
Obama is the current and 44th President of the USA. He is the first African-American to hold the office. Obama became president in 2009 and 9 months later he was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. So far he has become the first U.S. president to publicly supportsame-sex marriage, ended U.S. military involvement in the Iraq War, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, ordered U.S. military involvement in Libya, and ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.