"Follow-Up, The Atlantic 100" (January/February 2006)
Readers' top 10, influentials contest results, and selected comments.
For the December issue, we asked ten prominent historians to select and rank the 100 most influential Americans throughout history. We then asked readers to give us their feedback and submit their own nominations. Below, see a selection of reader comments, along with listings of all names nominated during the first 10 days after the list was posted online.
From Abigail Adams to Vladimir Zworkin
Note: Due to the sheer volume of the entries we received, these comments have not been edited or copy edited. They are reprinted with their original spelling, grammar, and punctuation intact.
The dominant spectator sport in America has been pro football for at least thirty years. You have two Major League baseball players but no one representing pro football. Laughable.
—Bert Bell, Bedford, TX
Interesting project, but a very East Coast list. I'm from the West, and though your historians gave a nod to African-American history, the list reads as if not a single Mexican-American or Native American did anything of significance in this country's history. Where is the worker and the labor movement reflected in this list? The natives who lived here before the U.S. was founded? We have Hemingway and not Steinbeck? And why Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? It's very strange that these two Mormon leaders are almost your sole representatives of the West, and of religious innovation, which has been rampant in American history. Why the focus on Mormons?
—Molly Lanzarotta, Brookline, MA
I suppose I would have understood if Edgar Allan Poe's name was not placed in the top 100 (although I would not have agreed). However, to withhold his name while including that of the "Knickerbocker hack," James Fenimore Cooper, seems misguided. Although Cooper used scenes and characters from the new America, his stories were European in themes, styles, and treatments. On the other hand, many of Poe's stories were a unique look at the workings of individual imagination (both of the rational and irrational variety). His stories of the horrors of unfettered imagination speak to Americans of this and previous ages.
—Glenn Zuroski, Haddonfield, NJ
No athlete has ever had to perform under such hostile conditions, and under intense pressure, as Jesse Owens during the Olympic Games in Berlin. Many future African American athletes, Jackie Robinson included (who you have on your top-100 list), feel that Jesse Owens paved the way for all African American athletes, and as such, is their hero as well. There has been no greater feat than Jesse Owens winning those 4 gold medals in sports before or since, and his influence on future Blacks definitely warrants him to be on the top-100 most influential Americans.
—Adam Thomas, AZ
This list is a lot of fun. I'm using it with my 5 grandkids as a way to engage them in American history. It makes for great quizzes with them... e.g. "which writers do you think made the list?" ... "what women made the list?"... and so on.
—Art Sandeen, Gainesville, FL
From the current list, one would think the pulpits of the country had no measurable impact on how America became what it is.
—Eric Mawhinney, Fombell, PA
The 100 list, a silly undertaking, included too many religious figures and not enough musicians, especially those who excelled in America's classical music: jazz.
—David Southern, Canonsburg, PA
Whoever invented spell check should be on the list too.
—Bob Rodecker, Sharon, MA
You cannot include Elvis without mentioning Johnny Cash. Cash was a huge influence on Elvis. Johnny Cash was spokesman for the working class America. He appealed to people of all generations and of all musical and political backgrounds. I'd like to see Elvis try that.
Elvis is NOT the king of rock and roll. The real king is Little Richard. Elvis stole almost everything he did from African Americans like Little Richard and others. Because of the serious racial climate of the U.S. during this time, America was not going to accept any African American heros.
—Kim G. Minor, New Orleans, LA
I cannot believe that you chose Ronald Reagan and overlooked JFK. Ronald Reagan was abominable, saying poor children can survive on catsup and relish as vegetables and "if you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen them all."
—Adell Wyckoff, CA
Why both Brigham Young and Joseph Smith on your list? Why either? Surely not having JFK on the list was an oversight.
—Stafford Clarry, Hilo, HI
You put BOTH Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in the top 100? As a former Mormon, even I can't see that they were more important than many of the missing names.
—Scott Orme, Madison, WI
Good list! I believe Brigham Young should have been a little higher on the list. Not only was he a religious leader, but was instrumental in colonizing much of the west.
Shirley Rothas, Orlando, FL
I am very happy that you recognized Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. The revolution in human thought has just begun as the result of her inspired teachings and it will result in spiritual healing by the power of God for everyone.
—Geneneiva Pearson, Kodiak, Aalaska
Mary Baker Eddy was a lunatic. Using the word influence with her is appropriate but it is not influence for the good it is influence for the bad. Associating her with the many good people on that list is most unfortunate. Same goes for Joseph Smith. And Ronald Reagan more influential than Albert Einstein? you don't have to be an Einstein to see the stupidity of that!
—Bill Finch, Bridgeport, CT
Very interesting read. Glad to see Mary Baker Eddy included, although I think she should have been in the Top 10 for her amazing insight into Scripture, and her practical suggestions for well-being.
—Aileen Cord, Sun City West AZ
Your list is short on people who were important in the way West, the manifest destiny that was so important in the formation of U.S. character and history. Where's an Indian? Where's a frontiersmen? These people are our heritage. More movies have been made about Wyatt Earp than all the US presidents combined and if there is a more potent symbol of America than an Indian on horseback I don't know what it is. The people and the enduring myths of the frontier should be recognized on your list.
—Larry Thompson, Greensboro, NC
You have done an unbelievable job with your list!
—Mark Stahl, IL
It is a disgrace to leave a worldwide figure like Billy Graham off the list - he should easily be in the top 10. It is a blatant indication of bias against mainstream Christianity by these 10 historians, though they included founders of Christian Science and the Latter Day Saints.
The clear personal liberal bias is also obvious against George W Bush - this list's criteria is supposed to be influence (not personal bias) - and he is the most influential world figure (not just American) alive, love him or hate him. I also rate him in the top 10.
—Bob Chang, Chula Vista, CA
The idea that the author of the words "all men are created equal" is listed as one of the top five is frightening. What about women? Are you kidding me? In 2006 we still pretend as though 1/2 (statistically more than 1/2) of the population is not included? Don't delude yourself into thinking that "men" actually means "people." It didn't (and still doesn't). When they wrote those words, they gave the power of vote to only white wealthy (free) heterosexual MEN. That does not equal all people. I'm guessing that those who put this list together also fit these criteria.
—Kendra, Tempe, AZ
Mostly your list is lopsidedly PC and has persons who ought not to be on it. First 2 of which, are Robert Oppenheimer and Earl Warren. There are several others,like: The Stowes, several of the women, and religionists, possibly Horace Mann , Wm James and Ben Spock. The most glaring errors are ranking Sullivan and Olmstead above Frank Llyod Wright and the inclusion of Elvis.
—Richard Prentice, McKinleyville, CA
A good list, all in all (with my additions [Irving Berlin, Robert Sarnoff, Eugene O'Neill, William Wyler, George Gershwin], of course)
—Eric Levin, Alexandria, VA
Just a comment about your rankings of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The disparity between their rankings (59 and 76 respectively) does not do justice to Wright's contribution to society over his long life--not just in architecture but in art and design as well. Wright's body of work in architecture as well as other media including stained glass, sculpture, and even furniture design, have left a legacy that no other architect living or dead can match. Undoubtedly, Louis Sullivan belongs on the list, but few people remember his name; Wright, on the other hand, is a household name because of the vast contributions he made to society that touched so many.
—Mark Lynch, Pittsburgh PA
Apparently, the visual arts weren't considered when making up the list of "100 greatest".
—Francis Sullivan, Bowie, MD
I just wanted to say that I LOVE that you put Louis Armstrong on the list.
—Teresa Stockdale, Eugne, OR
Thanks for not including either of the Kennedy brothers, JFK or Robert.
—Tim Chatard, San Francisco, CA
I was surprised to see Teddy Roosevelt so far down your list. He de-politicised the Federal bureaucracy, making hiring on merit rather than politics the law; he made America a recognized world power; he was responsible for the most beautiful coinage that this nation has ever seen, and the list goes on and on. With his Presidency America was forever changed. He should be elevated to the top eight most influential Americans.
—Art, Titrusville, FL
Thank you for spurring thought and discussion regarding the power of each individual to have a lasting influence on humanity. I was glad to see Mary Baker Eddy in the top 100. The writings and ideas of that revolutionary thinker of the late 1800's and early 1900's have blessed and helped me immeasurably in my life. I would have ranked her higher, but I'm grateful that others recognize her contribution to the world.
—Mary Alice Rose, Brookeville, MD
The academics who made up the list don't know a thing about "anatomy" - and ignored the vast Kingdom of Sex; hence they ignored Heffner and M. Monroe. Obsessions have shaped Americans as much as ideas. Vide: Bill Clinton.
Religious life did not stop with Jonathan Edwards. Billy Graham influenced many millions and gave American Evangelism its face. Billy Graham is a defining figure for America. Secularist academics may not like Billy Graham - but that does not diminish his influence by one iota.
I simply find it implausible that you left either John F Kennedy (or his father Joe Kennedy) for one of the most influential Presidents and Political families in the 20th Century... Can you Say Cuban Missile Crisis? Can you say Camelot - This was the first Post WWII election that brought the changing of the guard in politics and opened the door for the freedoms of the '60's and the Man on the Moon!!!
Wow this is a tremendous oversight! Ronald Reagan at 17 is a total joke! The end of the cold war and the fall of the Sovier Union was NOT due to Reagan - but the financial collapse of the Soviet Union due to Afganistan and the opposition of Poland, et al. Reagan just happened to be president!
The Kennedy Omission is irresponsible!
—Kevin Soss, Streamwood, IL
I am pleased to see the inclusion of James Fenimore Cooper on the list of the 100 influential Americans but wonder why you persist in repeating the canard that his novels are "unreadable." Mark Twain's animosity has persisted far too long.
—Keith Morgan, Raleigh, NC
Would remove Richard Nixon from the list as well as Ralph Nader and Sam Walton. Would add Rosa Parks somewhere near MLK's ranking, Henry Ford somewhere around the Wright Bros.' ranking and Tiger Woods near the bottom of the list.
—Mark Gurchiek, Clinton Twp, MI
Ronald Reagan in the top 20??? Ahead of Jackson, Adams, etc., was there a Hollywood group in on this???? Kept from answering any direct questions in the last 2 years of his presidency??? Iran/Contra??
—Joseph Herpers, Clarkston, MI
Lincoln did NOT free the slaves, the 13th Amendment did. Lincoln only freed slaves in areas in open revolt. This left slavery legal in several places in the US, including New Orleans (under union occupation when the Emanc. Proc. was issued) and Washington DC.
—Jeff Corkill, Atlanta, GA
Overall a great list and a tough job.
Clara Barton is my first choice, and there is a reason why she is one of the most celebrated women in American history. Her most lasting impact is pushing the U.S. Govt. (successfully) to sign the Geneva Conventions, and as founder and first president of the American Red Cross she adopted the European model of the Red Cross as a war time relief agency for wounded soldiers (what she did independantly during the Civil War) and transformed it into a peacetime disaster relief agency. She was also the first to advocate first aid training and assembled the first first aid kits. The impact of her creation - The American Red Cross - has run deep through American History, from the First World War, the 1917 Flu Pandemic, water safety and swimming lessons, to the creation of blood banking as part of the war effort of WWII.
—Gregg Tubbs, Columbia, MD
Ronald Reagan. At # 17. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought about the Cold War's end. Not this amiable dunce. George Bush's Pet Goat could have been in charge and got the same results. Giving Reagan credit is the same as crediting a rooster for the morning sunrise.
And no place for JFK? You people are nuts.
—Jim Davis, Azle, TX
I would never have rated R. Reagan ahead of John Adams. Not that Adams was one of the great Presidents but his unwavering efforts in forming this country rank well ahead of Reagans accomplishments.
—John Friend, Temperance, MI
American Indians are Americans, as are African Americans, Latino Americans and Asian Americans. And there are some figures who are plenty more influential in some respects than some of your other nominees. After all, where would James Fenimore Cooper be without his epic tales of Native Americans? Think outside the white male box.
—M, Providence, RI
George Washington clearly deserves to be #1, and above Abraham Lincoln. The more historical research you do, the more it becomes clear: As James Flexner writes, George Washington is definitely the "indispensable man" when it comes to America. Also, John Adams should have been rated much higher then #25. He was a key proponent for independence and worked his entire life maintaining that spirit. I'd personally rank him in the top ten.
—Al Gross, Burke, VA
Ronald Reagan needs to come off the list. He was a good actor even a better actor as president. The "great communicator" certainly could influence the masses with his trained and passionate monologues. The content of communications were shallow but he had the gift to sell them to anyone listening. He took much of the credit for the downfall of the Soviet Union. What he didn't say is that it was on the way down long before he moved into the white House. I believe that time will test President Reagan's influence on America. A look back now will reveal that it is fading fast.
—Terry J. Jensen
The founder of Christian scientists? That must be the worst choice on here.
I think it's unfair to say Nader made Bush president, that honor goes to former Chief Justice Rehnquist.
Woodrow Wilson, while important, was listed way too high.
I like the idea of now adding 100 hundred more names—the influential but less well known.... Advisors of presidents, they create the policies Their Bosses flaunt. Musicians who birthed Rock and Roll, not the ones who stole it. And foreign Nationals who influenced our country before it was ever codified into a single nation. "The 100 most influential people in American History you have never heard of."
—Mike, Okemos, MI
Woodrow Wilson should certainly be further down this list - his presidency, and indeed the quality of his character (not to mention his views on Americans, African Americans, and his distorted understanding of American History) must not have been considered when he was placed on this list. Please do additional research - I don't think that you can honestly prove with historical facts that he "He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy." If anything, he may have created the idea of American intervetionism, but certainly he did NOT create better democracy. He resisted the Women's Rights movement bitterly, allowing the imprisonment of protesting women. He also remarked on the film "Birth of a Nation" saying that its contents were "sadly true." I think modern history has come to understand both that film and that comment to be completely false.
—James Cousins, Venetia, PA
I would put nominees in a different order. I would put Harry Truman in the No. 10 spot. He stepped into Roosevelt's shoes and carried out his wishes marvelously well. He saved Europe. He dropped the bomb both for better and worse. Better because it ended the war and persuaded people never to drop another until now. He was there at the instigation of the United Nations. How you could rate Reagan above him is unbelievable. Gorbachev was the chief instrument of that. And I'm beginning to miss the Cold War. It was safer then than it is now.
And I would certainly put Melville before Hefner.
—Caroline Luckie, Tucson AZ
I would have placed John Adams higher, I think he's underappreciated. After all, Adams appointed John Marshall, and Adams believed in and fought for a balance between the three branches of government. Jefferson may have written that all men are created equal, but he owned over a hunderd slaves. Adams never owned slaves and considered slavery the root of this country's problems. I prefer to honor men who are able to live by their ideals.
—Peter Eddy, Boston, MA
Einstein should be above Edison. Sure, lightbulbs are great, but for America, nuclear weapons are more important- it ended WWII and began the Cold War, it lets us stay as a nation in face of opposition because we have a weapon that can prevent wars, or start them. Einstein should at least be in the top 15, although I believe he should be in the top 10. He most definitely did more for us than Rockefeller.
—John Doe, Dallas, TX
"All men are created equal."
Yes, Thomas Jefferson may have written these words, but he certainly didn't believe them. He owned slaves. Washington owned slaves, too. And Lincoln? His Emancipation Proclamation freed ZERO slaves. Many historians believe Lincoln supported and was a member of the Free Soil movement, which wanted the slaves out of the territories because they didn't like blacks. "If we get them out of the territories, then we can get rid of them."There is little historical evidence that Lincoln freed any slaves or that he publicly opposed south ownership of human beings for the sheer immorality. The proclamation and reconstruction was a punishment to the South, a political not a moral move.These three men were great figureheads and I agree they deserve high spots on this list, but let's not celebrate things about them that aren't true.
—Robert Kleeman, Houston, TX
Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Fermi are inarguable members of the list. Without Admiral Rickover, the Cold War would have been lost before it even started. Try to imagine the second half of the 20th century without the deterrent influence of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Submarine Force. He is, possibly, the most influential American nobody ever heard off.
—Mike McEahern, Knoxville, TN
Ronald Reagan??? I can't even remember anything noteable he did during his governorship of California or during his presidency? It's embarrassing to find his name on this list
—Teddy Goodrich, Gilroy, CA
It is a mistake that Rosa Parks isn't at the top of the list. I so believe in this that anybody else for me to mention would be ludicrous.
I was suprised not to see JFK on the list. His call to put a man on the moon sparked technical revolutions in almost every aspect of our lives. For expamle electronics miniaturization, food prepration & storage, synthetic materials development, just to name a few. Politically his record is unremarkable but the effect of his presidency on the American Psyche can not be denied.
I was disappointed to see that John Jay did not make your list of the 100 most important Americans. After Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton, Jay was the most important of the Founding Fathers. Jay negotiated the treaties that ended the war with Britain in 1782 and averted another war with Britain in 1794; he was an author and architect of the New York State and federal constitutions; he was our Secretary for Foreign Affairs (before there was a Secretary of State) and first Chief Justice of the United States.
I am of course, a biased observer, as the author of a recent book on Jay, so do not take my word on this; take the word of Gordon Wood, the leading historian of the period. “Stahr has succeeded splendidly in his aim of recovering the reputation of John Jay as a major founder. His biography . . . makes a persuasive case for including Jay among the first rank of Revolutionary leaders.”
—Walter Stahr, Vienna VA
Eli Whitney should share his spot with Catherine Greene who originated the idea, but in her era, as a woman, was unable to gain a patent for it. Lewis & Clark should share their spot with Sacagawea.
-Andrea Shreve, COThomas Nast was a bigot, but he's still the father of American political cartooning. John Wilkes Booth is a household name.
How would reconstruction have occurred under Abraham Lincoln, instead of the radical Republicans? We'll never know. Jefferson Davis may not seem as influential as some of the abolitionists on the list, but as the President of Confederate States of America, he could have done a lot more desperate acts to keep the Confederacy alive. Imagine if a different president were chosen (perhaps a "fire-eater" that hadn't attended West Point and known the horrors of war first-hand).
Clara Barton is not only famous for organizing the American Red Cross, but for influencing America in conforming to the Geneva Conventions. It seems as though her work aiding the wounded on battlefields was neverending from the American Civil War, to the Franco-Prussion War (received the Iron Cross from Prussia), to the Spanish-American War. She was even recognized by Czar Nicholas II with the Silver Imperial Cross of Russia, and she received the Augusta Medal from Empress Augusta of Germany.
How can you put Ralph Nader in the list for helping George W. Bush win an election, without putting Ross Perot in for helping William J. Clinton defeat the incumbent George H. Bush?
Remove Lyman Beecher. At what point is he brought up in history books? Too obscure a reference; Not a top 100.
I would recommend changing your discription of John Brown. He provided "a" spark for the civil war...not "the" spark. Otherwise, the civil war would have started in 1856 in Kansas or 1859 in Harper's Ferry...instead of 1861 at Fort Sumter.
—Mike Filler, PA
As Executive Director of the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls NY, I was delighted to see 9 outstanding women among the 100 Most Influential Americans List - and all are National Women's Hall of Fame Inductees. I submit the above list of 5 under-recognized but enormously influential and extraordinary women.
I regret having to point out that in the Hall of Fame of Great Americans in NYC, only 8 women were represented among the 110 Great Americans when the National Women's Hall of Fame founders visited it in the late 1960s, and conceived the idea of a women's recognition institution that would in perpetuity celebrate the living and the dead among great American women.
The current Atlantic list still does not reflect the monumental contributions of American women to the development of our nation, not even Dr. Barbara McClintock - Nobel prize winning geneticist made it into the top 100. Please visit us at www.greatwomen.org to find the untold story of the women who wove the fabric of our America.
—Billie Luisi-Potts, Seneca, NY
You have Jackie Robinson on the list but no JFK. There were plenty of great negro league players that could have broken the color barrier. However, when the world was as close as its ever been to ending during the Cuban Missle Crisis, it took a great man to stand his ground and still manage to avoid a war of truly epic proportions.
—Rayn, Houston, TX
What was this, the feel good edition of American history? Are you guys even including actual influence or just relative fame?
The idea that Elvis Presley was more influential than Joe McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover is just preposterous. After he died, Congress had to introduce legislation to make sure no one ever became as powerful as Hoover!
If you really want to include Rock and Rollers, Chuck Berry virtually invented the art form. Just ask Lennon (I know he's dead) and McCartney, Richards and Jagger, who they got their acts from.
As for Geronimo, this guy made bin Laden seem like a soft wanker. With a band of 40 men, women, and children, he, at once, evaded and fought one quarter of the American army at the time (about 5000 men) and a whole chunk of the Mexican Army too, for one whole year.
Thank God you included at least Liz Stanton from the Women's suffrage movement, though Grace Wilbur Trout was just as important and perhaps more effective.
—Payman Khodabandehloo, Boston, MA
I am really shocked and disappointed by the number of great women and people of color that you left off your list! While I understand there are so many influential Americans to highlight, I was really surprised at who you did not include. Yikes.
As a former student of history at the University of Michigan (graduated in 2001), I would have definitely included the above four women because of the tremendous contributions they have made to American history and culture. I hope your next list will be more inclusive.
—Kathryn Davenport, MI
How can Bill Gates be rated #54, he did more to change our everday lives than 70% of the people on that list.
I think Thomas Jefferson is overrated and that John Adams or Ben Franklin should rank higher. My reasons follow:
1) Both John and Ben were senior to Thomas during the drafting of the Declaration Of Independance and more than likely had greater influence on the contents. Yes, Jefferson wrote it - but only after meeting with John and Ben to agree to the content. Many believe that Jefferson took a crack at it, then reviewed it with John and Ben. This was not the case, they discussed it's contents before Jefferson wrote the draft.
2) John Adams and Ben Franklin were Insturmental in making things happen that lead up to the Declaration of Independance. This list is long and includes the work with France, Sam Adams, etc.
3) Jefferson's real accomplishments were as President and in particular sending Lewis and Clark west. Otherwise, he was very political to a fault.
—Kevin, Marietta, GA
I would like to see someone on the list taken off! How in God's name can you put Ronald Reagan in the top ten, let alone the list. When it's known that he spent most of his presidency suffering from alzhiemers????? HE didn't do anything other than smile, wave and lean back to have "Mother" tell him where the hell he was and who he was talking to!!!!!!!
—Lynn Martello, Cleveland, Ohio
I mostly agree with you list. However, I am confused as to why John Adams is ranked 25 while Thomas Jefferson is ranked number 4. It is well known that while Thomas Jefferson wrote the actual words "All men are created equal" it was John Adams who put forth the ideas. It was also John Adams who founded the Navy, established the three branches of government and convinced the Dutch to give the United States a loan to keep the country operating. All in all John Adams deserves a spot on the list equal to that of the other founding fathers.
—Rich, Brookline, MA
Reagan doesn't belong on there. I think future historians will put the effect of his administration in a more proper perspective, likely somewhere near his hero, Calvin Coolidge. A divorced, cold parent who's outward politics espoused family values and encouraged the rising influence of religion upon state without a real spiritual center of his own? A former New Deal democrat turned conservative opportunist, who despite his fiscal pledges, and decrying of the Carter administration's deficit and economic failures, proceeded to created a far more enormous national debt and recession, rationalizing the spending cuts to programs for the poor and disenfranchised with corrupt arms spending and illegally funded coups in struggling nations?
The selection is very ethnocentric--all nominees are white and a few blacks. Does this mean that other ethnic groups contributed nothing of importance to the history of this country? Come on, get with the modern program, you can do better.
—Guadalupe Gamboa, Seattle, WA
I do not think John C. Calhoun should have been on this list, for obvious reasons. Inhumanity to man. He held America back for financial gain to the South. America still thinks the Southern people are ignorant for this kind of prejudice, and all too often it's true. I'm from the South, myself. I am sure there have been far more important people who have been beneficial to America, than the leader of the Mormons, or the Scientology movement. I will let it go, about the Christian on this list, because he helped free slaves, so he did something humane. What good does religion do for mankind in this world if it is not compassionate and humane to others, instead of prejudice to others not of that faith?
—Lola, Lincoln Park, MI
The list is sadly lacking African-American, Native American and other ethnic names. It was obviously made up by predominantly white men. It reflects the way we teach history - in a very slanted manner. Why names like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith are on the list, I'll never understand. They were influential to a very small group of people.
—Margaret Wilson, Green Bay, WI
The mind boggles - this reads like a People magazine sexiest people! I really expected more from Atlantic. Your choices are obvious, sentimental favorites that are not well thought out and you are VERY low on women. It is supposed to be influential Americans not popular / favorites. C'mon, lift your game; surely you could do better than this.
Tesla gave use polyphase electrical distribution and his theories on electricity and magnatism gave birth to the AC motor without which the second industrial revolution would have never been possible. I do not have the time to fully elaborate on his accomplishments and influences on our present day life, but you should look him up and give him a little credit.
—Jeremiah Rushing, IA
I think your selection is obviously skewed toward white men. Though you do have a selection of people of color, your selection of women is rather limited.
—Linda Phillips, Asbury Park, NJ
Thomas Edison should have been ranked much lower. He is noted as being the most prolific inventor in America. Well, yes and no. Most of his inventions early in his career were succcessful and most of his inventions later in his career were flops. In addition, he had a large staff at his East Orange factory / labs whose job it was to develop new inventions, many of which Edison never had a hand in. He took only a hand-on approach with those staff inventions he thought most worthwhile. As his staff of inventors worked for Edison, Edison's name went on the patents (rightly so), not the names of the staff who actually developed these inventions. He is more correctly described, in my opinion, as the man whose name appears on most U.S. patents.
—Mark, Geneva IL
The influence of religious men and women has been largely overlooked on your list
—Grayson Carter, Phoenix, AZ
The list seems lacking in the humanities, artists, authors, artors, directors, etc.
—John Stonely, Provo, UT
Less than 10 women nominated- and none made the top 30. Considering the changes that have taken place in our country in regards to how we treat women, more women should be recognized for their role in shaping our country. In a time where women are coming closer than ever before to gaining the seat of power in a male-dominated society, recognizing this acheivement is extremely important.
—Janelle Sharer, Washington, DC
Brigham Young and Joseph Smith over the Kennedy Brothers? Mary Baker Eddy? OK, Why? For the most part, the choices were inspired, especially U S Grant. The majority of the individuals were essentially good people; so why Nixon? Where was Carl Sanburg? General MacArthur? And yes, Sandra Day O'Conner...the first woman to sit on the greatest court in the world...a woman who grew in the job...a huge, huge influence on so many, many women! The voice of reason! At any rate, a great article! Thank you.
—Mary Dickinson, Alta Loma, CA
Too bad you're lefties - it shows. At least you could have made the list without bias. Socialism doesn't work, there's irrefutable evidence in today's Europe, and millions of deaths before that. Why do you persist in inflating a punctured balloon?
—Alan Anderson, Barrington, NH
What a great concept, not a single American Indian in the list or mentioned in the text. American Indians are not only shunned to invisibility in their own land but now have the questionable pleasure of having absolutely zero influence in the relegated category of "identity politics". At least the mention of Tecumseh, Crazy Horse or countless other noteworthy American Indians seem at least worth a footnote, but apparently not. The Indian world we used to live in is now only used to name cars and the blood and graves of our ancestors is now driven over by Dakotas, Winnebago's and aging Pontiac's. Appalling. And I need not mention the irony of the title "the 100 Most Influential Americans of All Time." I nominate Vine Deloria Jr., who needs no introduction to American Indians, but is certainly, and sadly, an invisible Indian to historians, just as invisible as the rest of us Indians.
—John Petoskey, Peshawbestown, MI
To list Ronald Reagan as the 17th most influential American is, I think, highly inflated. To say he was the architect of the demise of the Soviet Union (cold war ended on his watch) sounds like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly were amongst the panelists who made the selections.
—Gary Roseman, Decatur, GA
Your article's observation that "In a sense, perhaps, the final list is a testament to the absence of true villains from the American past" is abominable. It serves as proof that your selection panel as well as the magazine's editors are more interested in offering paeans to the myth of "American Exceptionalism" and in lionizing men and women who were human. As such, many of the individuals on your list participated in commendable AND reprehensible activities during their lifetimes. In the future, I hope you'll acknowledge their complexity and, in turn, our appreciation for the complicated history we've inherited.
—V. R. S., Wooster, OH
Too many Mormons on the list. Take either Smith or Young as Mormonism is not a dominant religious experience in the country
—C.R. Hopins, Salem, MA
Remove Ronald Reagan; he was amiable, I grant you; he was also responsible for illegally selling weapons to Iran in order to illegally help the Contras. And I doubt he should get much credit for ending the Cold War; there were many other dynamics at work in the USSR and in other countries, such as Poland, who deserve that credit.
—Patricia Callaghan, Sunburst, MT
Gordon Woods is incorrect when he says no historians have made the list. W. E. B. DuBois is more responsible than any other person for changing our perception of Reconstruction and the contributions of African Americans to our history. He has refuted the contentions of another great historian, Woodrow Wilson, who made his first reputation with the book "Congressional Government" decrying Congressional attempts to diminish the power of the Presidency during Reconstruction. Also, the influence of Theodore Roosevelt as historian, especially his volumes on "The Winning of the West", is very great, and possibly did as much as Owen Wister or John Ford to shape our understanding of the West as fact and legend. I would argue that historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Francis Parkman, and quite a few others have done as much as many persons on your list to influence American history.
—J. Quinn Brisben, Chicago IL
The five I would remove: Stephen Foster, Herman Melville, Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Graham Bell (because someone else was about to invent the telephone), and The Wright Brothers (because someone else would have invented the airplane).
—Steve Casburn, Portland, OR
Generally, a well done list. I particularly liked the one sentence summaries.
—Barbara Adams, Albany, OR
Lincoln #1? No way. He trampled the Constitution (refusing to believe that powers not specifically granted to the Federal government were reserved to the States), manipulated the slavery issue for political gain (his Emancipation Proclamation was a red herring), and refused prisoner exchanges during the War, thereby condemning thousands of POW's to death on both sides. He was no more than a rank political opportunist, whose reputation profited by victory in war.
—Keith Simpson, Richmond, TX
Lincoln in no way deserves to be Number one on the list. His place there verifies the present uneducated fascination with power-hungry dictators. How many Americans know he locked up 10000 citizens for protesting? Tried to arrest Supreme Court Justice Taney for dissenting with his removal of Habeus Corpus? (Which was later confirmed as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) Advocated the removal of blacks back to Africa more than any politician of the day? Didnt believe in equal rights for blacks and only consented to the Emancipation Proclamation for military purposes? Furthermore the implications of his invasion of the south, so he could maintain his tariff revenue to build the railroad, were no less than the loss of state power to the federal. Lincoln did not save the union, he forcibly created a new one at gunpoint; in total defiance of the spririt of the Declaration of Independence.
—Scott Theisen, IL
Regarding #17: Call Reagan amiable. Credit him with the conservative realignment. But please do not call him the "architect of ... the Cold War's end." His swaggering stance and Neanderthal rhetoric may have rallied American confidence, but it is difficult to conceive any connection between the man and the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, quagmire in Afghanistan, labor unrest in Eastern Europe and the sheer weight of a crumbling system that collapsed on itself. If any president contributed to the end of the Cold War, it was Richard Nixon, whose detente initiatives cast upon the Soviet Union the one thing it could not withstand: light. Once the windows were open, the Communist Party could not hide the real world from its subjects, nor longer manipulate them with fear of the West. If anything, Reagan prolonged the Cold War by playing the very heavy the Party needed.
—Dean Meservy, APO (Europe)
At first when I heard Elvis was #66, I went what??!!?? Then I read the list. I'm very impressed, even with the fact that Ralph Nader was on the list. I never even thought about it, the presidental election, that he would be one deciding factor in electing George Bush. I wonder what Ralph is saying about his byline in your list. Also, thank you SO very much for not having Oprah Winfrey on this list. It nearly killed me when VH-1 had her as the top icon a year or so back. I think she is overrated and overexposed.
—Angela Farris, New Haven, KY
I am personally outraged to see the name of Ronald Reagan even on this list, let alone so high up (#17). In the future, he'll be remembered only as the opening act to the worst presidency in all of American history.
—Glenn Pfeifer, North Las Vegas, NV
What a wonderful stepping stone to discussion! I would humbly submit Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer and founder of Christian Science, be rated higher than 86, clearly above Barnum, Elvis, perhaps in tandem with Martin Luther King. She shared with humanity the spiritual insights that we all, regardless of color, race, religion or creed, are beloved children of God, with the grace given us because we reflect God and His qualities of Love, Truth, Life, and Spirit. As you mentioned, she had the revelation after a lifetime of health challenges and went on to found a church, write several books, and heal, as we are instructed by our example, Jesus Christ.
—Tawny Cleveland, Chico, CA
I'm surprised that there is nothing that refers to television, an ever more influential presence in American life during the past fifty years. It's more life-like than life itself!
—Anne Peramaki, Cambridge, MA
I would remove President Johnson. He failed presidency is most remembered for Vietnam. The legislation that you credit him for was really the work of Kennedy.
—John Nielson, Cedar Rapids, IA
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