Hall of Fame for Great Americans 1900

About the members of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans including Hawthorne, Peabody, Beecher and others.

THE HALL OF FAME FOR GREAT AMERICANS

1900

This was the first election to membership in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. From a list of 234 nominees, 29 were chosen. There were 100 electors named, but only 97 cast ballots. George Washington received the only unanimous vote in the history of the Hall of Fame. A total of 51 votes was necessary for victory in 1900. (Votes are in parentheses.) In 1900, candidates needed to have been dead for only 10 years to be eligible.

George Washington, statesman (97)

Abraham Lincoln, statesman (96)

Daniel Webster, statesman (96). Webster (1782-1852) tied with Lincoln. That is indicative of the high regard for Webster in 1900--a luster which has dimmed since then.

Benjamin Franklin, statesman (94)

Ulysses S. Grant, soldier (93)

John Marshall, jurist (91)

Thomas Jefferson, statesman (91)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, author (87)

Robert Fulton, inventor (86)

Henry W. Longfellow, poet (85)

Washington Irving, author (83)

Jonathan Edwards, clergyman (82)

Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor (82)

David Farragut, naval officer (79)

Henry Clay, statesman (74)

George Peabody, philanthropist (74). Peabody (1795-1869) was born in Massachusetts but spent his adult life in London. He became immensely wealthy and was generous with his money. Whether he is one of the greatest Americans is dubious.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author (73)

Peter Cooper, philanthropist (69). Like Peabody, Cooper was a wealthy and generous man. Both were successful businessmen, but since their selection in 1900, Andrew Carnegie has been the only other businessman or philanthropist to be chosen. Business leaders who have been candidates over the years but have not had much support include John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Andrew Mellon, Frank Woolworth, and Walter P. Chrysler. This has caused some to question the election process. Critics say that intellectuals, who are the judges, have a traditional antipathy toward businessmen.

Eli Whitney, inventor (69)

Robert E. Lee, soldier (68)

John J. Audubon, scientist (67)

Horace Mann, educator (67)

James Kent, jurist (65). Kent (1763-1847) was vital to his time and had a profound impact on American law in the 19th century. An extreme conservative, he believed Jacksonian policies spelled doom for the U.S. Though he is in oblivion today, there was justification for his inclusion in 1900.

Henry Ward Beecher, clergyman (64). The spokesman for Christianity in his era, Beecher (1813-1887), was important as a preacher. He probably owes his election to those who heard him speak and to those who assumed that someone should be selected to represent organized religion.

Joseph Story, jurist (64)

John Adams, statesman (62)

William Ellery Channing, clergyman (58). Like Beecher, Channing (1780-1842) was a preacher. Perhaps this Unitarian's greatest contribution came from the inspiration he gave to others, including Emerson and the Transcendentalists. His election to the Hall of Fame is an example of what some cynics have called the "New England prejudice" among the electors.

Gilbert Stuart, artist (52)

Asa Gray, scientist (51). A leader in botany.

Gray (1810-1888) made it with no votes to spare.

Of those receiving votes in 1900 who never were subsequently elected, Vice-Pres. John C. Calhoun and newspaper publisher Horace Greeley were the leaders. Calhoun had 49 votes, only two short of election, while Greeley garnered 45.

Groups that could have been represented but were not include women, humanitarian reformers, and Indians. A glance at the outcomes in 1905 and 1910 reveals some who might have been elected in 1900.

Also getting votes in 1900 were: Constance Fenimore Woolson, Southern novelist; Ephraim McDowell, pioneer in abdominal surgery; Richard M. Hoe, inventor of the rotary press; Adoniram Judson, Baptist missionary; Henry Wheaton, jurist and diplomat; and Hiram Powers, sculptor. Why anyone would seriously consider these names in the first election remains a mystery.

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