Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The American Citizens Handbook: Part 3

In our society today there are two groups of people that are worshiped: celebrities and athletes. Magazines, news columns, even TV networks are dedicated to telling every little detail of these peoples' lives for our personal entertainment. They are placed on pedestals for all of America to see and revere. There was a time however when very little thought was given to these types of individuals, instead our country regarded people of intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity as those to look up to, those to honor. In 1900 the Chancellor of New York University, Henry Mitchell MacCracken, developed a plan to honor those Great Americans in our nations history. Individuals were nominated by the public and elected by a board. An individual could not be nominated unless they had been dead for at least 10 years and by 1922 that had been expanded to 25 years. The idea behind this was that their impact on our history has to have been studied and understood over a period of time, sometimes those impacts can take decades to be truly seen.  

A memorial colonnade was built on the grounds of the then New York University, today it is Bronx Community College, where the bronze busts of 98 Americans are currently on display. As individuals were nominated and then elected a sculptor was selected to create the bust of each candidate. Also as individuals were elected they were placed into various categories which helped in creating a structure to the Hall of Fame. When you think about a sports hall of fame the athletes are generally admitted in the category of their position, so in the same manner an individual that was entered into the Hall of Fame of Great Americans was placed into one of the following categories.

Humanitarians, Social and Economic Reformers
Engineers and Architects
Physicians and Surgeons
Missionaries and Explorers
Lawyers and Judges
Business and Philanthropists
Artists, Musicians, and Actors

The popularity of the Hall of Fame went far beyond what many expected. The national press covered the election process, historians say people would debate on who should be nominated, many say the Hall was even mentioned in "The Wizard of Oz" when the munchkins tell Dorothy "You will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame." Sadly after NYU left the campus abruptly in 1973 the funding and notoriety of the Hall of Fame died with it. Donors and support were hard to come by and there it current sits, in obscurity  Luckily the city put some money forth to renovate the facility and maintain it however very few people today know the colonnade even exists and even fewer go to visit it. I desperately wish I had the resources or connections to restart this project. I truly believe that if the funding could be gathered, and with the advent of social media, it could be popular again. The public and media would love to watch and cover an event that honored Great Americans of our past. I truly believe that bring this back to relevance would open people's eyes again to our history and culture. The first ballot could include such Americans as:

Martin Luther King Jr
John F Kennedy
George S Patton
Dwight D Eisenhower
Henry Ford
Robert Frost
Douglas MacArthur
Jonas Salk (he has until 2020 till he can be entered)
John Steinbeck
Ernest Hemingway
Harriett Tubman
Langston Hughes

Who else do you think should be nominated to the next ballot for the Great Americans Hall of Fame?

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A List of Values
Part 3: The Hall of Fame of Great Americans
Part 4: Documents
Part 5: Conclusion


  1. I love this series you are doing! It is very interesting.

  2. Thanks, I've enjoyed reading through this book and seeing how our country once viewed its history and culture. Especially how different in society it is today.


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