Hall of Fame for Great Americans

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Portrait of James Abbott McNeill Whistler with Hat.

The original "Hall of Fame" in the United States is the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, a now almost-forgotten institution located in what was originally a campus of New York University and is now Bronx Community College in Bronx, New York.

It was dedicated in 1901, and honorees were elected at five-year intervals from 1900 through 1970, in 1973, and in 1976. During its heyday the election of new honorees was considered a national news event, and the choices of honorees were a topic of lively public debate.

According to Mimi Sheraton, when she was growing up in the 1930s "the Hall of Fame was famous" and one of her mother's favorite put-downs was "You must think you belong in the Hall of Fame."[1] In the motion picture The Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins sing to Dorothy that she would “be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame.”[2]

Honorees include many names that are still famous (Wilbur and Orville Wright, Benjamin Franklin, John Philip Sousa) and some that seem quite obscure: (Naval officer and oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, astronomer Maria Mitchell, jurist Rufus Choate).

The Hall of Fame includes a 630-foot outdoor colonnade featuring 98 bronze busts and commemorative plaques. The colonnade has places for 102 busts and 102 honorees have been elected, but due to lack of funding, four busts have not been commissioned or installed: those of Andrew Carnegie, Clara Barton, Luther Burbank and Louis Brandeis.[2] The 97th to be installed was that of George Washington Carver in 1977;[3] the 98th, that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was installed in 1992[2] in connection with Bill Clinton's election.

Many of the busts are the work of notable sculptors such as Daniel Chester French and Augustus St. Gaudens, and the National Sculpture Society once designated the colonnade "the finest collection of bronzes in America."[1]

It also includes three buildings: the Gould Memorial Library, a Hall of Languages, and a Hall of Philosophy. The Gould Memorial Library was used as a setting in the movies A Beautiful Mind, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Sophie's Choice. In 2004, the J. Paul Getty Trust donated $228,000 to repair the badly deteriorating building.[4]


These are the 102 people chosen as honorees; as noted above, there are presently only 98 busts; those of Andrew Carnegie, Clara Barton, Luther Burbank and Louis Brandeis have not been commissioned or installed. The Hall of Fame's website lists their names in full, and we have followed that usage here, even though some of the names are commonly present in shorter form (e.g. "Samuel F. B. Morse" or "Samuel Morse" rather than "Samuel Finley Breese Morse.").

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External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sheraton, Mimi (2000), "My Bronx: Yesterday's Heroes, Up On Pedestals," The New York Times, December 15, 2000, p. E37
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 McShane, Larry (2004), "Proliferation of halls of fame makes original a bust", The Canton Repository
  3. Johnston, Laurie (1977), "The Enshrinement of George Washington Carver, The New York Times, April 23, 1977, p. 50
  4. Arenson, Karen W. (2004) "Regilding a Bronx Landmark," The New York Times, July 30, 2004, p. B1