Historical American Figures
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He was a leading author, printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat. As a scientist, he invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass armonica. As a political writer and activist, he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution, he secured the French alliance that helped to make United States independence possible.
His portrait appears on the United States One-Hundred-Dollar Bill.
George Washington (1732-1799)
George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). He also served as the First President of the United States (1789–1797). He is often referred to as the father of our country.
George Washington presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted theUnited States Constitutionin 1787. Washington became President of the United States two years later. He established many of the customs of the new government's executive department.
His portrait appears on the United States One-Dollar Bill.
Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Patrick Henry served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is known for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists who opposed the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered many of the individual freedoms that had been achieved in the war.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Thomas Jefferson was the Third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers in the United States. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state. Jefferson achieved distinction as a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. Jefferson has been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.
His portrait appears on the United States Two-Dollar Bill.
James Monroe (1758-1831)
James Monroe was the Fifth President of the United States (1817-1825). His administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida (1819), the Missouri Compromise (1820), the admission of Maine in 1820 as a free state, and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), a United States policy declaring opposition to European interference in the Americas, as well as breaking all ties with France remaining from the War of 1812.
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
Andrew Jackson was the Seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). A polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s, his political ambition combined with widening political participation, shaped the modern Democratic Party. Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed "Old Hickory." As he based his career in developing Tennessee, Jackson was the first president primarily associated with the American frontier.
His portrait appears on the United States Twenty-Dollar Bill.
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
Robert E. Lee was among the most celebrated generals in American history. He is best known for commanding the Confederate Army in the American Civil War. The American Civil War (1861–1865), also known as the "War Between the States," started after eleven southern states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back after the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the west, the Union Army gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.
The American Civil War was the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Its legacy includes ending slavery in the United States, restoring the Union, and strengthening the role of the federal government.
In the autumn of 1865, Lee accepted a position as President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He revived the school and witnessed high standards in education. He also set an example for the South, working to heal the wounds of a divided nation. After the war, Lee quietly encouraged his veterans to return to their homes and rebuild their lives as Americans.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States (1861-1865). He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States, Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Six days after the large-scale surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated. He was 56 years old.
His portrait appears on the United States Five-Dollar Bill.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
In the era before the American Civil War, Susan B. Anthony took a prominent role in the New York anti-slavery movement. Anthony also became a powerful public advocate of women's rights. On November 18, 1872, Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshal for voting illegally in the 1872 Presidential Election two weeks earlier. She was tried and convicted seven months later, despite the eloquent presentation of her arguments that the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment gave women the constitutional right to vote in federal elections. The sentence was a fine, but not imprisonment; and true to her word in court, she never paid the penalty for the rest of her life. The trial gave Anthony the opportunity to spread her arguments to a wider audience than ever before.
The Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920 guaranteeing that all American women have the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a long and difficult struggle. The victory took decades of protest between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921). Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. In his first term, Wilson persuaded a Democratic Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and America's first-ever federal progressive income tax in the Revenue Act of 1913. Narrowly re-elected in 1916, Wilson's second term centered on World War I. In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
His portrait appears on the United States One-Hundred-Thousand-Dollar Bill.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States (1901-1909). Roosevelt was known as a naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier. He is also remembered for his energetic persona, his range of achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement. In 1901, after President William McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt becamethe youngest president at the age of 42. Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including increased regulation of businesses. As an outdoorsman, he promoted the Conservation Movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt's policies were characterized by his comment, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal. He also negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945). He was often referred to by his initials, FDR. Roosevelt won his first of four presidential elections in 1932, while the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression. FDR's combination of optimism and economic activism is often credited with keeping the country's economic crisis from developing into a political crisis. He led the United States through most of World War II, and died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage, shortly before the war ended. He was 63 years old.
As World War II began in 1939, with Japanese occupation of countries on the western Pacific rim and the rise of Hitler in Germany, FDR kept the U.S. on a neutral course. Once war broke out in Europe, however, Roosevelt provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt immediately asked for and received a declaration of war against Japan. Germany subsequently declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The nearly total mobilization of the U.S. economy to support the war effort caused a rapid economic recovery.
Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was a Five-Star General in the United States Army and the 34th President of the United States (1953-1961). During the Second World War, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany.
In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO. As President, he oversaw the cease-fire of the Korean War, maintained pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, made nuclear weapons a higher defense priority, launched the Space Race, enlarged the Social Security program, and began the Interstate Highway System.
General McAuliffe (1898-1975)
General Anthony Clement McAuliffe was the United States Army general who commanded the defending 101st Airborne troops during the Battle of Bastogne, Belgium (during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II). The Allied armies were bogged down on the German West Wall in the midst of a bitter winter when the German army struck in what was to be called the Battle of the Bulge. At Bastogne, the far-larger force of Germans soon demanded that the Americans surrender. McAuliffe sent back his now-famous reply: "NUTS!"
Christmas looked dismal for Bastogne, but there was hope as U.S. forces were counterattacking. McAuliffe included the German's surrender demand in his Christmas Message to his troops.
General McAuliffe recounted what they had accomplished with their many comrades at that isolated crossroads in Belgium. For his actions at Bastogne, McAuliffe was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Patton on December 30, 1944.
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States (1961-1963). Kennedy defeated Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.
His Inaugural Address offered the memorable quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Kennedy was the second-youngest President (age 43) and the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his administration include the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
Martin Luther King (1929-1926)
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon. At the 1963 March on Washington, King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.
In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 39.
- The Mayflower Compact (1620)
- The Declaration of Independence (1776)
- Benjamin Franklin's Epitaph (1776)
- Patrick Henry's Instructions to Clark (1778)
- George Washington's Letter to Nicola (1782)
- The Treaty of Paris (1783)
- The United States Constitution (1787)
- The Bill of Rights (1789)
- The Northwest Ordinance (1787)
- Washington's First Inaugural Address (1789)
- Washington's Farewell Address (1796)
- Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (1801)
- The Star Spangled Banner (1814)
- Andrew Jackson's Letter (1815)
- The Monroe Doctrine (1823)
- The Gettysburg Address (1863)
- The Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
- Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (1865)
- U.S. Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment (1865)
- Robert E. Lee's Letter (1865)
- Account of Susan B. Anthony's Trial (1874)
- Theodore Roosevelt's Letter on Cuba (1907)
- Woodrow Wilson's First Inaugural Address (1913)
- U.S. Constitution's Nineteenth Amendment (1920)
- Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" Speech (1941)
- General Eisenhower's Selection as 'Overlord' Commander (1943)
- General McAuliffe's Christmas Message (1944)
- German Instrument of Surrender WWII (1945)
- Japanese Instrument of Surrender WWII (1945)
- John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address (1961)
- Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech (1963)
- Ronald Reagan's Speech at Brandenburg Gate (1987)