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“Great Americans” Not Born In America

December 12th, 2008 · 15 Comments · Movies, Politics, Weird Things About Me



It’s funny when some Americans talk about who is an American and who isn’t . . .

It made me think of some commonly-perceived “Great Americans” who weren’t born here, like  . . .

Christopher Columbus (Italian)  (“discovered” America, and for whom cities & holidays, and circles & squares are named after)

William Penn (English)  (founder of Pennsylvania and champion of religious acceptance)

Thomas Paine (English)  (author of Common Freakin’ Sense, 1776)

Alexander Hamilton (British West Indian)  (Founding Father and co-author of The Federalist Papers)

General Lafayette (French)  (huge hero in the American Revolution under George Washington)

Charles Darwin (English)  (scientist, naturalist, founder of evolution theory)

Albert Einstein (German)  (relatively important physicist)

Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish)  (scientist, living in Canada when he invented the telephone)

Adam Smith (Scottish)  (a founding father of modern economics)

John Kenneth Galbraith (Canadian)  (economist, Presidential advisor, ambassador, author)

Andrew Carnegie (Scottish)  (patriarch of the industrialist and philanthropist family)

Meyer Guggenheim (Swiss)  (patriarch of the other industrialist and philanthropist family)

Joseph Pulitzer (Hungarian)  (publisher who bequeathed the journalism awards)

James Smithson (English)  (scientist who bequeathed the Smithsonian Institution)

John Roebling (German)  (designed The Brooklyn Bridge and many others)

John McIntosh  (Canadian)  (farmer who invented the original McIntosh)

Levi Strauss (German)  (inventor of blue jeans)

C.F. Martin (German) (founder of the company making the best acoustic guitars in the world)

the Gimbels brothers  (German)  (founders of the department store chain)

the Warner Brothers (Jack was Canadian;  Harry, Sam & Albert were Polish [temporarily Russian])

Marshall McLuhan (Canadian)  (philosopher, author, teacher)

Stephen Hawking (English)  (physicist, author, teacher)

Madeline Albright (Czech)  (Secretary of State)

Isaac Asimov (Russian)  (author)

Vladimir Horowitz (Russian)  (classical pianist)

I.M. Pei (Chinese)  (architect of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and many other masterpieces)

Joe Shuster  (Canadian)  (creator of Superman)

George Soros (Hungarian)  (financier and philanthropist)

Bill Graham (German)  (producer/promoter and essentially the inventor of rock concerts)

Peter Jennings (Canadian)   (journalist, ABC news anchor)

Morley Safer (Canadian)  (journalist, 60 Minutes reporter)

Mort Sahl (Canadian)  (political satirist, comic pioneer)

Jerzy Kosinski (Polish)  (author)

Ralph Steadman (British)  (illustrator, including for Hunter Thompson)


Not to mention . . .

Bob Hope  (English)  (comedian)

Charlie Chaplin  (English)  (actor and director)

Stan Laurel   (English)  (comedic partner to Oliver Hardy)

Harry Houdini   (Hungarian)  (magician, escape artist)

Alfred Hitchcock  (English)  (film director)

Walter Huston   (Canadian)  (actor and father of John)

Mary Pickford   (Canadian)  (actress, and co-founder of United Artists)

Norman Jewison   (Canadian)  (director, In The Heat of The Night, etc.)

Milos Forman   (Czech)  (director, Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Hair, Ragtime, etc.)

Roman Polanski  (French-born, Polish raised)  (director, Rosemary’s Baby, etc.)

Robert Frank  (Swiss)  (photographer, filmmaker)

Arnold Schwarzenegger  (Austrian)  (former Governor of Caleefornia)

John Lennon   (English – famously applied for U.S. naturalization)

Bob Marley   (Jamaican)   (musical philosopher)

Neil Young  (Canadian)  (musician, green car investor)

Joni Mitchell  (Canadian)  (songstress)

David Byrne  (Scotland)  (musician)

Yo-Yo Ma   (French)  (cellist)

Itzhak Perlman  (Israeli)   (violinist)

Leonard & Phil Chess  (Polish)  (founders of Chess Records)

and Martin Short, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, Mike Meyers, Michael J. Fox, Dan Aykroyd, Phil Hartman, Howie Mandel, Catherine O’Hara, Samantha Bee, Lorne Michaels, David Steinberg, Norm Macdonald, Tommy Chong, John Candy, Rich Little, etc, . . .  (all Canadian comedians)


in joy,

Brian Hassett  —


You can read this and 50 other Political Adventure Tales like it in my 2020 book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy — Adventures in Politics — 1980–2020.

And for another really cool list — check out — Some famous people who don’t have kids.

Or for a linked list of over 500 of the greatest movies ever made — check out The Hot Movie List.

Or you’d prolly enjoy The Inauguration Adventures.

Or here’s a book I wrote — “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” — about a bunch of wild globetrotting characters.

Or there’s the immigrant’s tale The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday Party.

Or here’s a primer to one of America’s most international cities — New Orleans Jazz Fest For People Who Haven’t Been.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there —


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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alex Nantes // Dec 13, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    Outrageous! Love it!

  • 2 Walter Raubicheck // Dec 15, 2008 at 9:38 AM

    Immigrants have been some of the most astute interpreters of America — whether they landed themselves, or were first or second generation.

  • 3 Hugh Reilly // Jan 14, 2009 at 8:26 AM

    A bunch of communists!

  • 4 Mitch Potter // Jan 17, 2009 at 10:03 PM

    useful. bookmarked.

  • 5 Debbie Vazquez // Jun 14, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    Right on!!!! immigrants of all mutts and colors make this city and country what it is. i couldn’t imagine it or want it any other way. Thanks for this ….. and being YOU!!!!

  • 6 Will Hodgson // May 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    “Only you.”

  • 7 Levi Asher // Jul 30, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Nice to see a Levi on there.

  • 8 Joe Myles // Sep 27, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    You’re totally right about Darwin and Einstein and Alexander Graham Bell …….. everybody thinks they’re American!!! And a bunch of them think Jesus was too!!!!!!

  • 9 Chris Welch // Oct 21, 2012 at 7:26 PM


  • 10 Deb Reul // Dec 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    You guys are EVERYWHERE!!!

  • 11 Andrew Geltzer // Jan 19, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    Them’s some founding fathers. 😉

  • 12 Mary Jo Sullivan-Hicks // Jan 18, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I’ll never look at a pair of Levi’s in the same way 🙂

  • 13 Ron McGregor // Jan 19, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    From Canada there’s also Joni Mitchell, Joe Schuster (creator Superman), Armand Bombardier (creator snowmobile), Robbie Robertson…

  • 14 Thomas Kauertz // Jan 20, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Here are some more contributions from Germany:
    Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff ( The founder of the famous jazz label Blue Note Records)
    John Kay (The founder and singer of Steppenwolf)

  • 15 Brian // Feb 20, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Thanks! And boy, aren’t the Germans well represented there, eh brother?! Just about the most and/or best ones! And a lot of Canadians, too. And what’s the single most important thing we have in common? That’s right. We both make exceptional beer! (But let’s not tell the rest of the world our secret to success.

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