Saarinen, Eero (1910–1961) Finnish-born Saarinen was the son of famed architect Eliel Saarinen and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. Eero Saarinen began as a student of sculpture; this profoundly influenced his architecture, which broke with the severe rectilinear lines of the prevailing International School and introduced sweeping curves and a sense of dynamic, organic motion. His masterpiece may well be the controversial Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City (1956–1962).
Sabin, Albert (1906–1993) Born in Bialystock (at the time in Russia, now in Poland), Sabin immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1921. In 1957, he developed an alternative to Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, using a live but weakened virus rather than a killed virus. Administered orally rather than by injection, the new vaccine provided immunity over a longer period than the Salk vaccine.
Sacco, Nicola (1891–1927) Sacco was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States when he was 17. He worked in a Massachusetts shoe factory and became a left-wing political activist. On May 5, 1920, Sacco and his friend and fellow leftist Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested for the robbery-murders of a shoe factory paymaster and a guard. On flimsy circumstantial evidence, they were convicted in 1921. The case became an international cause célèbre as prominent intellectuals the world over protested that the men had been convicted for their political beliefs. On August 23, 1927, after seven years of appeals and incarceration, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. Riots broke out in England and Germany, and protesters in Paris bombed the U.S. embassy.
Sage, Russell (1816–1906) Sage worked his way up from grocery store errand boy to a major investor in the nation’s developing railroad and telegraph systems, whose growth his management greatly spurred. Sage introduced a key innovation into the U.S. stock market in 1872, “puts and calls”—options to sell or buy a set amount of stock at a set price and within a specified time limit. Working with financier Jay Gould, he used this in his manipulation of stocks. Sage’s fortune became the basis of the Russell Sage Foundation, devoted to social research.
Salinger, J. D. (1919– ) Salinger created a literary sensation with his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, whose troubled adolescent hero, Holden Caulfield, was hailed as a 20th century Huckleberry Finn, an innocent lost in a corrupt society. The novel struck a chord in the American consciousness that has yet to cease reverberating. Salinger shied away from the celebrity that followed the publication of the novel, wrote only 13 short stories in addition to it, and has lived a secretive life ever since.
Salk, Jonas (1914–1995) The public release of Salk’s polio vaccine on April 12, 1955, ended the scourge of one of the cruelest diseases, which brought death or paralysis to millions—especially children. Celebrated as a medical hero, Salk went on to become director of the Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, which was later named for him: the Salk Institute.
Samoset (circa 1590–1653) Samoset greeted the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony on March 16, 1621. He spoke English and reportedly said, “Greetings, Englishmen. Do you have any beer?” An Abenaki sagamore (subchief), he introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who served as an emissary between the newcomers and the local Indians.
Sandburg, Carl (1878–1967) As a young man, Sandburg worked a variety of odd jobs, including as a newspaper reporter. He burst onto the literary scene in 1914 with his Chicago Poems, verses dedicated to urban America and the men and women who built it and worked in it. Sandburg’s choice of subject and his muscular free verse drew comparisons with Walt Whitman. Sandburg was also a passionate folklorist, who issued two great folksong collections, The American Songbag (1927) and New American Songbag(1950). His multivolume biography of Abraham Lincoln (1926–1940) earned the 1940 Pulitzer Prize in history.
Sanger, Margaret (1879–1966) A feminist and nurse, Sanger (who was born Margaret Louisa Higgins) challenged prevailing statutes and morality to found the birth-control movement in the United States. She is generally credited as the originator of the term “birth control” and the concepts associated with it.
Sargent, John Singer (1856–1925) Sargent was born in Italy of American parents and did not come to the United States until 1876. Influenced by the French Impressionists, he created a lush bravura style, which he used to paint elegant portraits of wealth and privilege in America and Europe. His work is a vivid and beautiful evocation of the exuberant Edwardian age on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sarony, Napoleon (1821–1896) Born in Quebec, Canada, Sarony settled in New York City about 1836. He started his career as an illustrator for Currier & Ives, then became a lithographer. By the mid 1860s, he opened a photographic portrait studio and built his career photographing the celebrities of his day, paying them for the privilege and making his money selling the pictures.
Schiavo, Terri (1978–2005) On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died, after her husband, Michael Schiavo, won the right to remove the feeding tube that had sustained her life since she slipped into a coma on February 25, 1990. The Schiavo case had been argued in the courts beginning in 1993. During 2003, Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, intervened against Michael Schiavo, and as state and federal courts repeatedly upheld Michael Schiavo’s right as his wife’s guardian to remove her feeding tube, Congress, shortly after 12:30 a.m. on March 21, 2005, passed a private bill granting Schiavo’s parents the right to continue suing for the maintenance of the feeding tube and to order reinsertion of the feeding tube while the suit was pending. President Bush signed the measure at 1:11 a.m., but a federal district court refused to order the tube reinserted, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the parents’ appeal.
Schine, G. David (1927–1996) Schine was hired by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his special counsel Roy Cohn as an investigative staff member. McCarthy and Cohn’s illegal efforts to secure Schine preferential treatment after he was drafted into the army became a focus of the Army-McCarthy Hearings (1954), which were seen by some 20 million television viewers. Schine became a household name in a scandal intensified by a rumored homosexual relationship between him and Cohn.
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. (1917–2007) Schlesinger was a Harvard University history professor, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson (1946) and The Age of Roosevelt (1957–1960) are masterpieces of American history. Schlesinger was no ivory-tower academic, but served as an adviser to Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy. Schlesinger’s history of the Kennedy administration, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965), also won a Pulitzer Prize.
Schurz, Carl (1829–1906) Schurz was born, raised, and educated in Germany. A participant in the failed German revolution of 1848, he was imprisoned, but escaped and immigrated to the United States (1852). He was an abolitionist and served as a brigadier general of volunteers during the Civil War. After the war, he was an advocate for the rights of liberated slaves. He was a journalist for a time, then served as a U.S. senator from 1869 to 1875. He was secretary of the interior (1877–1881) under Rutherford B. Hayes and pushed for civil-service reform and a more humane Indian policy. In the 1880s, Schurz returned to journalism and the crusade for honest politics.
Schwerner, Michael (1939–1964) With fellow Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) activists James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman, Schwerner was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members on June 21, 1964, while working to register black voters in Mississippi. Schwerner was a white New Yorker dedicated to social justice.
Scopes, John T. (1900–1970) A high school teacher, Scopes deliberately violated a Tennessee state law forbidding the teaching of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In a sensational July 1925 trial that riveted the nation, Scopes was tried. He was defended by an attorney hired by the American Civil Liberties Union, the great Clarence Darrow. Assisting the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, perennial populist presidential candidate and a committed religious fundamentalist. Found guilty, Scopes was fined an inconsequential sum, but, on appeal, his conviction was reversed on technical grounds.
Scorsese, Martin (1942– ) Scorsese emerged in the 1970s as a major American film maker with movies that focused on the violent aspects of American culture. His early masterpiece, Taxi Driver (1976), depicted an alienated New York cabbie who sees political assassination as the only alternative to accepting the corruption of modern life.
Scott, Dred (1795–1858) Scott was a slave whose owner had taken him from the slave state of Missouri to the free state of Illinois; Scott therefore sued for his freedom in 1846 on the grounds that his sojourn in free territory had made him free. The case worked its way up to the Supreme Court, whose chief justice, Roger B. Taney, handed down a decision on March 6, 1857, holding that neither slaves nor free blacks were citizens so therefore could not sue in federal court; further, Taney held that the Missouri Compromise (under which suit was brought) was unconstitutional because Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in territories. By affirming constitutional protection of slavery in all circumstances, the Dred Scott decision made civil war virtually inevitable, since only a constitutional amendment could end slavery—and the slaveholding South would never voluntarily ratify such an amendment.
Scott, Winfield (1876–1866) Scott became a captain of artillery in 1808 and fought heroically in the War of 1812, in the wars associated with the Indian Removal Act (during the 1830s), and in the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848). Named commanding general of the U.S. Army in 1841, he served as such until 1861, through the first months of the Civil War. He was the leading American military officer between the Revolution and the Civil War.
Scripps, Edward W. (1854–1926) Scripps founded his first newspaper, the Penny Press in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1878, then assembled the first major chain of newspapers in the United States in 1894. By 1909, he owned 34 newspapers in 15 states. In 1902, Scripps also founded the first news syndicate, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, which supplied features, illustrations, and cartoons to newspapers. This evolved into the United Press, which later became United Press International.
Seale, Bobby (1936– ) A Dallas-born African American political activist, Seale broke away from the non-violent civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and advocated militant black empowerment, including the Black Panther Party, founded in Oakland, California, in 1966. In 1969, Seale was one of the “Chicago 7,” seven political activists tried for conspiracy to incite riots during the Democratic National Convention of 1968.
Sears, Richard W. (1863–1914) In 1889, R.W. Sears, engaged in the mail-order watch business, founded with A. C. Roebuck a catalog-based general mail-order business, which rapidly grew into the giant of the industry and transformed American retail commerce.
Seeger, Pete (1919– ) In the 1940s, Seeger worked as an itinerant folk singer and in 1948 organized the Weavers, a popular folk-singing group that inspired the folk revival of the 1960s, which, in turn, was associated with the counterculture of that era.
Sequoyah (1760?– 1843) Convinced that the secret of the dominance of the white race was their written language, Sequoyah, son of a white trader and a Cherokee woman, created the first written Indian alphabet and language in 1824, effectively committing the Cherokee tongue to writing.
Serra, Junípero (1713–1784) A Spanish Franciscan missionary, Serra founded Mission San Diego, the first California mission, on July 16, 1769. Through 1782, he founded eight more California missions extending the length of Alta (Upper) California and ensuring Spanish control of the region.
Sewall, Samuel (1652–1730) Born in England, Sewall settled in Massachusetts and became a prosperous merchant. He was one of the judges in the infamous Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 and the only judge to admit the error of the 19 executions. Sewall kept a remarkable diary, which provides a window into the life, mind, and aspirations of Puritan New England.
Seward, William H. (1801–1872) Seward was an attorney, politician, and abolitionist who served in the cabinet of Abraham Lincoln as secretary of state. He survived an assassination attempt by one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators and during the administration of Andrew Johnson, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the czar of Russia in 1867. The acquisition was widely mocked as “Seward’s folly” by Americans who could see no value in a “frozen wasteland.”
Shahn, Ben (1898–1969) Shahn was born in Kaunas, Russia, which is now a part of Lithuania, and immigrated with his family to New York City in 1906. He learned the lithographer’s trade and became an artist specializing in strong graphic works that combined elements of realism and abstraction, typically to convey leftist political themes. His later work became more introspective and reflective of his Russian-Jewish heritage.
Shaw, Anna Howard (1847–1919) Born in England, Shaw immigrated with her parents to the United States in 1851. She became a licensed Methodist preacher in 1871 and the first woman minister of the Methodist Protestant Church in 1880. She resigned in 1885 to devote herself full-time to the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the struggle to obtain for women the right to vote.
Shays, Daniel (1747–1825) Responding to economic depression, high taxes, and a wave of frontier property foreclosures, western Massachusetts farmer and American Revolution veteran Shays led what became known as “Shays’s Rebellion” in an effort to prevent western Massachusetts courts and other officials from executing foreclosures. Because the federal government had no army under the Articles of Confederation, Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin appealed to Boston merchants to finance a force of 4,400 volunteers to quell the uprising. Fear of future rebellions spurred Congress to call a convention to draw up new constitution to create a stronger central government.
Shepard, Alan B., Jr. (1923–1998) A naval aviator, Shepard became one of the seven original Mercury astronauts in 1959 and was the first American in space. He was launched on a 15-minute suborbital flight in the Freedom 7 space capsule on May 5, 1961.
Sheridan, Philip (1831–1888) Sheridan’s aggressive leadership under Ulysses S. Grant during the closing year of the Civil War accelerated the Confederate defeat. After the Civil War, he was William Tecumseh Sherman’s second in command during the Indian Wars in the American West. He became infamous for allegedly quipping, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Sherman, Roger (1721–1793) Sherman was a Connecticut delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. When the convention deadlocked over the Virginia Plan (calling for Congressional representation proportionate to state population) versus the New Jersey Plan (calling for equal representation among the states). Sherman’s “Great Compromise” proposed equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House of Representatives. With this, the convention moved forward, and the Constitution was offered for ratification.
Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820–1891) During the last year of the Civil War, Sherman was Ulysses S. Grant’s top lieutenant. His “March to the Sea” from Atlanta to Savannah in 1864–1865 brought the war to the Confederate civilian population by cutting a wide swath of total ruin. Sherman was a brutal realist who believed the object of war was to create maximum devastation to achieve total victory as rapidly as possible. After the Civil War, he applied this approach to the Indian Wars, often with tragic results.
Short, Walter C. (1880–1949) With his naval counterpart, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Lieutenant General Walter Short absorbed most of the blame for unpreparedness during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The attack ended Short’s career.
Siegel, Bugsy (1906–1947) Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was a major figure in organized crime when, in 1945, using crime syndicate money, he began developing Las Vegas, Nevada, as a gambler’s paradise. When cost overruns became excessive, Siegel’s backers suspected that he was skimming syndicate money. On June 20, 1947, he was gunned down in his Beverly Hills, California, home.
Simpson, O. J. (1947– ) Orenthal James Simpson was a star of the University of Southern California football team (named All-American, 1967–1968) and went on to a stellar professional career as a great running back. After retiring from football, he went on to a sportscasting and acting career. On June 12, 1994, his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were brutally stabbed to death. Simpson was accused of the crime and, after a sensational, televised 266-day trial, was found not guilty, despite what the prosecution characterized as a “mountain of evidence” against him. Most African Americans, including those on the jury, believed his defense, that he was the innocent victim of racist Los Angeles police officers determined to frame him for the murder of his white ex-wife and her white friend. The verdict and the public response to it were themselves dramatic evidence of the deep racial divides in American society.
Sinatra, Frank (1915–1998) Francis Albert Sinatra achieved his breakthrough fame in the 1940s, when he became the most popular singer in America and an idol to millions of teenage girl fans known as “bobby soxers.” His popularity was somewhat eclipsed in the 1950s by the emergence of rock and roll, but he emerged as a notable screen actor during this period. Toward the end of the decade, he was the nucleus of the Las Vegas “Rat Pack” (with Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop), which was considered the height of bon vivant sophistication. Sinatra’s artistic career was sometimes overshadowed by his very public personal life, which included ties to the Mafia, yet his enduring legacy is his body of recorded work, and many consider him the greatest American singer of 20th-century popular music.
Sinclair, Harry F. (1876–1956) The founder of Sinclair Oil Corporation (now merged into Atlantic Richfield Company), Sinclair was at the heart of the infamous Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s, in which Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall gave Sinclair a no-bid lease on a naval oil reserve known as the Teapot Dome in return for a bribe. Sinclair was acquitted on bribery and conspiracy charges, but served 6.5 months for contempt of court and contempt of the U.S. Senate.
Sinclair, Upton (1878–1968) Sinclair burst onto the literary scene in 1906 with The Jungle, a novel set in the stockyards of Chicago and exposing, in vividly nauseating detail, the sordid practices of the meat-packing industry, which greedily purveyed tainted meat to the American masses. The novel presented the meatpackers as a melodramatic metaphor for the worst of American big business: a heartless monolith willing to sicken or even kill the public for the sake of profit. The book spurred Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis (1904–1991) Born in Poland, Singer immigrated to the United States in 1935, becoming a citizen in 1943. He wrote novels and short stories in Yiddish (though they became best known to American readers through English translation) and evoked the world of Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Poland as well as the immigrant experience in the United States. Singer received the 1978 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Sirica, John (1904–1992) The undistinguished chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Sirica was thrust into the national spotlight when he presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars (Nixon’s “Plumbers”) in 1973. His demand that President Richard M. Nixon turn over his tape recordings of White House conversations triggered the Constitutional crisis that precipitated Nixon’s downfall and resignation.
Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake, 1831–1890) In youth, Sitting Bull earned a reputation as a fierce warrior and was revered for his bravery, strength, generosity, and wisdom. His fame and influence spread far beyond his own Hunkpapa Sioux tribe, and he became a living legend in both white and red America. With chiefs Crazy Horse and Gall, Sitting Bull led the resistance against the white invasion of the sacred Black Hills after gold was discovered there in 1874. Following the annihilation of General Custer’s command at the Little Bighorn in 1876, Sitting Bull and his closest followers fled to Canada. Upon his return to the United States in 1881, he was imprisoned for two years and then sent to Standing Rock Reservation. In 1883, he traveled as a performer with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. In 1890, Sitting Bull became identified with a Native religious movement known as the Ghost Dance, which whites greatly feared. He was killed during an attempt to arrest him.
Skinner, B. F. (1904–1990) Psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner built on the work of Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov and American psychologist John B. Watson to create a human psychology based on behaviorism—a system of physiological responses to stimuli in the environment. Praised by some for bringing scientific clarity and rigor to psychology, he was condemned by others for oversimplifying human behavior. In either view, his was undeniably a profound influence on modern psychology and sociology.
Sloan, Alfred P., Jr. (1875–1966) In 1920, when he was vice-president of General Motors (he later became chairman), Sloan introduced a new concept in the marketing of technological goods: planned obsolescence. With the automobile market stagnant by the end of the 1910s and the pace of genuine technological innovation insufficiently rapid to grow the market, Sloan proposed a program of annual stylistic alterations, which (he believed) would give consumers the feeling that the automobile they owned was obsolete and would therefore motivate the purchase of a new model. Planned obsolescence stimulated GM growth, but it also diverted corporate research from significant technological innovation to mere cosmetic change. Later in the century, this would have a profoundly negative effect on the American auto industry.
Sloan, John (1871–1951) Sloan specialized in urban subjects—everyday life in New York—and became identified with painters who engaged similar subjects, collectively called the Ashcan School. It was a reference to the nitty-gritty reality of their work, which was some of the most original in American art.
Smith, Al (1873–1944) Smith worked his way up through city and state politics, gaining election to New York governor four times. He was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president in 1928—the first Roman Catholic ever to run for the office. Although urban America favored him, the rural districts sent Republican Herbert Hoover to the White House.
Smith, Bessie (1898?–1937) Elizabeth “Bessie” Smith was born and raised in the South, which she toured as a singer. In the 1920s, she settled in Philadelphia and made her first blues recordings, which, although intended for the “race market” (black audiences), crossed over into the white mainstream and were big hits. Smith took her blues style into various jazz sessions with most of the great musicians of the 1930s before she succumbed to alcoholism.
Smith, Henry Nash (1906–1986) Born in Texas, Smith became a professor of American literature, but branched out to take an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing literature, history, folklore, cultural studies, art, and psychology to create a new academic field, American Studies. His 1950 book, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, catapulted Smith to national recognition and is considered the first American Studies text.
Smith, Jedediah Strong (1798–1831) Smith was a mountain man—a fur trader—who, in 1826, became the first American to enter California from the east and return overland.
Smith, John (1580–1631) Smith was a soldier of fortune who served as military leader of the English settlers who founded Jamestown, Virginia, on May 14, 1607. His efforts were critical to the struggling colony’s survival, and he assured himself a place in history through his writings, including the 1624 Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, which contains the first account of how Pocahontas, daughter of the powerful Indian sachem Powhatan, saved Smith’s life—a tale (perhaps true) that entered American folklore, legend, and literature.
Smith, Joseph (1805–1844) On April 6, 1830, at Fayette, New York, Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) with 30 members, basing its theology on The Book of Mormon, a scripture he had published earlier in the year as his translation of golden tablets he claimed to have unearthed in 1827 at Palmyra, New York. Smith and his fellow Mormons were persecuted everywhere they attempted to settle, and on June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother were murdered in the Mormon community of Nauvoo, Illinois, by outsiders. After this, most of the Mormons followed Brigham Young to a new settlement on the Salt Lake in Utah.
Sobell, Morton (1917– ) Sobell was the son of Russian immigrants. He became an engineer for General Electric and Reeves Electronics, working on military contracts. With Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, he was tried in 1951 for passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 30 years and was released in 1969.
Solomon, Susan (1956– ) Solomon was a chemist working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1986 when she led an expedition to Antarctica to discover why the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer was happening faster than expected and happening especially fast in Antarctica. Solomon discovered high levels of chlorine oxide in the stratosphere over Antarctica, which proved that the human use of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs)—abundant in refrigerants and aerosol products—was largely responsible for the depletion, which threatened the earth’s environment. The discovery led to a ban on CFCs—and a great improvement in the condition of the ozone layer.
Soto, Hernando de (circa 1496/97–1542) This Spanish explorer and conquistador was one of the conquerors of Central America and Peru, then ventured into the region that is now the southeastern United States. He explored Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, reaching the Mississippi River (at present-day Memphis) on May 21, 1541—the first white man to do so. Stricken by fever here, Soto was buried on the river’s bank.
Sousa, John Philip (1854–1932) The son of Portuguese and German immigrants, Sousa enlisted in the U.S. Marines as an apprentice in the Marine Band and by 1880 was bandmaster. He left the Corps in 1892 to form his own band and became the most famous and sought-after bandleader in the world. Sousa composed 136 military marches, including “Semper Fidelis” (1888), which became the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps, “The Washington Post” (1889), “The Liberty Bell” (1893), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (1897).
Spaatz, Carl “Tooey” (1891–1974) A combat pilot in World War I, Spaatz became commander of the 8th Air Force in World War II, in charge of the great U.S. strategic bombing offensive against German-occupied Europe. During 1944, he was commander of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe. After the war ended in that theater, he moved to the Pacific and directed strategic bombing there. Following World War II, he was named chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, when it was created as a service independent from the army in 1947.
Spielberg, Steven (1947– ) Spielberg was obsessed with film all his life and began directing in the early 1970s. His breakthrough was the masterpiece thriller Jaws (1957), one of the most profitable films ever produced. Jaws, like many of Spielberg’s subsequent successes, was the story of an ordinary man confronting the extraordinary—in this case, a killer shark; in the case of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), it was extraterrestrials. In his later career, Spielberg reached beyond the adventure and science fiction genres with such films as Schindler’s List (1993)—about the Holocaust—and Saving Private Ryan (1998), set against the events of D-Day.
Speck, Richard Franklin (1941–1991) On July 14, 1966, drifter and sometime merchant marine Speck methodically beat, raped, and murdered eight student nurses in their shared apartment on Chicago’s South Side. The senseless brutality of the crime shocked and haunted the nation at a time when many complained about the “sickness” of society.
Spock, Benjamin (1903–1998) In 1946, Dr. Spock published the first edition of Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (which went through six editions by 1992), destined to be the ubiquitous bible of child rearing. Spock’s loving, commonsense approach to raising children influenced generations. During the 1960s, Spock became a high-profile opponent of the Vietnam War and was even convicted in 1968 of counseling draft evasion; the conviction was overturned.
Squanto (died 1622) Squanto, whose Native name was Tisquantum, was an English-speaking Pawtuxet Indian whom Samoset (the first Indian to make contact with the newly arrived Pilgrims) introduced to the Plymouth colony. Squanto became the Pilgrims’ key Indian emissary and guide.
Standish, Myles (or Miles) (circa 1584–1656) Standish was an English military officer who served as the strong military leader of the Plymouth colony. He was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1858 poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” which relates the apocryphal story of his asking fellow colonist John Alden to propose marriage on his behalf to Priscilla Mullins—who replied, “Speak for yourself, John” and married Alden instead.
Stanford, Leland (1824–1893) Stanford was a merchant who grew rich supplying miners and others during the California gold-mining period and served as California governor from 1861 to 1863. He was a major investor in the Central Pacific Railroad (western leg of the transcontinental railroad) and served as its president from 1861 to 1893. With his wife, Jane, he established Stanford University in 1885.
Stanley, Henry Morton (1841–1904) Born John Rowlands out of wedlock in Wales, Morton later took the first and last names of the merchant who adopted him, Henry Hope Stanley. He served as a Confederate soldier during the American Civil War and in the U.S. Navy and U.S merchant marine, then worked as a journalist in the Far West. In 1867, James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, sent him to Africa to cover Britain’s war against King Tewodros II of Ethiopia. Bennett next sent him in search of the famed British missionary Dr. David Livingstone, who had disappeared in 1866 while looking for the source of the Nile. Stanley found Livingstone on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871, greeting him with “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
Stanton, Edwin McMasters (1814–1869) Stanton succeeded President Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of war, the notoriously corrupt Simon Cameron, on January 13, 1862. Once in charge, Stanton prosecuted the Civil War with ruthless energy. He was legendary for his ill temper and willingness to provoke disputes with other officials and with military commanders. The attempt of Andrew Johnson (who succeeded Lincoln after his assassination in April 1865) to remove Stanton from the Cabinet triggered Johnson’s impeachment.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1815–1902) With Lucretia Mott, Stanton, in 1848 composed the Declaration of Sentiments, a statement on women’s rights. In the same year, she pulled together the first organized demand for woman suffrage in the United States and worked with Susan B. Anthony for a half a century toward obtaining the right of women to vote.
Starr, Kenneth (1946– ) An attorney and former judge, Starr was appointed independent counsel in 1994 to investigate allegations of possibly impeachable offenses committed by President Bill Clinton in connection with certain real estate dealings. Four years and $40 million later, the “Starr Report” cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in connection with the real estate issue, but detailed his sexual liaison with a 21-year-old former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Starr concluded that Clinton had violated his oath of office by perjuring himself in a sworn deposition he had given in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit brought against him by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones. He also alleged that the president had lied about the affair to a grand jury. Based on the Starr Report, Congress voted, along party lines, to impeach President Clinton, who was acquitted on February 12, 1999, in a Senate vote also along party lines.
Steffens, Lincoln (1866–1936) Journalist and social critic Steffens was among the writers President Theodore Roosevelt called “muckrakers,” using a term borrowed from John Bunyan’s 17th-century allegorical classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, among whose characters is a “Man with the Muckrake…who could look no way but downward.” The term also took on a positive connotation to describe writers who exposed social corruption and injustice. Steffens’s 1906 The Shame of the Cities exposed the widespread corruption of urban politicians and fueled many of the reforms of the Progressive era in American politics.
Steichen, Edward (1879–1973) Born in Luxembourg, Steichen was taken to the United States as an infant. He became an important photographer, who began working in a pictorial or painterly style, but evolved into straightforward realism, specializing in portraiture of the most influential artists and celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1955, he organized quite possibly the most ambitious photographic exhibition ever, the “Family of Man,” a show of 503 master photographs chosen from some two million submitted from all over the world. Enormously popular, the exhibition, which traveled internationally, was seen by an estimated nine million people and was a declaration of the brotherhood of humanity.
Stein, Gertrude (1874–1946) A former medical student, Stein moved to Paris with her brother Leo early in the 20th century and established a salon that became a meeting place for emerging writers and artists, including, after World War I, expatriate Americans such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was Stein who labeled the writers and artists who had passed through the crucible of the Great War the “Lost Generation.” An important avant-garde writer, Stein was a mentor and surrogate mother to that Lost Generation. She was also an important collector of modern art.
Steinbeck, John (1902–1968) Steinbeck produced his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Narrating the epic journey of the Joad family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to what they hope will be a better life in California, the novel embodies the harsh human realities of the Great Depression. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1962.
Steinem, Gloria (1934– ) Steinem emerged in the 1960s as a popular writer on feminist subjects. With Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, the same year she launched Ms. magazine, which featured issues of contemporary interest treated from a feminist perspective.
Stetson, John Batterson (1830–1906) A native of Orange, New Jersey, Stetson became a hat maker. In the 1860s, he journeyed to the West for his health and was inspired to make a new kind of hat, suited to the cowboy. He designed and manufactured the high-crowned, broad-brimmed headgear known as the Stetson, which became a symbol of the cowboy. Based on its popularity, the John B. Stetson Company, formed in 1885, became one of the largest hat firms in the world.
Stevens, Thaddeus (1792–1868) Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Stevens emerged during and after the Civil War as leader of the Radical Republicans, the faction that favored harshly punitive measures against the former Confederacy during the Reconstruction period following the war. Stevens was a forceful advocate for the rights of freed slaves.
Stevenson, Adlai E. (1900–1965) As assistant secretary of state in 1945, Stevenson was one of the architects of the United Nations and served as U.S. UN ambassador during 1961–1965, a period highlighted by his showdown with the Soviet U.N. ambassador during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. A popular governor of Illinois (elected in 1948 by the biggest majority in the state’s history), he was twice defeated for the presidency by Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1952 and 1956.
Stewart, Martha (1941– ) A former fashion model and stockbroker, Stewart started a highly successful catering business in 1976 and published Entertaining (1977), the bestselling cookbook since the work of Julia Child. This was the start of Stewart’s career as a cooking and domestic arts adviser to the masses. She hosts her own television show and publishes a magazine, Martha Stewart Living, both produced by her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Her corporate empire was shaken by her conviction on charges related to her trial for insider trading. She served five months in prison and was released on March 4, 2005. Although she was compelled to step down as CEO, her company substantially recovered.
Stieglitz, Alfred (1864–1946) Stieglitz was a major American photographer, who also championed the work of others, opening in 1905 Gallery 291 in New York City to exhibit the work of emerging modern photographers. Stieglitz was also an advocate and impresario of modern art in general and was married to one America’s greatest modern artists, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
Still, William Grant (1895–1978) Educated at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music—and also a student of avant-gardist Edgard Varèse—Still was a rare commodity when he began to compose in the 1920s: a black composer of classical music. His symphonies, operas, ballets, and other works were influenced by traditional African American music and also often evoked black life in America.
Stimson, Henry L. (1867–1950) Stimson was a New York attorney and Republican politician who served during 1911–1913 as President William Howard Taft’s secretary of war. During the administration of President Calvin Coolidge, he was sent to Nicaragua to resolve unrest there and was also appointed governor general of the Philippines. Stimson was President Herbert Hoover’s secretary of state from 1929 to 1933. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed the Republican Stimson his secretary of war. Stimson served through World War II, continuing under President Harry S. Truman until his retirement after the war in September 1945. Stimson was a major influence on U.S. foreign policy during the first half of the 20th century.
Stockman, David (1946– ) Stockman was a businessman and politician (U.S. Representative from Michigan from 1977 to 1981) who became President Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (1981–1985). Stockman was a leading figure of the era of “Reaganomics,” implementing the Reagan budget cuts aimed at dismantling the “Democratic welfare state.” Austere and uncompromising, he became infamous for justifying funding cuts for federal school lunch programs by his proposal to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable—since supplying this condiment was the cheapest way to satisfy requirements for vegetable content of federally funded school lunches.
Stone, I. F. (1907–1989) Born Isidor Feinstein, Stone worked as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Post, The Nation, and other publications before starting his own weekly, I. F. Stone’s Weekly (later I.F. Stone’s Bi-Weekly) in 1951. The journal was published through 1971 and, although always small in circulation, was eagerly read by the nation’s movers and shakers, including the likes of Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Stone was an early advocate of civil rights and an early opponent of McCarthyism and, later, the Vietnam War.
Stone, Lucy (1818–1893) Stone was cofounder of the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 and the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association the following year. She was a moving force behind the woman suffrage movement until her death.
Stone, Oliver (1946– ) Among the defining experiences of Stone’s life was his army service in the Vietnam War (1967–1968), which inspired three films about Vietnam—Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Heaven and Earth (1993). These are typical of Stone’s cinematic interests, which approach large historical events and social subjects from a personal perspective. His 1991 JFK advanced a conspiracy theory concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his 1995 Nixon was a dramatic portrayal of that president’s rise and downfall, and World Trade Center (2006) was the story of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York from the point of view of two police officers trapped in the wreckage of the WTC.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher (1811–1896) New Englander Stowe saw slavery close-up when she lived for a time on the Ohio-Kentucky border with her Bible-scholar husband, Calvin Stowe. Passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 prompted her to begin a book she called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, which was published serially during 1852 and appeared as a book in 1853. An international bestseller, its vividly sentimental scenes dramatized the cruelty of slavery, shaking the apathy out of many Northerners and enraging slave-holding Southerners. When President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe during the Civil War, he greeted her as “the little lady who wrote the book that made this big war.”
Strand, Paul (1890–1976) Strand made a radical break with the pictorial, painting-like photographic styles popular early in the 20th century and created sharply focused “objective” photographs, typically of commonplace buildings or objects shot in ways that simplify them into stark abstraction. Strand conceived photography in terms of photography rather than painting or any other visual art. In this, he was extraordinarily influential on the history of the medium.
Straus, Nathan (1848–1931) With his brother Isidor, Straus co-owned the great R. H. Macy department store in New York City from 1896. During the 1890s, Straus also began his philanthropic work, giving away food and coal to poor New Yorkers and supplying pasteurized milk to children in 36 American cities. By 1920, he had founded nearly 300 milk-distribution depots in the United States and abroad. In 1909, Straus also financed the first tuberculosis “preventorium” for children in Lakewood, New Jersey.
Straus, Oscar S. (1850–1926) Straus was born in Germany. He was the brother of department store owners Isidor and Nathan Straus. When President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him secretary of commerce and labor, he became the first Jewish member of a U.S. Cabinet. Straus also served as U.S. emissary to the Ottoman Empire (1887–1889, 1898–1900, 1909–1910) and was an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson.
Strauss, Levi (1829–1902) Born in Bavaria (as Löb Strauss), Levi Strauss immigrated to New York City with his family in 1847. With his brothers, he became a dry goods merchant and moved to booming San Francisco in 1853. In response to the need of gold prospectors for more durable trousers, Strauss developed denim overalls. In 1872, he acted on the suggestion of Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor, to use metal rivets to reinforce pants at vulnerable points of strain. Strauss and Davis patented this new type of trousers on May 20, 1873, and Levi’s jeans were born. They would become an article of clothing symbolic of American popular culture through many generations.
Stuart, Gilbert (1755–1828) Born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, Stuart (born Stewart) became internationally recognized not only as the finest portrait painter of the new American republic but also its most distinctive, having created a style that drew on English precedents but that was also uniquely American. Of his more than 1,000 portraits his most famous is the unfinished “Atheneum Head,” the 1796 portrait of George Washington, which was for generations endlessly reproduced for display in classrooms and other public places.
Stuyvesant, Peter (1592–1672) Irascible and unyielding, Stuyvesant became governor of New Netherland—the Dutch New World colony—in 1647 and tried in vain to rally the colonists to resist the British attempt to conquer the colony. Without the necessary support of his people, he was forced to surrender to the British—who renamed New Netherland New York—and he retired to his Manhattan farm, the Bouwerie (the Bowery) at the edge of New Amsterdam (which was renamed New York as well).
Sullivan, Ed (1901–1974) Sullivan was a Broadway newspaper columnist who became a television pioneer with a variety program called “The Toast of the Town” (1948–1955). This was renamed in 1955 “The Ed Sullivan Show” and from 1955 to 1971, it was a fixture of Sunday evening programming, bringing into the nation’s living rooms a wide variety of popular entertainment. Because Sullivan seemed to have an unerring instinct for “the next big thing,” the show became an American trendsetter and tastemaker.
Sullivan, John L. (1858–1918) On February 7, 1882, boxer Sullivan defeated Paddy Ryan at Mississippi City, Mississippi, winning the world heavyweight boxing championship and thereby beginning his rise to becoming a national sports hero, America’s first great sporting celebrity.
Sullivan, Louis (1856–1924) Sullivan was a brilliant late 19th century architect generally regarded as the father of modern architecture and the first great architect to tackle the skyscraper. His leading principle was to ensure that the form of a structure followed its function and was organic to the building, rather than a matter of mere decoration. His early masterpieces were produced in partnership with the Dankmar Adler and include the Auditorium Building, Chicago (1866–1889) and the Wainwright Building, St. Louis (1890–1891). Frank Lloyd Wright was Sullivan’s apprentice.
Sulzberger, Arthur Ochs (1926– ) The grandson of Adolph S. Ochs, who transformed the New York Times into a major newspaper at the end of the 19th century, and the son of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Times publisher from 1935 to 1961, Sulzberger guided the paper from 1963 to 1991, an era during which it became the nation’s “newspaper of record,” acquiring a reputation as a watchdog on American government, politicians, and big business.
Sumner, Charles (1811–1874) On May 22, 1856, Sumner, a fiery anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, was savagely beaten with a cane by South Carolina representative Preston S. Brooks on the Senate floor in retaliation for his having maligned the state of South Carolina and one of its senators, Andrew P. Butler, Brooks’ uncle. To the North, the caning represented southern brutality at its worst and served to galvanize abolitionist sentiment and to bring civil war closer. As for Sumner, his injuries were so severe that it took him three years to recover.
Sumner, William Graham (1840–1910) Sumner was a disciple of the British philosopher Herbert Spencer, who believed that in society as in the natural world, the strong survive and prosper at the expense of the weak. Far from being a situation government and society should endeavor to correct, Sumner believed that ruthless economic competition was beneficial to the evolution of society, and both opposed any steps that contributed to the creation of a welfare state.
Sunday, Billy (1862/1863–1935) Born William Ashley, Sunday grew up an orphan and became a Presbyterian minister in 1903. A fundamentalist, he conducted revivals nationwide, reaching as many as 100 million people. Sunday was the precursor of Billy Graham and the later televangelists, whose object was to reach as many people as possible.
Surratt, Mary (1820–1865) Born Mary Jenkins, Surratt ran the Washington, D.C., boardinghouse at which John Wilkes Booth and the other conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln met to plan the crime. She was tried and convicted of complicity in the conspiracy and, on July 7, 1865, became the first woman to be hanged in the United States.
Sutter, John (1803–1880) Born Johann Augustus Suter in Germany, Sutter spent much of his life in Switzerland, then fled bankruptcy by settling in California in 1839. He became a prominent rancher, and on January 24, 1848, his employee, James Marshall, discovered gold in the race (stream) of a mill on the ranch. The discovery triggered the California Gold Rush the following year, instantly populating the territory and making California statehood an urgent issue.
Swift, Gustavus (1839–1903) Swift was a butcher who founded the meat-packing firm of Swift & Company. He transformed meat packing into a giant industry by commissioning the design of a refrigerated railway car for the mass transportation of meat from his plants in Chicago to the East.