Fall, Albert (1861–1944) Fall became a symbol of national political corruption rampant in the administration of President Warren G. Harding. He was Harding’s secretary of interior from 1921 to 1923. In 1924, a Senate investigation revealed that Fall had taken a bribe to lease to private oil interests naval oil reserve lands in Wyoming’s Teapot Dome reserve and other reserves in California. The Teapot Dome Scandal rocked the nation, and Fall, convicted of bribery in 1929, served nine months of a one-year sentence.
Falwell, Jerry (1933–2007) Jerry Falwell was among the highest-profile figures of the American religious right, a Fundamentalist Baptist pastor and televangelist, whose moral and political pronouncements regularly generated much controversy. In 1971 he founded Liberty University and in 1979 the Moral Majority, a political action committee (PAC) that pursued an agenda of evangelical political lobbying.
Farmer, James (1920–1999). Farmer led the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and introduced into the civil rights movement such tactics as nonviolent sit-ins (to force the integration of segregated restaurants and other places) and Freedom Rides (to force the integration of bus stations in the South). These tactics came to symbolize the civil rights movement during its height in the early 1960s and helped bring about passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Farnsworth, Philo T. (1906–1971) Television was not a single invention, but the result of many innovators, foremost among them Vladimir Zworykin and Farnsworth. In 1927, Farnsworth transmitted an electromechanically scanned image—it was (perhaps hopefully) a dollar sign—composed of 60 horizontal scan lines. Based on this, he submitted the first of his 165 television and other electronic patents.
Faubus, Orval (1910?–1994) One of several segregationist southern governors during the 1950s, Faubus garnered national attention when, in 1957, he called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent African-American children from attending Little Rock Central High School pursuant to a federal desegregation order. Unwilling to allow a governor to defy federal law, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard, ordered them to stand down, and sent members of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to escort and protect black students enrolling in the school. Faubus responded by shutting down Little Rock Schools for the next two years.
Faulkner, William (1897–1962) Faulkner drew on his experience of the American South, especially his native Mississippi, to create a fictional universe of remarkable depth and richness. He took an intensely local approach that illuminated fundamental and universal human issues, and he did so in a bravura narrative style that combined the timeless elements of traditional storytelling with avant-garde literary modernism, including dazzling shifts in time, place, and the consciousness of his characters. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.
Felt, W. Mark, Sr. (1913– ) Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein received much of the information that allowed them to expose the Watergate scandal that undid the Nixon presidency from an insider source known only as “Deep Throat.” In May 2005, 30 years after the revelation of the scandal, Felt finally revealed himself as the whistleblower. During part of the investigation of the Watergate scandal (1972–1974), Felt was the FBI’s associate director, its second in command.
Ferraro, Geraldine (1935– ) A member of the House of Representatives, Ferraro was selected in 1984 by Democratic Party presidential candidate Walter Mondale as his running mate. Mondale was defeated by incumbent president Ronald Reagan.
Field, Marshall (1834–1906) Born on a Massachusetts farm, Field became a dry-goods store errand boy, but rapidly metamorphosed into a talented salesman. He moved to Chicago in 1856 and went to work for a mercantile concern, in which he became a partner. From here, in 1865, he joined the merchandising firm of Potter Palmer, which became Field, Leiter and Company in 1867 after Palmer withdrew. The following year, Field and Leiter opened their first department store, which, in 1881, became Marshall Field and Company. Field created the modern department store, adopting as his motto “Give the lady what she wants.” He revolutionized retailing in the United States.
Fillmore, Millard (1800–1874) Fillmore was elected vice president in 1848, ascending to the presidency on the death of President Zachary Taylor in July 1850. He served out Taylor’s term, which ended in 1853. Fillmore sought to appease the South by insisting on strong federal enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act that was part of the Compromise of 1850. This not only alienated the North, spelling the end of the Whig Party, but served to galvanize the abolition movement, giving rise to a militant, radical antislavery faction and bringing the nation closer to civil war.
Finster, Howard (1916–2001) A native of Summerville, Georgia, Finster was a “born again” Christian who became a Baptist pastor and created folk art under what he claimed was the inspiration of God, who enjoined him to preach the gospel through an art assemblage called “Paradise Garden” and some 46,000 individual pieces of art. The incredibly prolific Finster incorporated a dazzling array of images in his art, which included paintings and three-dimensional works, appropriating pop culture icons (especially Elvis Presley), historical figures (Lincoln and Washington), and renderings of more conventional religious images. During the 1970s, his work began to receive national recognition, and he emerged as the first of the so-called “outsider artists,” artists who are not part of the academic or commercial art establishment.
Firestone, Harvey (1868–1938) An early believer in rubber tires, Firestone drove the first rubber-tired buggy in Detroit. He moved to Chicago in 1896 and opened a retail tire business before relocating to Akron, Ohio, in 1900, where he exploited his patent on a device that applied rubber tires to carriage wheel channels. This led to his founding the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, which became the giant of the industry and earned Firestone a reputation as the man who put America on tires.
Fischer, Bobby (1943– ) Born in Chicago, Fischer dropped out of high school at 16 to devote himself to chess. In 1958, he became the youngest grandmaster in history, but rose to international celebrity even beyond the world of chess when he became the first native-born American to win the title of world champion, defeating Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky. After he refused in 1975 to defend his title against another Soviet challenger, Anatoly Karpov, he was stripped of his championship and withdrew into obscurity for two decades, reemerging to defeat Spassky in a private rematch in 1992.
Fitzgerald, Ella (1917–1996) After winning amateur talent contests in New York, the youthful Fitzgerald joined the Chick Webb orchestra in 1935. Webb nurtured the girl’s talent, even becoming Fitzgerald’s legal guardian after the death of her mother. When Webb died in 1939, Fitzgerald led the band until it broke up in 1942. From this point on, Fitzgerald had a solo career that spanned another five decades. Her range as a singer was unparalleled and the lyric mellowness of her voice unequalled. Many critics consider her the greatest female vocalist who ever sang jazz.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott (1896–1940) Fitzgerald enjoyed early success for his novels and short stories depicting the “Jazz Age” of the Roaring Twenties, but his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby (1925), now recognized as one of the greatest of American novels—a poignant study of love, passion, and the American dream—was a commercial failure during Fitzgerald’s lifetime. Fitzgerald and his exciting but mentally unbalanced wife, Zelda, led lives that were by turns fabulously glamorous and desperately frantic. They were, during the 1920s, one the world’s most celebrated couples.
Flagg, James Montgomery (1877–1960) From 1892 on, Flagg was one of the nation’s most prominent and successful illustrators, his work adorning most popular magazines. Especially celebrated for stylish and buxom young ladies, he became even more famous for his depictions of Uncle Sam on World War I and World War II “I Want You” recruiting posters.
Flagler, Henry M. (1830–1913) Flagler made a fortune partnering with John D. Rockefeller in creating the Standard Oil Company, but he is best known as a real estate entrepreneur and developer, who purchased several railway lines in Florida in 1886, combined them as the Florida East Coast Line, then built a chain of luxury hotels along the railroad. From this, modern Florida developed as a tourist, leisure, and retirement Mecca.
Flanagan, Father Edward J. (1886–1948) Born in Ireland, Flanagan immigrated to the United States in 1906 and became a Roman Catholic priest. In 1917, he founded the Home for Homeless Boys in Omaha, Nebraska, then expanded it, leaving downtown Omaha to establish Boys Town, 10 miles west of the city in 1921. Flanagan directed the growth of Boys Town into a genuine community for orphans and troubled youths. Here, boys between 10 and 16 were transformed by love and understanding into productive citizens in a “town” with a mayor, council, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and vocational training facilities. The world’s most famous orphanage, Boys Town continues to operate today as Girls and Boys Town.
Ford, Betty (1918– ) Wife of Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States, Betty Ford became addicted to pain relievers, entered a treatment center, and then founded the Betty Ford Center to treat others with addictions. Ford’s public courage in discussing her addiction removed much of the moral stigma from addictive disorders and changed the way many Americans viewed drug and alcohol problems.
Ford, Gerald (1913–2006) A Michigan Congressman, Ford was appointed vice president by Richard M. Nixon after the resignation in disgrace of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in 1973. When Nixon resigned in 1974 as a result of the Watergate scandal, Ford became the nation’s only unelected chief executive. His conciliatory personality contrasted with the combative demeanor of President Nixon, and he professed a desire to heal the nation after Watergate—although many denounced his blanket pardon of the former president. Ford failed in his bid for election in his own right, losing to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Ford, Henry (1863–1947) Raised on a Michigan farm, Ford grew up more interested in machines than crops and livestock. He began working as a machinist and was drawn to the newly developed internal combustion engine. This led to his tinkering together his first automobile, which, in 1899 spawned the Detroit Automobile Company (later the Henry Ford Company). But it was in 1908, with the introduction of the Model T, that Ford began the simultaneous transformation of industrial production—indeed, the very nature of work—with the modern assembly line and the transformation of America: its habits of consumption, its manner of living, its culture, and its landscape. The widespread availability of private transportation in the form of affordable automobiles remade America from a collection of cities, isolated villages, and farms, into a new form of civilization networked by roads and driven by a new ethic of personal freedom.
Ford, John (1895–1973) Born Sean Aloysius O’Feeney in Maine, Ford moved to Hollywood in 1914, became a prop man for a film studio, changed his name, and directed his first movies in the 1920s. As a director, he was noted for brilliant cutting, which put the emphasis on action without ever compromising sharp and colorful characterization. Some of his most notable films—The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952)—won Academy Awards for direction and emphasized social themes, but he is even better remembered as a master of the western genre, with such classics as Stagecoach (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), The Searchers (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).
Forrest, Edwin (1806–1872) One the great tragedians of the 19th-century American stage, Forrest started a feud with the English actor William Macready, which triggered in May 1849 the Astor Place riot in New York City as a mob of Forrest partisans stormed the Astor Place Opera House, where Macready was appearing. Twenty-two persons were killed and 36 wounded. Forrest’s reputation was another casualty of the riot. Two years later, he stirred a fresh scandal when he sued his actress wife for divorce on grounds of adultery. He lost, but obsessively appealed for 18 years, during which time he became a recluse. Forrest’s experience is an early example of the nation’s limitless appetite for scandal.
Forrest, Nathan Bedford (1821–1877) Self-taught in everything, including the military art, Forrest was commander of great skill and daring, considered by William T. Sherman the most dangerous man in the Confederacy. His philosophy of combat was simple: “Get there first with the most men” (often misquoted as “Get there firstest with the mostest”). His reputation for ruthlessness was certified by his role in the Ft. Pillow Massacre (April 12, 1864), in which more than 300 African-American troops were slaughtered after they surrendered. Following the war, Forrest organized the original Ku Klux Klan, serving for a time as its Grand Wizard.
Frankenthaler, Helen (1928– ) Strongly influenced by the work of Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock, Frankenthaler developed her own style of abstract expressionism, creating ethereal works by applying thinned oil paints onto unprimed canvas in a stain technique that broke with the heavy application of paint (impasto) in vogue among other abstract expressionists. Frankenthaler’s lyrical works inspired the next generation of painters, the so-called color-field painters, including Morris Louis.
Frankfurter, Felix (1882–1965) Born in Vienna, Austria, Frankfurter immigrated to the United States with his family in 1893. Earning his law degree from Harvard, he was a brilliant scholar and adviser to presidents, beginning with Woodrow Wilson during the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles. Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1939 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frankfurter was a passionate advocate of what he called “decency of government,” but was above all an advocate of judicial restraint, believing that judges should adhere to precedent over their own opinions.
Franklin, Benjamin (1706–1790) Franklin earned national and international fame as a printer, publisher, author, inventor, scientist, diplomat, and charming wit. Self-educated, he had a tremendous breadth of knowledge and achievements. He was celebrated as a font of homely wisdom with his enormously popular Poor Richard’s Almanacs; he was a driving force behind the American Revolution; he was a diplomat of extraordinary skill, instrumental in negotiating the Franco-American alliance during the revolution; he was an entrepreneurial innovator (a pioneer of the insurance industry); he was a brilliant author; he was an internationally respected scientist (especially for his early work on electricity); and he was an inventor. Bifocals, the Franklin stove, and the lightning rod were among his best-known inventions, but his greatest invention was himself. In his justly celebrated Autobiography, Franklin mythologized his own life, presenting himself as an illustration of all that was possible in America for one who applied wit, sound ethics, imagination, and a willingness to work.
Frelinghuysen, Frederick Theodore (1817–1885) Frelinghuysen graduated from Rutgers College in 1836, studied law under his uncle, then began practicing in 1839. He was a founder of the Republican Party in New Jersey. Appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy in 1866, he was defeated for the Senate in 1869 but was elected for a full six-year term beginning in 1871. President Chester A. Arthur appointed him secretary of state in 1881. Frelinghuysen forged strong commercial ties with Latin America, acquired Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a U.S. naval base—giving America control over much of the Pacific—and opened diplomatic relations with the “hermit kingdom” of Korea in 1882.
Frémont, John C. (1813–1890) Frémont explored and mapped much of the Far West during the 1840s in the course of surveying potential routes for a transcontinental railroad. During the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848), Frémont was instrumental in breaking California away from Mexico. A committed abolitionist, he ran unsuccessfully in 1856 as the first Republican presidential candidate, then served (with little success) as a Union general during the Civil War.
Freneau, Philip (1752–1832) Freneau was a schoolmaster and divinity student before the American Revolution, during which he used his considerable poetic talent to compose acid satires mocking the British and Tories. He joined the New Jersey militia in 1778 and was captured by the redcoats in 1780. He recounted his POW experience in a bitter poem titled The British Prison-Ship (1781). After the war, Freneau worked as a partisan journalist promoting the liberal orientation of such leaders as Thomas Jefferson against the more conservative Federalism exemplified in John Adams. As a poet, Freneau stood well above most of his American contemporaries.
Frick, Henry Clay (1849–1919) Frick made his fortune by building and operating coke ovens beginning in 1870 and supplying the steel and iron industry with the coke needed for the blast furnaces that refined raw ore. As chairman of Andrew Carnegie’s steel interests (1889), Frick built the company into the world’s largest manufacturer of steel and coke. In 1892, during the Homestead (Pennsylvania) steel strike, Frick was shot and stabbed by the anarchist Alexander Berkman, but recovered and went on to create the United States Steel Corporation. Frick used part of his great fortune to amass one of the great private art collections in the world. He bequeathed the collection and the Manhattan mansion housing it to the city of New York as a museum.
Friedan, Betty (1921–2006) While working as a journalist, Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique (1963), which asked why so many modern American women were frustrated in traditional roles. The book created a sensation and launched the modern feminist movement. Friedan went on to cofound the National Organization of Women (NOW) in 1966, dedicated to achieving equality of opportunity for women.
Frost, Robert (1874–1963) Frost was born in California but lived most of his life in New England, which was the setting for much of his poetry. Although his work was in some ways backward looking—often portraying rural life in New England and always composed in traditional rhymed verse—Frost tackled timeless issues of the human condition and was a virtuoso of American colloquial speech. His realist sensibility and his lyrical style made Frost the most popular of 20th-century American poets.
Fuller, Margaret (1810–1850) Fuller was a part of the literary circle that gathered around Ralph Waldo Emerson, with whom she shared an enthusiasm for the Transcendentalist philosophy, which saw divine inspiration in all objects of nature. During 1839–1844, Fuller led classes (she called them “conversations”) for women on the subjects of literature, education, mythology, and philosophy. Her purpose was to enrich the lives of women and to bring them to a place of social equality. Her Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) is regarded as an important feminist work.
Fuller, R. Buckminster (1895–1983) Best known as the inventor of the geodesic dome, an elegant multipurpose structural design patented in 1953, Fuller advocated engineering and design on self-sustaining ecological principles that exploited renewable resources in order to ensure the future of the planet he called “Spaceship Earth.” Fuller’s genius was the application of visionary design to immediate, practical needs.
Fulton, Robert (1765–1815) Fulton’s first ambition was to become a painter, but failing to win critical and commercial success, he turned to engineering and invention instead. He designed a system of inland waterways and canals, a practical submarine, a steam warship, and, most famously, in 1808, a sidewheel steamboat called the North River Steamboat of Clermont—but popularly dubbed the Clermont—which plied the Hudson as the first practical steam-powered vessel.