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American Originals

American Originals
American Originals will trace the stories of those who charted their own paths, overcame barriers and achieved a better life for themselves and those around them by embracing personal responsibility, hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The American Dream has been caricatured as wealth accumulation and material success like owning a house or buying a car. This has done a great disservice to the American ethos and American culture. The essence of the dream is earned success, achievement, recognizing opportunity and includes an appreciation for the role of entrepreneurship and the contributions that entrepreneurs have made to society.

By highlighting these success stories, we hope to demonstrate the value that these leaders have created and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. The American Dream and being an American Original is all about ordinary people achieving extraordinary things. As Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Leonard Hershiser once said: “Great things can happen to ordinary people who are willing to work hard and never give up.”

First building roads in Washington State, he soon helped build the western infrastructure, including Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam. He played a key role in America’s victory in World War II by building hundreds of warships at an unprecedented pace. He also created aluminum and steel industries on the West Coast, doing more to bring manufacturing to California than anyone else.
Jim Hill left poverty in rural Ontario after his father died when the son was only fourteen years old. He landed in St. Paul, Minnesota, where over the next fifty years he did more to shape the northwestern United States than any other single person. This is his story.
Like Thomas Edison, Westinghouse was a prolific inventor, but unlike Edison he successfully built and ran multiple great enterprises employing tens of thousands of workers. Those workers were treated better than at almost any other industrial employer of the era. His companies registered over one thousand patents. George Westinghouse always dreamed big and acted boldly, focused on the biggest issues in technology, attributes seen again today in dreamers like Elon Musk. This is his story.
When he came into the business, most newspapers were primarily used to promote political propaganda for one side or the other, serving as outlets for outrage and opinion. Adolph Ochs changed all that, first in Chattanooga, then in New York City. Today his many descendants have absolute control of The New York Times, considered by many to be the greatest American newspaper, one that has led the world in journalistic innovations. Here is his remarkable story.
One of the myths about great entrepreneurs is that they love risk and are big gamblers. In fact, they usually do everything they can to reduce risk and are rarely true gamblers. But there is always an exception to the rule. This is the story of one of those exceptions, Kirk Kerkorian, perhaps America’s greatest gambler. Starting from the fields of Southern California and fighting his way out of poverty in Los Angeles, this proud son of Armenian immigrants went on to reshape Las Vegas, Hollywood, and Armenia.
The grandson of slaves, Arthur George Gaston was born in 1892 in Demopolis, Alabama, to Rosie Gaston. There is no record of his father’s name, who died shortly afterward. A. G. Gaston started with nothing but the encouragement of his mother and grandparents. Over the next seventy years, he became the wealthiest black man in Birmingham, with a fortune of $30-40 million. Gaston’s path was never easy—his home was fire-bombed and at the age of eighty-three, he was kidnapped. He was at or near the center of the racial strife of the 1960s, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He stirred great controversy during his life, but also provided employment and services to thousands of blacks in Alabama. This is the remarkable story of his 103-year-long life.

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