The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Celebrities of all time. This list of famous American Celebrities is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Celebrities.
With an HPI of 84.96, Wallis Simpson is the most famous American Celebrity. Her biography has been translated into 52 different languages on wikipedia.
Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield; June 19, 1896 – April 24, 1986), known as Wallis Simpson, was an American socialite and wife of the Duke of Windsor, the former King-Emperor Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status as a divorcée caused a constitutional crisis that led to Edward's abdication. Wallis grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father died shortly after her birth, and she and her widowed mother were partly supported by their wealthier relatives. Her first marriage, to United States Navy officer Win Spencer, was punctuated by periods of separation and eventually ended in divorce. In 1931, during her second marriage, to Ernest Simpson, she met Edward, the then Prince of Wales. Five years later, after Edward's accession as King of the United Kingdom, Wallis divorced her second husband to marry Edward. The King's desire to marry a woman who had two living ex-husbands threatened to cause a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions, ultimately leading to his abdication in December 1936 to marry "the woman I love". After abdicating, the former king was made Duke of Windsor by his brother and successor, King George VI. Wallis married Edward six months later, after which she was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor, but was not allowed to share her husband's style of "Royal Highness". Before, during, and after the Second World War, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were suspected by many in government and society of being Nazi sympathizers. In 1937, they visited Germany and met Adolf Hitler. In 1940, the Duke was appointed governor of the Bahamas, and the couple moved to the islands until he relinquished the office in 1945. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Duke and Duchess shuttled between Europe and the United States, living a life of leisure as society celebrities. After the Duke's death in 1972, the Duchess lived in seclusion and was rarely seen in public. Her private life has been a source of much speculation, and she remains a controversial figure in British history.
With an HPI of 79.76, Phineas Gage is the 2nd most famous American Celebrity. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Phineas P. Gage (1823–1860) was an American railroad construction foreman remembered for his improbable[B1]: 19 survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain's left frontal lobe, and for that injury's reported effects on his personality and behavior over the remaining 12 years of his life—effects sufficiently profound that friends saw him (for a time at least) as "no longer Gage". [H]: 14 Long known as the "American Crowbar Case"—once termed "the case which more than all others is calculated to excite our wonder, impair the value of prognosis, and even to subvert our physiological doctrines" —Phineas Gage influenced 19th-century discussion about the mind and brain, particularly debate on cerebral localization,[M]: ch7-9 [B] and was perhaps the first case to suggest the brain's role in determining personality, and that damage to specific parts of the brain might induce specific mental changes. Gage is a fixture in the curricula of neurology, psychology, and neuroscience,[M7]: 149 one of "the great medical curiosities of all time"[M8] and "a living part of the medical folklore" [R]: 637 frequently mentioned in books and scientific papers;[M]: ch14 he even has a minor place in popular culture. Despite this celebrity, the body of established fact about Gage and what he was like (whether before or after his injury) is small, which has allowed "the fitting of almost any theory [desired] to the small number of facts we have" [M]: 290 —Gage acting as a "Rorschach inkblot" in which proponents of various conflicting theories of the brain all saw support for their views. Historically, published accounts of Gage (including scientific ones) have almost always severely exaggerated and distorted his behavioral changes, frequently contradicting the known facts. A report of Gage's physical and mental condition shortly before his death implies that his most serious mental changes were temporary, so that in later life he was far more functional, and socially far better adapted, than in the years immediately following his accident. A social recovery hypothesis suggests that his work as a stagecoach driver in Chile fostered this recovery by providing daily structure that allowed him to regain lost social and personal skills.
With an HPI of 78.88, Robert Wadlow is the 3rd most famous American Celebrity. His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.
Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940), also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was a man who was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a small city near St. Louis, Missouri.Wadlow's height was 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m) while his weight reached 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to hypertrophy of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone (HGH). Even by the time of his death, there was no indication that his growth had ended.
With an HPI of 77.29, Buffalo Bill is the 4th most famous American Celebrity. His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father's hometown in modern-day Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872. One of the most famous and well-known figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill's legend began to spread when he was only 23. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.
With an HPI of 75.07, Black Dahlia is the 5th most famous American Celebrity. Her biography has been translated into 36 different languages.
Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 – c. January 14-15, 1947), known posthumously as the Black Dahlia, was an American woman found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles on January 15, 1947. Her case became highly publicized due to the gruesome nature of the crime, which included the mutilation of her corpse, which was bisected at the waist. A native of Boston, Short spent her early life in New England and Florida before relocating to California, where her father lived. It is commonly held that Short was an aspiring actress, though she had no known acting credits or jobs during her time in Los Angeles. She would acquire the nickname of the Black Dahlia posthumously, as newspapers of the period often nicknamed particularly lurid crimes; the term may have originated from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia, released in 1946. After the discovery of her body, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began an extensive investigation that produced over 150 suspects but yielded no arrests. Short's unsolved murder and the details surrounding it have had a lasting cultural intrigue, generating various theories and public speculation. Her life and death have been the basis of numerous books and films, and her murder is frequently cited as one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history, as well as one of the oldest unsolved cases in Los Angeles County. It has likewise been credited by historians as one of the first major crimes in post–World War II America to capture national attention.
With an HPI of 73.11, Monica Lewinsky is the 6th most famous American Celebrity. Her biography has been translated into 49 different languages.
Monica Samille Lewinsky (born July 23, 1973) is an American activist, television personality, fashion designer, and former White House intern. President Bill Clinton admitted to having an affair with Lewinsky while she worked at the White House in 1995 and 1996. The affair, and its repercussions (which included Clinton's impeachment), became known later as the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal. As a result of the public coverage of the political scandal, Lewinsky gained international celebrity status. She subsequently engaged in a variety of ventures that included designing a line of handbags under her name, serving as an advertising spokesperson for a diet plan, and working as a television personality. Lewinsky later left the public spotlight to pursue a master's degree in psychology in London. In 2014, she returned to public view as a social activist speaking out against cyberbullying.
With an HPI of 72.56, Margaret Brown is the 7th most famous American Celebrity. Her biography has been translated into 37 different languages.
Margaret Brown (née Tobin; July 18, 1867 – October 26, 1932), posthumously known as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", was an American socialite and philanthropist. She unsuccessfully encouraged the crew in Lifeboat No. 6 to return to the debris field of the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic to look for survivors. During her lifetime, her friends called her "Maggie", but even by her death, obituaries referred to her as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown". The reference was further reinforced by a 1960 Broadway musical based on her life and its 1964 film adaptation which were both entitled The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
With an HPI of 72.03, Rodney King is the 8th most famous American Celebrity. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Rodney Glen King (April 2, 1965 – June 17, 2012) was an African American man who was a victim of police brutality. On March 3, 1991, he was beaten by LAPD officers during his arrest, after a high-speed chase, for driving while intoxicated on the I-210. An uninvolved individual, George Holliday, filmed the incident from his nearby balcony and sent the footage to local news station KTLA. The footage showed an unarmed King on the ground being beaten after initially evading arrest. The incident was covered by news media around the world and caused a public furor. At a press conference, Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates announced that the four officers involved would be disciplined for use of excessive force and that three would face criminal charges. The LAPD initially charged King with "felony evading", but later dropped the charge. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a stun gun. He described how he had knelt, spread his hands out, then slowly tried to move so as not to make any "stupid moves", being hit across the face by a billy club and shocked. He said he was scared for his life as they drew down on him.Four officers were eventually tried on charges of use of excessive force. Of these, three were acquitted; the jury failed to reach a verdict on one charge for the fourth. Within hours of the acquittals, the 1992 Los Angeles riots started, sparked by outrage among racial minorities over the trial's verdict and related, longstanding social issues, overlaid with tensions between the African Americans and Korean Americans communities. The rioting lasted six days and killed 63 people, with 2,383 more injured; it ended only after the California Army National Guard, the Army, as well as the Marine Corps provided reinforcements to re-establish control. King advocated for a peaceful end to the conflict. The federal government prosecuted a separate civil rights case, obtaining grand jury indictments of the four officers for violations of King's civil rights. Their trial in a federal district court ended in April 1993, with two of the officers being found guilty and sentenced to serve prison terms. The other two were acquitted of the charges. In a separate civil lawsuit in 1994, a jury found the City of Los Angeles liable and awarded King $3.8 million in damages.
With an HPI of 71.94, Kim Kardashian is the 9th most famous American Celebrity. Her biography has been translated into 75 different languages.
Kimberly Noel Kardashian (formerly West; born October 21, 1980) is an American socialite, model, media personality, and businesswoman. She first gained media attention as a friend and stylist of Paris Hilton, but received wider notice after the sex tape Kim Kardashian, Superstar, shot in 2002 with her then-boyfriend Ray J, was released in 2007. Later that year, she and her family began to appear in the E! reality television series Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2007–2021). Its success led to the formation of the spin-off series Kourtney and Kim Take New York (2011–2012), Kourtney and Kim Take Miami (2009–2013) and Hulu's successor The Kardashians (2022). Kardashian has developed a significant presence online and across numerous social media platforms, including hundreds of millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram. She has released a variety of products tied to her name, including the 2014 mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a variety of clothing and products, the 2015 photo book Selfish and her eponymous personal app. Her relationship with rapper Kanye West has also received significant media coverage; they were married from 2014 to 2022 and have four children together. As an actress, Kardashian has appeared in films including Disaster Movie (2008), Deep in the Valley (2009) and Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013). In recent years, Kardashian has focused on her own businesses by founding KKW Beauty and KKW Fragrance in 2017. In 2019, she launched shapewear company Skims, which was previously called "Kimono" but changed its name following widespread backlash. Kardashian has also become more politically active by lobbying president Donald Trump for prison reform and lobbying for Alice Marie Johnson to be granted clemency. She has advocated for the recognition of the Armenian genocide on numerous occasions. Kardashian is also planning to become a lawyer by doing a four-year law apprenticeship that is supervised by the legal nonprofit #cut50, which was co-founded by Van Jones.Time magazine included Kardashian on their list of 2015's 100 most influential people. Both critics and admirers have described her as exemplifying the notion of being famous for being famous. She was reported to be the highest-paid reality television personality of 2015, with her estimated total earnings exceeding US$53 million.
With an HPI of 71.56, Don King is the 10th most famous American Celebrity. His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.
Donald King (born August 20, 1931) is an American boxing promoter, known for his involvement in several historic boxing matchups. He has been a controversial figure, partly due to a manslaughter conviction and civil cases against him, as well as allegations of dishonest business practices by numerous boxers.King's career highlights include, among multiple other enterprises, promoting "The Rumble in the Jungle" and the "Thrilla in Manila". King has promoted some of the most prominent names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Tomasz Adamek, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Mayorga, Andrew Golota, Bernard Hopkins, Félix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr., Azumah Nelson, Gerald McClellan, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Christy Martin. Some of these boxers sued him for allegedly defrauding them. Most of the lawsuits were settled out of court. Mike Tyson was quoted as saying, “He did more bad to black fighters than any white promoter ever in the history of boxing.”King has been charged with killing two people in incidents 13 years apart. In 1954, King shot a man in the back after spotting him trying to rob one of his gambling houses; this incident was ruled a justifiable homicide. In 1967, King was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for stomping one of his employees to death. For this, he served three years and eleven months in prison.
Pantheon has 63 people classified as celebrities born between 1587 and 1992. Of these 63, 31 (49.21%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living celebrities include Monica Lewinsky, Kim Kardashian, and Don King. The most famous deceased celebrities include Wallis Simpson, Phineas Gage, and Robert Wadlow. As of October 2020, 8 new celebrities have been added to Pantheon including Evelyn McHale, Miriam Stevenson, and Henry Dreyfuss.
1973 - Present
1980 - Present
1931 - Present
1936 - Present
1981 - Present
1979 - Present
1928 - Present
1933 - Present
1957 - Present
1936 - Present
1987 - Present
1954 - Present
1896 - 1986
1823 - 1860
1918 - 1940
1846 - 1917
1924 - 1947
1867 - 1932
1965 - 2012
1898 - 1979
1918 - 2005
1880 - 1999
1951 - 2009
1860 - 1926
Which Celebrities were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Celebrities since 1700.