This is, of course, a subjective question. What is important? Do we mean the best known? The richest? The most talented? The one who had the largest acclaim during his/her lifetime? The one that did the greatest “good” for humanity? The most influential? And how do you measure influence?
I have compiled a diverse dandy dozen list based on all the above criteria. I’d like to get feedback from readers on whom they would put in the top 3. You don’t have to be limited to this list, which, to remove any bias, is in alphabetical order.
Gertrude Atherton: a prominent and prolific author who wrote under a pseudonym for part of her career because of public hostility to women writers. Her best-seller “Black Oxen” (1923) was made into a silent movie of the same name. In addition to novels, she wrote short stories, essays, and articles for magazines and newspapers on such issues as feminism, politics, and war.
Lincoln Beachey: a daredevil aviator, one of most celebrated men of his time in the early twentieth century, whose influence went beyond popular culture.
Charles de Young: pioneer journalist, a founder of the San Francisco Chronicle. Although he died before the de Young Museum opened, let’s give him partial credit for the family endeavor.
Eddie Fisher: the most famous show business personality at Cypress Lawn.
James Flood: greatest silver baron of the era, proprietor of the largest mausoleum at Cypress Lawn.
Hiram Johnson: Governor and Senator from California, ran as Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice-President in the 1912 election.
Thomas Larkin: First and only U.S. California Counsel General To Mexico, instrumental in forging the state of California and writing its constitution. Considered the father of Benica and Monterey.
Gustave Niebaum: almost single-handedly opened up the Alaska territory to exploration and trade, and later founded Inglenook Winery.
William Randolph Hearst: larger than life publisher. Without him, no “Citizen Kane.”
Steve Silver: creator of “Beach Blanket Babylon”, the longest running musical in American history…has anyone brought more joy to more people?
Claus Spreckels along with his flamboyant and talented wife Alma de Brettville, model for the Union Square (SF) Spanish American War Monument: king of the sugar importers, philanthropist, built Legion of Honor at Alma’s insistence.
Lincoln Steffens: a famous muckraking journalist whose best-selling book Shame of the Cities sparked a national wide civic reform movement.
Terry Hamburg, Director, Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation