Popular Science Monthly/Volume 84/April 1914/The Racial Origin of Successful Americans




THE New York World Almanac and Encyclopedia for 1914 gives a table showing the commonest surnames at the present time in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, arranged in the order of their frequency, according to a compilation made by the London Pall Mall Gazette, also the fifty commonest names in the cities of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston specially compiled for the World Almanac. A person's last name is not always an indication of race or nationality, but the following names which are here arranged in their order of frequency as they occur in England and Wales certainly have a thoroughly English sound. Smith, Jones, Williams, Taylor, Davies, Brown, Thomas, Evans, Roberts, Johnson, Wilson, Robinson, Wright, Wood, Thompson, Hall, Green, Walker, Hughes, Edwards, Lewis, White, Turner, Jackson, Hill, Harris, Clark, Cooper, Harrison, Ward, Martin, Davis, Baker, Morris, James, King, Morgan, Allen, Moore, Parker, Clark, Cook, Price, Phillips, Shaw, Bennett, Lee, Watson, Griffiths, Carter.

In contrast to this list, the English-sounding names sink to perhaps less then ten per cent. in Ireland. Probably a large proportion of these Anglo-Saxon names belong to the Protestant Irish of Ulster county. The order of frequency for Ireland as a whole is Murphy, Kelly, Sullivan, Walsh, Smith, O'Brien, Bryne, Byrne, Connor, O'Neill, Reilly, Doyle, McCarthy, Gallagher, Doherty, Kennedy, Lynch, Murray, Quinn, Moore, McLaughlin, Carroll, Connolly, Daly, Connell, Wilson, Dunne, Brennan, Burke, Collins, Campbell, Clarke, Johnson, Hughes, Farrell, Fitzgerald, Brown, Martin, Maguire, Nolan, Flynn, Thompson, Callaghan, O'Donnell, Duffy, Mahony, Boyle, Healy, Shea, White. It seems that there are only about nine names of English origin out of these fifty and with the exception of Smith none are high in the list.

In New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, the Irish, German, Scandinavian and Jewish elements are recognizable in Murphy, Kelly, Cohen, Levy, Cohn, etc. Immigration has been going on for a number of years, and we may ask to what extent these more recently arrived races have risen to positions of national importance or distinguished themselves in professional life. The compilation "Who's Who in America" endeavors to include, if not the best, at least "the best-known men and women of the United States." The standards of admission divide the eligibles into two classes (1) "those who are

Common Names in American Cities and Number Bearing the Name in "Who's Who in America," 1912-13.

New York City Chicago Philadelphia Boston
Smith 27 Johnson 0 4 Smith 7 Smith 8
Brown 13 Smith 7 Miller 4 Sullivan 1
Miller 16 Anderson 2 Brown 4 Murphy 1
Murphy 5 Miller 6 Jones 6 Brown 11
Meyer 3 Brown 6 Johnson 5 Johnson 3
Johnson 9 Peterson 0 Wilson 6 Clark 3
Kelly 4 Jones 2 Kelly 0 O'Brien 1
Cohen 1 Williams 3 Williams 4 McCarthy 0
Levy 1 Wilson 6 Taylor 5 White 2
Williams 13 Thompson 4 Davis 3 Davis 0
Jones 8 Olson 0 Moore 3 McDonald 0
Murry 2 Davis 4 Clark 2 Williams 6
Wilson 7 Ryan 0 Murphy 1 Jones 1
Clark 9 Clark 2 Thompson 1 Kelly 0
Sullivan 2 White 2 Dougherty 0 Hall 3
Martin 8 Kelly 2 Young 2 Taylor 2
White 13 Martin 2 White 6 Doherty 0
Davis 7 Moore 5 Martin 1 Wilson 1
O'Brien 1 Schmidt 0 Thomas 1 Kelly 0
Ryan 3 Sullivan 2 Campbell 1 Donovan 0
Moore 5 Meyer 2 Gallagher 0 Murray 1
Schmidt 0 Murphy 1 Robinson 1 Collins 0
Taylor 9 Brien 0 Myers 0 Robinson 1
Muller 1 Hansen 0 Scott 2 Moore 1
Thompson 7 Larsen 0 Anderson 0 Anderson 2
Anderson 4 Taylor 2 McLaughlin 0 Allen 5
Walsh 3 Walsh 0 Allen 0 Thompson 2
Harris 6 Young 3 Green 1 Hill 3
Reilly 0 Campbell 1 Fisher 2 Ryan 0
Campbell 1 Lewis 2 Walker 1 Miller 0
O'Connor 1 Mueller 0 Morris 4 McLaughlin 0
King 2 Baker 5 Stewart 1 Walsh 0
Lynch 3 Adams 3 Wright 1 Mahoney 0
McCarthy 0 McCarthy 0 Mitchell 3 Fitzgerald 0
Schneider 1 Hall 6 Murray 1 Young 0
Lewis 9 Jackson 2 Hughes 1 Parer 0
Ward 7 O'Connor 0 Lewis 3 Lynch 0
Young 6 Hill 4 Fox 2 Campbell 2
Robinson 5 Burke 1 O'Brien 0 Martin 0
Hall 13 Allen 1 King 0 Rogers 2
Brady 3 Olsen 0 Evans 0 Baker 1
Burke 2 Hoffman 0 Roberts 4 Foley 0
Morris 5 Green 1 Jackson 1 Wood 1
Collins 3 Murray 0 Harris 1 Stevens 1
Jackson 7 Lynch 0 Collins 0 Morse 5
Carroll 2 Becker 0 Snyder 1 Crowley 0
Allen 13 Peterson 0 Kennedy 0 Lewis 1
Hughes 0 Ward 2 Wood 4 Barry 0
Klein 2 Morris 2 Hall 0 Burke 0
Cohn 2 Schneider 0 Burns 0 Driscoll 0

selected on account of special prominence in creditable lines of effort, making them the subjects of extensive interest, inquiry or discussion in this country; and (2) those who are arbitrarily included on account of official position—civil, military, naval, religious, or educational." The arbitrary class embraces, without regard to notability or prominence in any other respect, the following: all members of congress; all governors of states, territories and island possessions of the United States now in office; all United States judges; all judges of state and territorial courts of highest appellate jurisdiction; members of the cabinet; federal department heads; all officers of the army above the rank of colonel, and all of the navy above the rank of captain; all American ambassadors and ministers plenipotentiary; heads of all the larger universities and colleges; members of the National Academy of Sciences, and of the National Academy of Design; heads of all the leading national societies devoted to educational and scientific aims; bishops and chief ecclesiastics of all the larger religious denominations in the United States; and those who are in like manner chosen because of their official relations and affiliations.

In the tables below I present the lists of the most frequent names in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston as drawn from the World Almanac for 1914, and opposite each, the number residing in each city who are included in the 1912-1913 edition of "Who's Who in America."

Other names of five or more of the same name in "Who's Who" residing in New York, but not included in the above, are Abbott, Adams, Alexander, Baker, Chapin, Clarke, Cooper, Curtis, Davis, Eaton, Fiske, Foster, Fuller, Gilbert, Greene, Holt, Johnston, Lawrence, Lee, Merrill, Mitchell, Morgan, Morse, Norton, Parsons, Perry, Phelps, Porter, Post, Putnam, Richards, Russell, Scott, Stokes, Thomas, Vanderbilt, Walker, Warren, Wood.

All these with the exception of Scott, which is a characteristic Scottish name, and Vanderbilt, which is Dutch, are characteristically English names. It would seem that the original Dutch element has not maintained itself in general leadership in New York. The English element has, I suspect that much of the concentrated eminence now in New York City is due to migration of New England strains from Connecticut and Massachusetts, which states I have already shown to lead in proportion to their population in all forms of creditable activity, and no matter what be the criterion of distinction.[1]

If these fifty commonest names in New York City are arranged in the order in which they are most common on the other side of the Atlantic, 19 of these names will fall to England and Wales, 8 to Scotland, 15 to Ireland, while 8 are characteristicly German or Jewish. The nineteen English furnish 168 in "Who's Who." The 8 Scotch 57, the 15 Irish 37, the 8 German or Jewish furnish only 11. Thus it appears that, while the Irish and Jewish element in New York may control politics and the wholesale and retail trade, they have not often risen to high positions.

In Chicago the German and particularly the Scandinavian elements naturally show themselves in the surnames. Smith is even outdone by Johnson (here probably to a large extent Scandinavian). Anderson beats Miller and Peterson beats Jones, Olson is commoner than Davis and appears again as Olsen. Irish names are fairly common, Jewish names are not. The names not of English origin in the above list furnish 12 distinguished Chicagoans against 80 with characteristically English names. Other names of Chicago people occurring in "Who's Who in America" in blocks of four or more are Webster, Black, Carpenter, Cole, Evans, McCormick, Mathews and Stone. Not a single foreign name occurs frequently. Crediting each common name in Chicago to the European country in which it is most common and leaving out Johnson and Anderson as doubtful cases, the distribution and number in "Who's Who" is as follows: 18 English names furnish 59 distinguished individuals; 7 Scotch 24; 11 Irish 11. The 12 Germans, Jewish, Scandinavian or other common names furnish none!

In Philadelphia (of the 50 commonest names) 32 characteristically English names total 86 distinguished persons, 18 non-English total only 7. Crediting each common name to the "Old Country" in which it is most common, we find the distribution is England and Wales 28 names with 45 in "Who's Who in America." Scotland 11 names with 18; Ireland 9 with 4, and 2 other countries with 1.

For Boston the facts are a little startling. It seems almost unbelievable that the Irish making up more than half the population of the city, many of whom represent the second and third generation (for the Irish began to come to Boston in large numbers as early as 1830), can furnish only about two dozen persons entitled to national recognition.

According to "Who's Who in America" there were no persons in Boston entitled to inclusion, at the beginning of the year 1912 bearing the most common names of McCarthy, Davis, McDonald, Kelly, Doherty, Kelley, Donovan, Collins, Ryan, Miller, McLaughlin, Walsh, Mahoney, Young, Lynch, Martin, Foley, Crowley, Barry, Burke and Driscoll. Four of these names are Anglo-Saxon in origin, 3 are common to both the Scotch and Irish and 14 are essentially Celtic. Among the 50 commonest names in Boston found in "Who's Who," those of Anglo-Saxon origin total 64 distinguished representives, those of Celtic only 5. There should be about the same number of Anglo-Saxon and of Celtic since 20 of these common Boston names are Celtic to 26 Anglo-Saxon and about half the present population is Catholic Irish. Looking at the matter another way and crediting all of each name to that country of origin in which the name occurs most frequently, or highest in the Pall Mall Gazette list, we find England and Wales 21 names credited with 55; Scotland 8 names credited with 14; Ireland 21 names credited with 5 distinguished, or more strictly speaking, widely-known Americans now residents of Boston.

It is true that people of non-English origin often change their names, making them more attractive to American ears, a Schneider becomes a Taylor, a Weiss a White, or even a Solomon Levi may become a Sydney Lee. But I do not believe that such changes can have had any appreciable effect on the present investigation and none at all on the conclusions. I do not believe that more than a very small proportion of these persons in "Who's Who in America" who have English names have acquired their names in any other way than by natural descent. For the Boston statistics, I have been able to test this question by personal knowledge of the individuals or from genealogical inquiries. I know of two cases of notable foreigners bearing English names, one a Portuguese and one a Jew; but out of the 851 Bostonians in "Who's Who," I am very sure that not five per cent., probably not one per cent., have English names by change from a foreign one. I have made a special test of the Boston names and find out of 851 persons, that (bearing in mind the possibility of slight further readjustments) they must be classified as 19 Irish, 10 North Irish, 30 various European names and doubtful cases and 786 of true English or Scotch origin.

Thus to summarize: In the 4 leading American cities, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, it is safe to say that, at the present time, those of English and Scotch ancestry are distinctly in possession of the leading positions at least from the standpoint of being widely known, and that, in proportion to their number, the Anglo-Saxons are from 3 to 10 times as likely as are the other races to achieve positions of national distinction.[2]

The cities contain most of the foreign elements. The cities are also the concentration points for most types of ability. They are also the breeding grounds of future leaders.[3] Therefore this study of the 4 cities ought to suffice to throw light on a number of important questions.

The truth of the matter is that all the stocks that have come into America in recent years since 1830 have been very inferior to those already here in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and in general they have been getting worse and worse. There have been a few notable exceptions, but broadly speaking all our very capable men of the present day have been engendered from the Anglo-Saxon element already here before the beginning of the nineteenth century. We sometimes read magazines and newspaper articles about the Irish in America, the Germans in America, the French in America, the Jews in America, describing the achievements of distinguished foreigners who have risen to high esteem and publishing portraits of the same. It is because they are relatively few that it is possible to make a magazine article out of the material. Who ever saw a similar article on the English in America? The statistically true can be exciting only to the scientifically inclined.

We have heard a great deal about the Melting-Pot, but no one as far as I know has brought forward any proof that there is a Melting-Pot in true biological sense, i, e., that there is any genuine mingling of blood sufficient to overcome the natural tendency that all species and varieties have to grow apart and become more dissimilar in course of time. If there had been a thorough mingling of the races in this country, there would have already been a decline in natural ability, but the tendency of like to mate with like, the natural tendency of the most successful to mate among themselves, works in the opposite direction. The real strength of a country is so dependent on the qualities of its leaders that it behooves patriots, sociologists and philosophers to take all these questions into account and consider more carefully the genesis and significance of that small fraction of one per cent, which represents the intellectual crust.

  1. "Historiometry as an Exact Science," Science, April 14, 1911.
  2. It is not possible to express this ratio accurately without a great deal of labor. Since the commonest names of all, Smith, Brown, Miller, Johnson, Sullivan, etc., are, on the whole, more English than foreign, all names can not be given the same weight. It would be necessary to go through the directories, count the names, and thus get the separate weights for each name.
  3. See F. A. Woods, "City Boys versus Country Boys," Science, April 9, 1909; and "The Birthplaces of Leading Americans, and the Question of Heredity." Mr. Spillman 's side of the case should also be read, though his statistics seem to me to be meager. Galton for English scientists and Odin for French littérateurs have both found city-birth predominant.