The Typical Eminent American

Which types of people were included in the 1923 edition of Who’s Who in America? The New York Times Magazine crunched the numbers.

While there were 24,278 biographies in total, the NYT selected a random sample of 66. Sure, that’s only 0.27%. But it was a random sample: starting with the first bio and then including the first bio listed on every 50th page from there.

Using that information, they found:

63 men versus three women, or 95.4% men. It’s hard to know precisely what the percentages would be today, but surely it would be much closer to gender parity.

California was the birthplace of only two of the 66, or 3.0%. Made sense at the time, as the 1920 Census found California comprised an almost identical 3.2% of the U.S. population. As of the 2020 Census, California is now the most populous state in the country, comprising 11.9%.

The youngest was 32, while the oldest was 76. Again, that’s only from the random sample, so the ages of the youngest and oldest biographies overall weren’t mentioned. But today, there would surely be a much wider age spectrum.

On the older end, take both the two most recent presidents: Joe Biden (currently 80) and Donald Trump (currently 76).

On the younger end, popular music and culture became far more centered around teens and 20-somethings over the past century. (The entire concept of the “teenager” as a distinct age group didn’t truly take off until the second half of the 1940s.) Take Charli D’Amelio, the 18-year-old social media influencer and second-most popular user on TikTok with 150.5M followers.

The Typical Eminent American

Published: Sunday, April 15, 1923

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