There is nothing strange in the fact that sometimes, certain families hold more power and acclaim than other families in a society. The United States of America is not alien to this phenomenon. What so happens is that some families come and shape up the fortunes of not only their lineage, of the entire country.
America has had its fair share of such influential families that are spread across societies; families that have been responsible for bringing about a change and also shaping up their respective fields.
Here are 21 families from politics, media, and business that have the muscle and aren’t afraid to flex it:
With an American political dynasty to envy, the Bush family has been synonymous with American life since the early 1950s. The family boasts of a senator, two governors and obviously two Presidents. It is the Bush family that if associated with the birth of Republican ideology in America starting with Obadiah Bush, who served as vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and supported the Underground Railroad. The clan also threw its hat in the sports ring when George W Bush brought a share of the Texas Rangers baseball team. The political saga on the other hand still continues with George P Bush recently launching his political career in Texas.
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The Adams have put out two United States Presidents, the second, John Adams, and the sixth, John Quincy Adams. Their members played a role in the country’s founding all the way up to the early 20th century.
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The Kennedys are a quintessential example of the American Dream. They immigrated to the States from Ireland and were later addressed as “American Royalty”. P.J. Kennedy, the founder of the Kennedy political family, was the son of an Irish immigrant and a large figure in Boston politics. The Kennedys are still active today, with multiple members in public office, even after producing three very consequential figures in 20th-century American history: the brothers JFK, RFK, and Ted Kennedy.
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They have a long and a dated legacy in America’s history. The Roosevelts came to New York when it was still “New Amsterdam”. The family, however, went on producing important Americans such as Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt. The Roosevelt family’s political success started with Nicholas Roosevelt, who was the first of them to hold elected office, as an alderman. The family members have held many different political positions in New York and nationally since then.
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The baby-boomer generation of the West's quietly influential Udall family has reached a milestone: Three relatives are running for the U.S. Senate; Mike Lee from Utah, Tom Udall from New Mexico, and Mark Udall from Colorado. Before that, there was Senator Gordon H. Smith from Oregon, who served two terms from 1997 to 2009. They also have a former representative and Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, in their family history.
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John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil is a descendent of the Rockefellers dynasty. This dynasty doesn’t just boast of a strong political acclaim; it also has its roots in business and philanthropy. When it comes to office bearers, the most prominent Rockefeller is surely Nelson Rockefeller who has been both Governor of New York and Vice President under 38th POTUS Gerald Ford.
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The Vanderbilt family is of Dutch origin and was very prominent in the Gilded Age. Their success began with the shipping and railroad empires of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the family expanded into various other areas of industry and philanthropy. Cornelius Vanderbilt's descendants went on to build grand mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, luxurious "summer cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island, the palatial Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, and various other opulent homes. Many people don’t know that glorifies newscaster Anderson Cooper who hosts AC 360 on CNN is also a Vanderbilt.
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The 27th President of the United States of America, William Howard Taft, finished his political career as Chief Justice of the US. The legacy, however, didn’t stop there as the Tafts have served in the government and have assumed several offices for over five generations.
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The Harrison family is a prominent political family in U.S. history. Most famously, this family produced numerous Governors of Virginia (serving during both the Colonial era and after independence), as well as two U.S. Presidents: William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.
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They might not have a long lineage in American politics like some others on this list, but the fact remains that the Clintons have shaped up America’s history in more ways than one. The facts that Bill Clinton served as the 42nd President of the US and Hillary Clinton is the former United States Secretary of State, are enough to put them in the top hierarchy of American politics. Even Chelsea Clinton, Bill and Hillary’s daughter, said that she is open to politics and could take up an office in the near future.
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The Romneys, father George Romney, and son Mitt Romney rose to political prominence but unfortunately could never hold the top job. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that the Romneys remain to be one of the most influential political families in America. The elder Romney served as the Governor of Michigan whereas the Mitt secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
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The Frelinghuysen started in American politics when the country was still in its infant stage. The first Harrison served in Congress in 1793, and six more would go on to claim seats in a total 20 congressional sessions. The Frelinghuysens have been a New Jersey political fixture for six generations. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey just started his 11th term in Congress.
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The Murdochs are Australian-American media moguls who run a massive media conglomerate. Though originally from Scotland, the family first started to gain power in the early 1900s in Melbourne, Australia, when Keith Murdoch founded Australia's first national media chain, News Limited. Though he was born in Australia, Rupert Murdoch moved to New York in 1974 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen today. The family faced controversy and investigation amidst the 2011 News Corp Phone Hacking scandal which caught prominent editors in Murdoch’s company using phone tapping and other illegal means of gaining information. Many of Murdoch’s children and other relatives are or were also working in media at one time or another.
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The Bayard family has been a prominent family of lawyers and politicians throughout American history, primarily from Wilmington, Delaware. Beginning as Federalists, they joined the party of Andrew Jackson and remained leaders of the Democratic Party into the 20th century. Counting Richard Bassett, the father-in-law of James A Bayard, the family provided six generations of U.S. Senators from Delaware, serving from 1789 until 1929.
The Barzun clan is a unification of several strands of American power, culture, and philanthropy. Matthew Winthrop Barzun was the US ambassador to Sweden for 2 years and then served as former President Obama’s 2012 national finance chair. His extended family and Brooke Barzun also has the voting control over Brown-Forman Corporation, the parent company of the iconic Jack Daniels whiskey.
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Vernon Jordan started out as a field operative for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the civil rights era. He later became a powerful lawyer, lobbyist and a Democratic senior statesman. Jordan has connections to several prominent African-Americans in Chicago. His stepdaughter, Antoinette Cook Bush is a prominent lawyer and also chairs the HistoryMakers black oral history project.
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Nicholas Pritzker built a legal legacy for his family. He arrived penniless from Kiev, taught himself English, and worked during the day to attend law school at night. He went on to start a law practice, but his sons Harry, Abram, and Jack went into business instead, investing in real estate and small companies, which grew into a small family fortune. Abram delved into philanthropy and helped establish the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.Now the Pritzkers are most famous for helming the Hyatt hotel empire, thanks to Abram’s sons Jay, Robert, and Donald. The Pritzker Prize is considered to be the Nobel Prize for architects.
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The members of the Lauren family today span retail, philanthropy, and film, and each of them carries the formidable significance of the Lauren name behind them. Ralph, the most prominent Lauren, now 74, is worth an estimated $6.9 billion alone.
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If you are the richest family in the United States of America, you’re bound to be one of the most influential people in the world. The Walton family built its fortune in the States on an unshakeable foundation: The lowest prices anytime, anywhere! Brothers Sam Walton and Bud Walton opened their first store in 1945 which would eventually turn out to be the Wal-Mart as we know it today. The 4 Walton brothers feature in Forbes list of the top 10 richest Americans.
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If you taught entire America how to drive cars, then you are something special. Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and the Fords have been the first family in American automobiles ever since. His only son, Edsel, took over the company in 1919 at the age of 26 and is credited with the sleek designs that made the brand so popular. Although the family owns a minority stake in the Ford company now, they still hold around $1.2 billion worth of shares.
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Dubbed "Hollywood's first family", the Barrymores span the entertainment industry from screen to stage since before the American Revolutionary War. The family started with Maurice Barrymore — his stage name — who gave birth to actors Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore.
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