Who are Some of the Greatest Self-Made Men in American History?

Being successful in life can be extremely difficult, as there are many hardships and challenges that we often have to go through in order to provide the best for ourselves and our families. Despite the difficulty, many men are able to become successful in their careers, relationships, and any other aspects of their life, and some of them are even more successful than others.

There are also men that were able to become successful on their own without the financial support from others. These people are called “self-made men,” as they are able to achieve success on their own through their own ideas and goals. Here is a short list of some of the greatest self-made men in American history for you to be inspired by their stories.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln portrait

One of the most well-known self-made men in history is Abraham Lincoln, who served as the 16th President of the United States from 1861 to 1865. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in the humble city of Hodgenville in Kentucky. Lincoln was raised in a log cabin by his poverty-stricken family. Despite the challenges in Lincoln’s early life, he was able to become successful because of his dedication to rising out of poverty.

Because his family was unable to provide proper education for Lincoln, he decided to educate himself in various subjects, and he eventually became a successful lawyer, legislator, and congressman for the US state of Illinois. Despite being mostly self-taught, Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the smartest politicians in US history.

Benjamin Franklin


Another American politician that is regarded as a self-made man is Benjamin Franklin, who served in various positions in the US government from the 1750s up to the 1780s. Even though Franklin is one of the most prolific figures in US history because of his numerous works as a journalist, inventor, publisher, scientist, and politician, he actually only received two years of formal schooling during his early life because that was what his father could only afford for him.

At the age of 17, Benjamin Franklin would move to Philadelphia to eventually start a printing business, which became quite successful. From then on, Franklin was able to work for various agencies, groups, companies, and branches of the government. Besides his achievements as a politician, one of the most notable works of Benjamin Franklin is figuring out the nature of electricity through various experiments, including the infamous lightning rod and kite experiment.

Henry Ford


The way most of us go to work, run some errands, and just travel outdoors wouldn’t really be possible without Henry Ford, who was instrumental in the mass production of automobiles. Because of Henry Ford, automobiles transformed from something that only the privileged and the richest people could afford to a machine that was accessible to almost anyone in the United States during the 20th century. The very first affordable car was made by Henry Ford’s company, and this car was named the Ford Model T, which would later become influential in the accessibility of the automobile industry in the future.

Henry Ford was born on a farm located in Springwells Township, Michigan, on July 30, 1863. Ford’s father wanted him to become a farmer and handle the family farm in the future, but Ford didn’t really have a passion for farming. What Ford had a passion for, however, was understanding the mechanisms of certain machines and gadgets and assembling or reassembling them.

By the age of 16, Ford moved out of his home in order to become an apprentice for a machinist. Then, in 1891, he would be hired by the Edison Illuminating Company owned by Thomas Edison, and would eventually become the chief engineer of the business. He would later create the Ford Motor Company in 1903, which is still surviving and is considered one of the biggest companies in the United States.

Walt Disney

photograph of Walt Disney

Much like Henry Ford, Walt Disney’s impact on the history and culture of the United States is unmatched, as he was able to turn the once adult-exclusive cinema industry into one that kids can also enjoy. In addition, Walt Disney is also responsible for the popularity of animation in the movie and TV industries.

However, while Walt Disney’s ideas are whimsical, lighthearted, and full of fun and excitement, the opposite can be said about his childhood or early life, as he grew up in a poor family with a father that is abusive and neglectful of his children. When he turned 16, Walt Disney dropped out of high school in order to serve as a member of the ambulance corps during World War I.

After the war was over, Disney would then work as a creator of ads for various businesses in Kansas City. He would then set up an animation business, which had been his goal when he became amazed by animation. His animation business would soon become one of the most popular companies in the world.

Ralph Lauren


In the fashion industry, there is one particular fashion designer that is known as a self-made man, and this person is Ralph Lauren, the founder of the famous Ralph Lauren Corporation, which produces and sells mid-range and luxury fashion items, as well as home products and fragrances.

Ralph Lauren was born in the Bronx, a borough in New York City, on October 14, 1939. Lauren is the house of two Jewish immigrants who worked hard in New York City to raise their four children. Lauren’s family was not rich, so he did not experience playing polo, going to a country club, or any other activities that are now associated with his brand.

Even though Ralph Lauren never studied at fashion school, he developed such a huge passion for fashion design that he was willing to work for various companies in order to learn more about the industry. He would later create his own line of men’s ties, and this line would eventually evolve into his own fashion house that he created in 1967.

These are five of the greatest self-made men in American history. We hope that the struggles and the successes of the self-made men we mentioned above have inspired you to push through your goals and achieve whatever you want to achieve in life.