Ask anyone if they know of any Swiss or someone of Swiss ancestry who played an important part in the history of the United States, you’ll probably have quite a few people identify John Augustus Sutter who wanted to establish a “New Helvetia” in the New World. His dreams of course were shattered when gold was discovered on his land which had been granted to him by the Mexican Governor. Those of you who have spent any time in Tucson will have heard of one of the city’s most celebrated architects known for his regional eclectic architectural style. Josias Joesler who was born in Zürich emigrated to Los Angeles in 1926, and then joined John & Helen Murphey to design and build close to 500 residences & commercial buildings in Tucson. Only a few remain standing today. Finally, one can’t omit the famous Swiss race-car driver who beat Barney Oldfield and gave his name to one of General Motors’ very popular automobiles – Louis Chevrolet.
There are many other Swiss who have played significant roles in U.S. history. Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury immediately comes to mind. Albert Gallatin, born in Geneva, was a strong proponent of limited presidential & judicial power, he insisted on sound fiscal policies, and was a strong advocate of public education. He played a leading role in the negotiations ending the War of 1812 with Great Britain.
For those of you who have lived or visited New York, you undoubtedly have travelled over bridges designed & built by the engineer & bridge designer from the Canton of Schaffhausen – Othmar Hermann Ammann. To Ammann, aesthetics were as important as engineering details. He oft stated that “It is a crime to build an ugly bridge.” The George Washington Bridge, the Triborough Bridge & the Verrazano-Narrows are but a few of his designs & works. He was also responsible for managing the building of the Lincoln Tunnel and sat on the Board of Engineers in charge of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. President Lyndon Johnson awarded him the National Medal of Science in 1964 – the first time this honor was given to a civil engineer.
Movie lovers have just celebrated the 91st Academy Awards. When it comes to the Oscars, one name invariably pops up. You’ve all seen & enjoyed his movies. Actors associated with this native of Aargau have also earned Oscars for their work in movies he has directed. Yes! We’re talking about William Wyler. Two stand-outs of the many Best Director Oscars won by him are for “The Best Years of Our Lives” & Ben-Hur”; both also won Oscars for Best Picture. Some of the actors who have earned Oscars for their work in movies directed by William Wyler are Olivia de Havilland, Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Bette Davis, & Barbara Streisand. Truly an enviable record.
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