They Took All the Credit

December 12, 2019

It’s rare that an amazing achievement that stands the test of time was created by just one person. (Even Uncle John has a staff of writers and researchers.) Here are some things associated with a single individual…who got a lot of help from an associate.

Jack Daniel

The 19th century Tennessee-based distiller is so strongly associated with American whiskey that the most famous brand still bears his name, and in the possessive no less: Jack Daniel’s. Daniel was as skilled a businessman and marketer as he was a whiskey-maker however, possibly even more so. He didn’t invent whiskey distilling, he learned it from a family friend named Nearest Green. As a child, he worked for a preacher and distiller named Dan Call, who frequently left Daniel under the care of Green, an African-American slave. Green taught Daniel how to make whiskey, and when Daniel started his own company in 1866 (post Emancipation), he hired on his mentor as its first master distiller.

Walt Disney

The official Disney company line is that the entertainment giant that includes a movie studio, theme parks, TV networks, and more built out from humble Midwestern animator Walt Disney and the explosive popularity of one of his first creations, Mickey Mouse. Disney and artist Ub Iwerks were both employed by the Kansas City Slide Company, which is where they learned animation and created some of the first narrative and character-based cartoons together. The duo were working on a project when Iwerks presented Disney with a variety of animal character designs. Disney didn’t care for them, so he sketched up a mouse character and gave it to Iwerks to develop. While he consulted Disney throughout the process, Iwerks ultimately drew and fleshed out the first iteration of Mickey…as well as the fluid, bouncy style of animation seen in Mickey’s first Disney cartoon, 1928’s “Steamboat Willie.”

Sir Edmund Hillary

It’s a true accomplishment to reach the 29,000-foot-plus summit of Mount Everest, among the tallest peaks on Earth, and history books recall New Zealand-born explorer Sir Edmund Hillary as the first person to ever do that. While he might have famously given his reason for climbing Everest as “because it was there,” nobody can climb a gigantic mountain without scoping it out first. Hillary’s partner in the voyage: a Nepal-born Sherpa named Tenzing Norgay. An experienced mountaineer who assisted in three earlier attempts by British climbers to summit Everest, he and Hillary climbed Everest together in 1953.