You know them as presidents, heroes, inventors and American icons. But before they were famous, who were people like Abraham Lincoln, Orson Welles and Albert Einstein? They started as ordinary people — farmers, artists, soldiers and teachers. Unfortunately, the stories of their lives before rising to greatness are seldom told.

Who better to tell these stories than young American students, willing to explore and share their untold beginnings, and show their relevance today?

Glenn has teamed up with Mercury One to hold a series of contests for high school students to compete for the best essays on such topics. Winners will receive scholarships (up to $5,000 each), plus other prizes, including a tour of Glenn’s studio and the Mercury One museum.

How to Join the Contest

The contest is open to high school students in public, private, charter schools and home school groups. History teachers with students in grades 9 through 12 are encouraged to nominate their classes to participate. To nominate a class, teachers should email with “NOMINATION” in the subject line and a detailed explanation about why they would like their class to be considered. If a class is approved, participation instructions are provided to the teacher via email.


How to Help Raise Scholarship Funds

Scholarship funds will be raised through the sale of themed t-shirts for each contest. Those who wish to help these exceptional students receive the largest scholarship possible are encouraged to buy one of these t-shirts. For every t-shirt sold, 30% of the revenue will be donated to Mercury One’s “education fund” to support the students.


Contest Themes for 2017

Below are the names of the famous Americans chosen for 2017’s “Before They Were Famous” Essay Writing Contest:

• George Washington: Farmer
• Martin Luther King Jr.: Reverend
• Davy Crockett: Hunter
• Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer
• Ronald Reagan: Actor
• Lewis and William Clark: Soldiers
• Thomas Jefferson: Scholar
• Wright Brothers: Merchants
• Paul Revere: Apprentice
• Orson Welles: Artist
• Sitting Bull: Healer
• Albert Einstein: Teacher


The Winner

Student winners of the “Before They Were Famous” Essay Writing Contest will receive the following:

• The winning student’s essay published on under his/her own byline.
• Mercury One, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, will award the winner with a scholarship from its “Education Fund” to be used to further the student’s education.
• Mercury One will host the winner to a mini-museum experience and studio tour in Irving, Texas. Airfare and lodging for the winner and a guardian will be provided.
• A commemorative t-shirt featuring the historical figure explored in the essay.