Starbucks Coffee


The american firm selling coffee all around the world was born in Seattle in 1971. Founded by three friends, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker, it took only thrity years for the firm to develop worldwide and become one of the strongest american icon in terms of food and drink. Nowadays, the company is the biggest seller of coffee in the world and enjoys a symbolic and cultural representation in people’s mind.

We can deduce that the growing popularity of the brand followed its development in the world as the graphic illustrates it :


But how does Starbucks represent an American Icon ?

First, when non-american people purchase a coffee in a Starbucks store, they instantly feel like genuine american, almost living in Manhattan. They are actually adopting the american way of life as they can have the representation of it in the medias. The concept that we can find in these stores is also quite representative : the american way of selling products, with their own goodies (mugs, spoons, etc.), their own music radio and of course the well-known manner with the employees write the name of the customers on their mug.

It’s important also not to forget that Starbucks has been the first brand to offer to their customers to possibility to take a coffe-to-go, allowing them to drink their coffee in the streets and not being stuck in the store. By this mean, the firm as the possibility to spread the brand in the streets freely because of the logo printed in all their mugs.

Nevertheless, the major mean that Starbucks uses to broadcast their brand and their concept is the product placement. The famous logo is everywhere on TV, in movies, even in News Channels.

newschannelstarbucks in moviesstarbucks in tvshows

The representation in the medias of the brand adds a sort of desire from foreigners to embrace the american way of life. It appears to be cool to purchase a coffe-to-go in Starbucks and to walk in the streets with our mug. And that is why when foreigners think about United States’ food and drink icons, they firstly think about Starbucks.

To conclude, Starbucks has built its popularity and its image of american icon by spreading it all around the world with the multiple logos printed everywhere and their important presence in the diverse medias.


John F. Kennedy is born in 1917 in Massachusetts from an Irish family. He became the youngest president and the only Catholic one. To begin, just a few important dates in his political career: in November 1946 he was elected to Congress in the House of Representative in Massachusetts, six years later in November 1952 he was elected in the Senate. In January 1960, he became the 35th President of the United States. In 1962, he announced his will to send the first man to the Moon. Then in 1963 he makes a public announce, he wanted the enactment of Civil Right legislation. Finally, in November 22, 1963 he is assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Why is he an icon?

He had a very dynamic and young image. He was seen as a healthy man, which was in reality the contrary: indeed, at the age of 30 he was diagnosed Addison’s disease. In my opinion, when you are an icon and a myth as he was considered, you are idolized, and some truth are not seen by the people.

His young image obviously came from his young age, he was 43 when he was elected, he was the youngest president to be elected. Moreover, during his campaign, he used television for his debate against Nixon in 1960.

His family circle was also seen as sane; he was married to a very fashionable woman: Jackie Kennedy, who was elected in 2013 the “Best Dresses Woman of all time” by Vanity Fair in 2013. It was a couple who interested a lot of people, in the whole world. Several French magazines used their image for their front page.

Nevertheless, rumour has it that he has several mistresses, one of them was another biggest icon of that time: Marilyn Monroe. One more time, his image had not been altered by these news, not as Clinton for example.

He is also the embodiement of the American dream. His family was immigrant, and they succedeed to reach wealth, and power.

His death turned him into a myth. Indeed, after he was murdered many Head of States around the world expressed their support. A museum dedicated to his life and legacy was built in Dallas called the Sixth Floor Museum.



Several singers and movies payed tribute to him after his death as “John Kennedy: The Dickie Goodman Tribute Album” and the movie “Killing Kennedy” which came out in 2013.

His music style is hard to describe. Is it country ? Rockabilly, hillbilly or even rock and roll ? Johnny Cash’s aura certainly goes beyond any category. Cash and Elvis Presley used to rule the Billboard’s charts in the fifties and sixties. Nevertheless, it seems like Presley entered « pop culture » more than Cash. Country music does not export that well in other countries. Therefore Johnny Cash remains a pure American Icon.


The cover of Cash’s 1974 album : Ragged Old Flag


Johnny Cash is an American singer and guitarist. He was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, in 1932. He died in 2003. He is mostly remembered for being a country and rock and roll musician and having a very distinctive bass voice. His early life was the usual life of an American man at that time. He was raised with gospel music, did his military service and married when he was young.

What is striking about Johnny Cash is how he had several images, periods throughout his career. For example, he was often seen as an outlaw. He has often been arrested for multiple reasons, the main one being drugs. However, he has never served a real sentence. Afterward he began to do concerts in prisons, in san Quentin. Later, he became an activist for the native Americans rights. He also stood against the Vietnam War. Johnny Cash’s last years have been quite memorable and very successful. He came back after many years of decline. Here again, he appeared even more as an icon, rising from the ashes. After his death, a movie called Walk the Line (2005) depicts his early life. He was at the peak of his “iconification”.

However, how does he represent America and American people ? Why is he such an icon ? I think that Johnny Cash represents America in all its complexity, its contradictions. As it has been previously said, Johnny Cash has been through many periods throughout his life. Therefore his contradictions are abundant. Cash embodied the American cowboy but still defended the right of native Americans. (He even made a whole album based on this concept) He used to be considered as an outlaw, was in favor of prison reform, did concerts in prisons too. But later in his life, he rediscovered his faith. He even hosted a TV show. Cash really embodies Americans contradictions between freedom and patriotism, individual rights and nationalism. Though he was a sinner, he sang a song about how God cut the sinners down. He loved his country but could be seen with a tattered American flag.


Johnny Cash in a native outfit for the cover of his 1964 album, Bitter Tears


I think that every American can find something he likes about cash. Every American can somehow identify himself with Johnny Cash. That’s why he is an icon because he is America in all its complexity.

As a french, when I think about Johnny Cash, I have these images of the wild west that come to my mind. The American frontier. Cash is almost an ultimate caricature of the American man. He embodied the multiple facets of the American culture. In a way, he is more an American icon than Elvis Presley because Elvis has become a universal popular icon. Many people outside America has appropriate Presley. Johnny Cash still remains a pure American icon. The imagery of his songs recalls the American mythology.


Johnny Cash “The cowboy”

Bibliography :

– Stephen Miller, Johnny Cash: The Life of an American Icon

– Leigh H. Edwards, Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity




Lourdes Addicks, Clément Dhollande.



Nowadays when it comes to cooking, we like to see complex and  sophisticated dishes being made, famous chefs and television programs present us numerous combinations of food, but it doesn’t always fit our own cooking skills and very often keeps away more than brings together people from good and simple meals.

As a matter of fact barbecuing is popular, delicious but doesn’t fit in the category of gastronomy which makes its study deeply interesting. It became so important in the U.S society through the ages that it even inspired the old world in the quest of cooking meat to perfection.

Two cooking techniques form the art of barbecuing: grilling and smoking, a true barbecue connoisseur knows that the word barbecue is meant for cooking on indirect heat, nevertheless both qualify actions of preparing meat. Grilling is cooking on direct heat,


“BBQ Smoker Trailer” – 2007 (Steve Sparks)

that means charcoal or wood burn under the food and produce enough heat to grill it, for instance in Texas mesquite wood is used. Smoking relies on indirect heat – a separate combustion chamber produces hot smokes through wood burning, in Texas mainly oak is used for this technique. Authentic barbecuing comes from the type of wood that is used and this creates differences in the U.S.A itself, every State has its particularities but all take it very seriously.

Barbecuing has something special for it is iconic of a whole culture, the American culture, and like any other icon of the U.S it has influenced foreigners who tried to bring it to their country. Both France and the U.S.A know how to barbecue a piece of meat, therefore one could be tempted to say that it is fundamentally the same process that people like to use for outside cooking and special events. Reality is actually much more exciting in the U.S.A than in France. We can easily pick examples of French barbecuing that is actually directly inspired by the American cooking style, like the famous restaurants “Buffalo Grill” or “The Steakhouse” of Disneyland Paris’ Disney Village.

Still East of the Atlantic Ocean we cannot experience the typical American Barbecuing cooking as it goes beyond the action of cooking food. Why can we only find this particular way of cooking, sharing and living in the U.S.A? Part of the answer can be found in the U.S history, in their struggle this country had to face to feed its people. The act of barbecuing originally comes from natives American but was much appreciated during the 18th and the 19th century when the German, the French and the British cooking merged with what existed already. The reason to prepare meat in smokers was simple: preserve the meat to be prepared for food shortages. The German brought in Texas the smoking process for pork which was very much appreciated during harsh times, the British brought apple juice to moisturize meat. And we could go on and on searching for every element American BBQs assimilated but the diversity barbecuing has been elaborated around is certainly  significant enough to say that it is unique and truly iconic of the U.S identity.


“Smoking and drying fish and meat” – NARA 1939 (National Archives and Records Administration)


However it is interesting to think about the reasons of the success of American BBQs. And before looking at American BBQs, it is quite remarkable to see why French BBQs businesses imitating the U.S are often mediocre in quality. Indeed several issues can be noted when American way of life tries to be exported, either meat or service is bad. Could it be because of the French meat? Could it be the waiters who are too rigid? American people like to keep barbecue cooking simple and packed with flavor. We can easily pick examples of restaurants in the U.S to illustrate the differences with France, these restaurants are hugely popular. See how many BBQs specialized shops and restaurants which exist in America and look how appreciated they are, from the neighbors’ level to the state and national scale. Here lies the difference, the complete opposite of the French barbecuing restaurant industry, it is local but famous, simple but good, people wait for hours to taste smoked meat and at the end the icon of barbecues remains the U.S.

1886, in the New York Harbor, workers are building the Statue of Liberty. At about 800 miles away, another great American symbol was about to be born…

The pharmacist John Pemberton, an ex civil war officer was wounded during the war and like many other he became addicted to the morphine used to relieve pain. His curiosity to find an alternative led him to experimenting with coca and formulate by trial and error the well known beverage “Coca-Cola”. Continue Reading »

Michelle Obama

In our American Icons class, we were assigned to pick an icon from a particular category, and I was designated with politics. I decided to leave it up to my French counterpart, Lucie, to pick an American political icon that was most relevant overseas. Of course, the first thing I said was “Please not Trump. He’s not a politician, he’s an entertainer.” To my surprise she didn’t pick, Trump, Obama, Cruz, Hillary, Bernie or any current political candidate. She picked Michelle Obama. It is interesting to learn that her influence isn’t primarily domestic, but translates worldwide.

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born in DeYoung, Illinois on January 17, 1964. DeYoung is now Calumet Park, and is a town right outside of Chicago. Her parents, Fraser Robinson and Marian Robinson, ran an extremely tight knit family. Her father was a city pump operator for Chicago and also a Democratic Precinct captain. Her mother was a homemaker for the most part, raising her and her brother, Craig.

Michelle attended Princeton University and graduated Cum Laude with her bachelors in Sociology. She went on to go to Harvard Law School where she was an activist for more minority involvement in collegiate systems. Out of college she landed a job with Sidley Austin, a law firm in Chicago. In 1989, she was assigned to be an adviser to a new intern, who just happened to be the future 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. She resisted his romantic advances at first, citing their professional relationship, but eventually relented. She was married two years after meeting Barack, on October 3, 1992.

One of the most interesting things about researching Michelle was reading her impressive resume. Her accolades explain her worldwide influence and her strength as FLOTUS.

Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development in Chicago (1991)

Executive Director of the Office of Public Allies in Chicago (1993)

Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago (1996)

University of Chicago’s Executive Director of Community Development and External affairs (2002)

Vice President of Community External Affairs for the University of Chicago’s Medical Center (2005)

She scaled back her personal work in 2007 to help with her husband’s campaign for president, but was far from dormant. She blazed the campaign trail and garnered national attention when thrust into the spotlight. Her most famous speech came in 2012 when Barack was up against Mitt Romney in the presidential primaries. “Every day, the people I meet inspire me, every day they make me proud, every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth. Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege”

As First Lady early on, she has concentrated on many different subjects such as encouraging national service, helping women balance a career and family, and support for military families. She also stressed the importance of education throughout her years as FLOTUS.

Her most well known work as First Lady has been her fight on the food industry and working for health causes. She demanded organic ingredients be used in meals made for guests of the White House as well as members of her family. She installed a 1,100 square foot garden on the White House lawn equipped with fresh vegetables and installed beehives throughout.Her exercise initiative “Let’s Move”, encourages kids and young adults to try new sports and get out and be active. She made a statement on Let’s Move in 2012, saying “This year, 1.7 million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities—many of them for the very first time. And that is so important, because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson, or clinic, or class to get a child excited about a new sport.”

I was very pleasantly surprise to learn about Michelle Obama’s popularity around the world. It is refreshing to know that not only domestically but in places such as France, Michelle Obama’s outreach is felt. She is known as the strong willed First Lady who is no nonsense on the food industry and fights for women’s rights in the workplace and is a strong, positive American Icon that I am proud to report on. She will be a tough act to follow in 2017.






As far as political symbolism goes, it doesn’t get much more iconic than the symbols for the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. The donkey for the republicans and the elephant for the republicans have grown synonymous with the parties themselves. Cartoonist Thomas Nast created the symbols in the 1870’s. To get a better idea of how the symbols came to be, we first need to get a better sense of who Thomas Nast was. Nast was born in Germany and migrated to New York at the age of 6 and quickly began showing strong artistic qualities. He would later go on to work for Harper’s Weekly in 1862, where he incorporated his political knowledge into his artwork. Nast rose to fame by utilizing cartoons to better depict the horrors of the civil war and also helping take down a group of corrupt politicians known as Boss Tweed Ring. Nast’s influence would also lead to the creation of two of America’s most iconic political symbols.

We begin with the donkey or jackass that symbolizes the Democratic Party. In fact the first donkey in a political cartoon was used way before Nast was born in 1837. The opponents of Andrew Jackson used it; they twisted the letters of his last name to make the word jackass. To fully understand how these animals came to become political symbols we need to understand the political climate of Nast’s time. There was a group of Northern Democrats known as the Copperhead Democrats and this group strongly opposed the Civil War from the very beginning. Nast despised this group of democrats and thought of them as anti-union racists. In Nast’s first cartoon he shows a donkey kicking a dead lion. The donkey was branded with the name Copperhead Press, while the lion was branded with the name of Abraham Lincoln’s recently deceased secretary of war, Edward M. Stanton. The cartoon was used to show the Democratic press’ anti-war efforts. The donkey would appear again in 1874 while Ulysses S. Grant was the president. Grant was thought be gearing up to run for a third time and the democrats were comparing him to Julius Caesar and regarding him as a dictator. Nast didn’t agree with these accusations and in his 1874 cartoon titled “Third Term Panic” he depicts a donkey in lions skin labeled Caesarism. The donkey in the cartoon was riling up the other animals and this was used to depict the Democratic fear mongering that was happening during this time. This was also the first time the elephant was used in one of Nast’s cartoons. Even though Nast was only singled out a select few of the Democratic Party, the donkey symbol just stuck and remains to this day.

The origin story behind the elephant becoming the Republican Party begins in 1864 in a piece of literature attached to the Lincoln campaign and again used in 1872 by Harper’s Weekly. As previously stated, the first time Nast introduced the elephant in his 1874 cartoon “Third Term Panic”. The elephant was among the animals that the donkey in lions skin was scaring. Nast’s feelings for the elephant contrasted his feelings for the donkey; because the elephant represented the Republicans, which was the party that he adored since arriving in New York City as boy. Nast would later grow frustrated with the Republican Party, because he believed they were drifting away from social liberalism. Nast first depiction of the Republican Party as a whole came in 1877 and it featured a defeated elephant crouching at a Democratic Party tombstone. This came right after a controversial presidential election, the defeated elephant represented Nast’s belief that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes’ victory despite losing the popular vote was a bitter, damaging victory. Unlike the democratic party, the Republican party actually would later go on to adopt the elephant as their official party mascot.

Although Nast first introduced the animals as political symbols it is unsure why they’ve remained so popular to this day. Now anyone who knows even a little bit about American politics knows that the donkey represents Democrats and the elephant represents the Republicans. These symbols are used even more heavily in the 21st century via all forms of media. Especially now during this current presidential race, you can see the elephant and donkey at any political rally in the form of posters, flyers, pins, etc… The symbols have grown to such prominence that even overseas the symbols can be identified, albeit they’re not as popular as in the United State; they’re still common knowledge of American politics.







-Daniel Bruder