Norwegian Americans are Americans of Norwegian descent. Many of them are born in the United States to Norwegian lineage. There were about 4,5 million people of Norwegian ancestry in the US in 2013, estimatedly [◦2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates].
Most Norwegian Americans live in the Upper Midwest and along the West Coast. That some get lots of fame has more to do with career choices than most other factors, methinks.
It should be made clear that the listing below is a sample of men and women who have got a name somehow. There are many times more among the famous ones, and over 4 million others who managed to escape a "fame trap", which does not have to be a death trap, luckily . . . Compare Tao The Ching's ancient message: "Of the best the people hardly ever know they exist; the next best they flock to and praise." (Ch 17. See also ch 15 and 68) You may read more of them in the Wikipedia.
First Sample of "Next Best Norwegian Americans", if you believe Lao Tzu:
Waldemar Ager (1869-1941) - Author of novels and short stories, a newspaper editor and lecturer.
Christian Anfinsen (1916-95) - Chemist 1972 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
James Arness (1923-2011) - Actor For 20 years, he starred on television's "Gunsmoke" as Marshal Matt Dillon. The family name of James Arness and his brother Peter Graves is Aurness (from Sykkylven in West Norway).
Bernt Balchen (1899-1973) - Aviator/Explorer Born in Norway, the first pilot to fly over both the north and south poles.
Jakob Bjerknes (1897-1975) - Meteorologist Born in Norway, pioneer in weather forecasting, and the one who coined the terms "warm front" and "cold front." Professor at UCLA. He was the son of Vilhelm Bjerknes, a physicist and meteorologist who did much to find the modern practice of weather forecasting.
Robert Bly (1926 - ) - Poet, Author .
Norman Borlaug (1914 - ) - Agronomist Known as the "father of the Green Revolution" through development of a hardy, high-yield strain of wheat, resulting in the feeding of millions. The 1970 Nobel Peace Prize.
James Cagney (1899-1986) - Actor Once one of Hollywood's top luminaries. His mother was Carolyn Nelson, daughter of a Norwegian river barge captain.
Peter Graves (1926 - ) - Actor Best known for his role as Jim Phelps on "Mission Impossible," he was born Peter Graves Aurness. He starred in the 1950s in the family television series, "Fury," and most recently as host of A&E's "Biography." His father was Rolf Aurness, a Norwegian.
Matt Groening (1954- ) - Cartoonist, screenwriter, producer Best known for creating the Simpsons, which has aired over 400 episodes in 20 seasons. Groening has won 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, ten for The Simpsons and one for Futurama. His mother, Margaret, is "Norwegian", and her maiden name is Wiggum. But the real-life Margaret does not resemble the yellow, bobble-eyed cartoon character. Groening's German father had the name Homer, and also had a full head of hair. Not once did he ever say 'D'oh', but he loved doughnuts and adored his Margaret. [www.nrk.no/nyheter/1.3033515]
Einar Ingvald Haugen (1906-94) - A great American linguist and Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard University. He pioneered sociolinguistics and was a leading scholar in Norwegian-American studies, including Old Norse studies. He also wrote Norwegian American Dictionary / Norsk engelsk ordbok, which I often use.
Conrad Hilton (1887-1979) - Hotel Owner Starting out with a single hotel in a small town in Texas, he developed the worldwide Hilton Hotel chain. His father Augustus Halvorson Hilton emigrated from Norway. He is the great-grandfather of Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton.
Hubert H. Humphrey (1911-78) - 38th Vice President of the United States HHH served as vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson and was the Democratic Party's 1968 presidential nominee.
Jonas Lie (1880-1940) - a Norwegian-born American painter, known for colourful paintings of coastlines of New England and city scenes of New York City. The painter was named after the famous Norwegian author Jonas Lie. Between 1901 and the memorial exhibition in 1940 his work was shown all over America. In 1932, Jonas Lie was awarded the Knight of Order of St. Olav by the King of Norway. Jonas Lie often depicted the sea, and became known for colourful impressionistic scenes of harbors and coves, painted during the many summers he spent on the coasts of New England and Canada. Paintings of Jonas Lie are on exhibit at art museums throughout the United States.
Robert Mitchum (1917-97) - The film actor, author, composer and singer was born to James Thomas Mitchum and Ann Harriet Gunderson, a Norwegian immigrant and sea captain's daughter. Mitchum is regarded by critics as one of the finest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but he did not put himself up high: In an interview with Barry Norman for the BBC about his contribution to cinema, Mitchum stopped Norman in mid flow and in his phlegmatic style said, "Look! I have two kinds of acting. One on a horse and one off a horse. That's it." He had humour too!
Marilyn Monroe (1926-62) - The actress became known as a sex symbol. In 1999 she was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.
John A. ("Snowshoes") Thompson (1827-76) - Mail Carrier Every winter from 1856 to 1876 he made 90-mile treks through the snow, on ski-skates, carrying mail between Placerville, Calif. and Mormon Station, Utah. Thompson, who was born in Norway, is described as the "Viking of the Sierra."
Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) - Economist, Social Commentator The son of Norwegian immigrants, he taught at Stanford and other universities. He authored the book The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he coined the term "conspicuous consumption."
Earl Warren (1891-1974) - Politician, Jurist Imbued with the ambition of becoming president of the United States, he wound up heading a different branch of government, serving as chief justice from 1953-69. Prior to that, he was governor of California, and was the 1948 Republican nominee for vice president.
Renée Zellwegger (1967-) - actress and producer, one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses. Her mother, mother, Kjellfried Irene (née Andreassen), is Norwegian-born.
Some More in the Public Eye