History's 11 Most Important Lists

Image credit: 

Good morning! It's the 11th of the month, which means we've got lots of '11 lists' for your reading enjoyment. We'll post one list every hour starting at 9:11am until we get tired. It's going to be a good day.

If there's one thing we at mental_floss know, it's this: people love lists! Even fancy pants NPR psychologists and professors say so, which means it has to be true. The list-love isn't a recent phenomenon: mankind has been using lists for ages, just look at the influence of the 10 Commandments throughout history.

With this in mind, we set out to create what should logically be the most irresistible list of all, history's 10 most important lists. All together now... "Lists! Lists! Lists!"

1. Santa's List

If you're anything like me, before your loud-mouth friend Sam ruined everything in the 2nd grade, this was by far the most important list of your life. Its significance also extends past children hoping for a new toy (that will doubtlessly be disregarded within a week) to the parents who can use it as a tool for manipulating their child year-round.

2. Benjamin Franklin's List of 13 Virtues

At the mere age of 20, Benjamin Franklin was busy creating his list of the 13 virtues for developing good character. You can read the whole list here, but basically they all boil down to: Look at Brett Ratner and do everything exactly the opposite.

3. Schindler's List

This list of Jews employed by Oscar Schindler during the Second World War allowed them exemption from the concentration camps. Schindler's wife once said in an interview that he "did nothing remarkable before [World War II] and nothing after it." I guess if you saved the lives of an estimated 1,200 people by endangering yourself and spending your entire savings bribing Nazi officers, you can rest pretty comfortably on your laurels.

4. Jousting Lists

In the Middle Ages, jousting matches featured two people with pointy sticks (lances) charging at each other on horseback. The "list" was the roped off area where the battle would take place. The "sport" was often used to settle disagreements or simply serve as entertainment for what would have been the WWF fanatics of the time.

5. Craigslist

Probably the most versatile list out there, Craigslist is the place to go whether you are looking for a new coffee table, a job, or things we're not allowed to talk about on a site like ours.

6. The Hollywood Blacklist

This group of actors, screenwriters, and directors were forced into unemployment by the House Un-American Activities Committee for allegedly sympathizing with the American Communist Party. The list was ever growing between 1947 and 1957. Today it still serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of McCarthyism.

7. Friedrich List

The 19th-century German economist's ideas had a large impact in the forming of the European Union. His economic principles are far too nuanced to explain here but, since he's already dead, let's just go ahead and blame our whole global economic crisis on him.

8. The A-List

Entertainment journalist James Ulme coined this term for bankable movie stars, developing a 100 point "Hot List" to quantify a star's value to a film. According to his 2009/10 list, Ulmar claims that Nicholas Cage is the 8th most valuable actor. Since then, Cage has made Season of the Witch (budget: $40 million / domestic gross: $25 million), Drive Angry (budget: $50 million / domestic gross: $11 million), and The Sorcerer's Apprentice (budget: $150 million / domestic gross: $63 million), so clearly the accuracy of this method cannot be refuted!

9. America's Most Wanted Fugitive List

The list publicized by the America's Most Wanted TV show has resulted in the capture of more than 1,000 criminals to date. In 1989, the America's Most Wanted list got extra list-y when an episode resulted in the capture of John List, a New Jersey Sunday school teacher and accountant who murdered his wife, three children, and mother, and had evaded arrest for 18 years. (Of course, we could have gone with the FBI's official version, but we talk about that one all the time.)

10. Listerine

At various points in Listerine's history, it's claimed to cure dandruff, colds and sore throats, and that it's just as effective as flossing.

11. Bucket Lists

Your "bucket list" is a list of things you want to do before you die. Why do I have a feeling that surfing the net for collections of tangentially related factoids organized in "listicle" form isn't on it?

January 10, 2012 - 11:11pm
submit to reddit