The Most Wanted list debuted in newspapers on March 14, 1950 before rapidly spreading to radio and TV. Since its inception, it has directly led to 160 arrests and, most importantly, immeasurably stoked the ego of one J. Edgar Hoover. That was, after all, the original point of the list. It was all a brazen headline grab.
Nebraska Senator George Norris once called Hoover "the greatest hound for publicity on the American continent." The FBI director's obsession with fame began in 1933, with the Kansas City massacre and the public's odd love affair with chief suspect Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd. Hoover became furious over the attention being garnered by the crime (not to mention Floyd's prettiness), famously seething, "If there is going to be publicity, let it be on the side of law and order."
He f*****g meant it. What followed was a series of boy's clubs, movies, books, radio dramas, and comics, all carefully coordinated by Hoover to elevate the coolness of the G-man well above that of the gangster in the mind of Average Joe. And so it follows that when Bill Hutchinson of the International News Service came sniffing for a listicle of the "toughest guys" the FBI was prepared to duke it out with, Hoover saw the opportunity to create a viral sensation.