The Science Citation Index (SCI) was introduced primarily as a method of information retrieval but has also been used an objective measure of the quality of an article. Citation classics have been described as papers that have been cited 100 times or more. The aim of this study was to identify the articles published during the 20th century in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery journals that have achieved classic citation status and to present an analysis of this data. Using a database provided by the Institute of Scientific Information (Philadelphia, PA), an assessment was performed of all articles cited 100 or more times in one of the 28 clinical otolaryngology-head and neck journals indexed by the annual Journal Citation Reports. The data were based on citation counts using the 1900 through 1999 Science Citation Index. Institutions located in 10 different countries produced 80 noteworthy articles. The most-cited paper achieved a citation score of 406 and there were 11 articles cited on more than 200 occasions. All of the articles were published in eight journals. The earliest identified publication was in 1933 and the most recent was published in 1993. Twenty authors were involved in two articles and four authors were associated with three classic citations. This paper confirms that analysing citation classics reveals a partial insight into advances and historical developments in the specialty during the last century.