England’s canal era (from the 1760s to the 1830s) was kicked off by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater*, who’d commissioned the construction of the Bridgewater Canal (1761) from his coal mines in Worsley to the city of Manchester.
The most notable feature of his canal was the stone aqueduct across the River Irwell at Barton-upon-Irwell. It was the first navigable aqueduct in England, and it allowed the horse-towed canal boats to cross the river at an elevation of nearly 40 feet. (This engineering feat even attracted tourists, who came to marvel at the boats on the aqueduct floating over the boats on the river.)
My favorite part of this story? The name of the canal, Bridgewater, just happens to mirror the description of canal’s most notable feature, the water bridge, which itself happens to bridge water. What fun coincidences. :)
*The dukedom took its name from the town of Bridgwater in Somerset. The settlement was originally called Brigge/Brugge/Brigga — “bridge.” After the Norman Invasion, the land on which the settlement stood was given to Norman knight Walter of Douai, so the settlement became known as Brugge-Walter/Brigge-Walter — “Walter’s bridge.” This later evolved into Bridgwater.
In 1896, people were thinking politics. We can see it in the baby names that saw the biggest relative increases in usage from 1895 to 1896: Hobart (744%), Hobert (488%), Bryan (481%), Jennings (344%), Bryant (271%), and Mckinley (256%).
I think most of us will recognize William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan as two of the influences here. But where did “Hobart” and “Hobert” come from?
Before I get to the answer, here’s some data on the usage of Hobart and Hobert for baby boys in America during the 1890s:
# Hobarts, SSA
# Hoberts, SSA
42 (rank: 281st)
42 (rank: 282nd)
105 (rank: 148th)
60 (rank: 216th)
135 (rank: 128th)
47 (rank: 263rd)
16 (rank: 515th)
8 (rank: 829th)
7 (rank: 907th)
5 (not in top 1,000)
And here’s some (more reliable) data from the Social Security Death Index showing the same overall trend:
# Hobarts, SSDI
# Hoberts, SSDI
So where did Hobart (and Hobert) come from?
Garret Hobart, the corporate lawyer who became the Republican nominee for vice president in June of 1896. He and running mate McKinley were strong advocates of the Gold Standard, whereas Bryan was as supporter of Free Silver.
McKinley and Hobart won the election and were sworn into their respective offices in March of 1897. Unlike most vice presidents up to that point, Hobart “enjoyed an unusually close relationship with the president and was often consulted on major policy issues.”
But his term was cut short. He became ill in early 1899, his health declined as the year wore on, and he died of heart disease in November at age 55.
During his last summer, though, he and his wife Jennie had some fun with names while staying at their seaside New Jersey home, which featured an outdoor fountain:
This fountain we stocked with gold fish that grew so tame they followed us as we walked round it. One fish, with a huge gold spot on his back, we named McKinley; one with a big silver mark we named Bryan. The most gorgeous one of all whose coat, shot with crimson, white and gold looked like a uniform, we named General Miles.
What are your thoughts on Hobart as a first name? Is it usable these days?
Right at the start of the Cold War, the curiously Russian-sounding name Miroslava debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:
1957: 10 baby girls named Miroslava (7 in Texas)
1956: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
1955: 16 baby girls named Miroslava (8 in Texas, 6 in New York)
1953: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
1952: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
1951: 5 baby girls named Miroslava [debut]
Where did it come from?
Czechoslovakian-born Mexican actress Miroslava Šternová, who gave Hollywood a shot in the early 1950s.
She was born in Prague in 1925. When the Germans overtook Czechoslovakia in 1939, her family (which was Jewish) fled. By 1941, they had resettled in Mexico.
Miroslava, billed mononymously, began appearing in Mexican films in the mid-1940s. She was introduced to American audiences in the matador movie The Brave Bulls (1951). Long before the movie came out, Miroslava appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in July of 1950.
But her Hollywood career didn’t take off, perhaps due in part to her heavy accent. Her one other U.S. film was Stranger on Horseback, which was released in March of 1955 — a few weeks after Miroslava committed suicide at the age of 29.
The name Miroslava, used in various Slavic countries (including Russia), is made up of elements meaning “peace” and “glory.”
(Another Slavic feminine name that debuted on the U.S. charts during the Cold War? Svetlana, inspired by the daughter of Josef Stalin…)