On November 30, 1956, Floyd Patterson won the World Heavyweight boxing championship by defeating Archie Moore in Chicago.
Earlier the same day, Patterson’s wife Sandra gave birth to a baby girl named Seneca Elizabeth in New York.
Two days later, both fighters appeared on the Sunday night Steve Allen Show, and they talked about the baby’s name:
“How did you decide on Seneca?” asked the TV star.
“I was walking down Seneca street in Brooklyn one day while trying to think of a good name,” Patterson replied.
“Well,” laughed Allen, “It’s a good thing you weren’t on Flatbush Avenue!”
The same year, Seneca — typically thought of as a male name, thanks to the Roman philosopher — debuted on the U.S. baby name list as a female name:
- 1959: 8 baby girls named Seneca
- 1958: 5 baby girls named Seneca
- 1957: 25 baby girls named Seneca
- 1956: 10 baby girls named Seneca [debut]
- 1955: unlisted
This wasn’t the very first celebrity baby name to debut on the charts, but it’s an early one.
The Roman cognomen Seneca was derived from the Latin word senectus, meaning “old.” That said, the street could have been named after the Seneca people; the word Seneca in this case means “place of stone.”
Source: “Calls Baby ‘Seneca’.” Baltimore Afro-American 4 Dec. 1956: 1.