Road Trip Roundup: Mattie, Ellery & Theda

There weren’t many names to be seen/heard among the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone.


But I did spot something interesting while flipping though a book at the gift shop near Old Faithful.

The book mentioned the grave of Mattie Culver (1856-1889). It’s one of the few graves located inside the park.

Mattie Culver grave

Mattie, born Martha Jane Shipley, was the tubercular wife of Ellery Channing Culver, the winter caretaker of the Firehole Hotel for the 1888-1889 season. Ellery had hoped the mountain air might improve Mattie’s condition but, unfortunately, it did not. Mattie passed away on March 2, 1889.

What really interested me was the name of their baby girl, Theda (b. 1887). When I saw it, I wondered: was she one of the many Thedas named for silent film star Theda Bara?

Nope, not even close.

Theodosia Goodman, later Theda Bara, was virtually the same age as Theda Culver.

Bara was born in 1885, and didn’t start appearing in films until 1914. The height of her popularity — and, hence, the popularity of her name — came in the late 1910s:

  • 1913: 17 baby girls named Theda
  • 1914: 33 baby girls named Theda
  • 1915: 124 baby girls named Theda
  • 1916: 315 baby girls named Theda
  • 1917: 334 baby girls named Theda
  • 1918: 354 baby girls named Theda
  • 1919: 356 baby girls named Theda
  • 1920: 290 baby girls named Theda
  • 1921: 293 baby girls named Theda
  • 1922: 202 baby girls named Theda

Nowadays, very few babies are named Theda.

Do you think the name will ever make a comeback?

[What’s this road trip all about?]

8 thoughts on “Road Trip Roundup: Mattie, Ellery & Theda

  1. I see Ellery on a girl becoming more popular. As for Theda, I don’t know. Maybe if more people become familiar with the name. I don’t think a lot of modern parents are familiar with the silent film star.

  2. I’m one of the Theda’s.. I wouldn’t burden anyone with that name.. Hard to pronounce.. I use my nickname.. Teddy.. It’s easier.. I wasn’t born in 1887

  3. Hi,
    Mattie and Ellery named their daugher Theda after Ellery’s oldest sister and his grandmother. That name was Theodosia. Theda is the diminutive of Theodosia.

    Nan Weber

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