The Baby Name “Topper”

topper, tv, 1950s
Cosmo Topper (right) w/ his ghost friends
The baby name Topper popped up in the U.S. data for the first and only time in 1954:

  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Topper [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The two-season TV show Topper, which aired on CBS from October of 1953 to mid-1955. Though it isn’t well remembered today, Topper was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Situation Comedy in 1954 (it lost to I Love Lucy) and ranked the 24th in the Nielsen ratings during the 1954-55 season.

But the tale of Topper actually began three decades earlier, in the form of a book. The comic fantasy Topper (1926) was written by Thorne Smith, who the New York Times called “one of America’s most significant humor writers.”

The title character, Cosmo Topper, is a “law-abiding, mild-mannered bank manager [who] decides to buy a secondhand car, only to find it haunted by the ghosts of its previous owners–the reckless, feckless, frivolous couple who met their untimely demise when the car careened into an oak tree.” The mischievous ghosts, named George and Marion, proceed to take Topper on series of adventures.

Smith followed the first book with a sequel, Topper Takes a Trip (1932).

His two books were eventually turned into three films: Topper (1937), Topper Takes a Trip (1938), and Topper Returns (1941). The first movie starred Cary Grant (as a ghost, not as Topper) and it later became the very first black-and-white motion picture to be digitally colorized (by Hal Roach Studios, in 1985).

There was also short-lived radio sitcom called The Adventures of Topper that aired in 1945, from June to September. In the radio show, Topper’s wife is named Malvena — I’ll bet this is what accounts for Malvena jumping back onto the charts one final time in 1946.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Topper? (Do you like it more or less than Tinker?)

P.S. Hopalong Cassidy (played by actor William Boyd from the 1930s to the 1950s) rode a horse called Topper, likely named after the book character.

Sources: Thorne Smith Profile – TCM, Topper by Thorne Smith — Goodreads, Hopalong Cassidy – The Old Corral


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