A Whole Bunch of Hobarts

Garret A. Hobart

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:

Year# Hobarts, SSA# Hoberts, SSA
189842 (rank: 281st)42 (rank: 282nd)
1897105 (rank: 148th)60 (rank: 216th)
1896135 (rank: 128th)47 (rank: 263rd)
189516 (rank: 515th)8 (rank: 829th)
18947 (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:

Year# Hobarts, SSDI# Hoberts, SSDI
1898229141
1897514243
1896770263
18958443
18944010

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?

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