The Transcontinental Air Race of 1919 began began 100 years ago today, on October 8, 1919. It was the longest airplane race ever attempted (up to that point) and was followed closely by the public via the newspapers.
It even ended up having an influence on baby names: the boy name that saw the steepest rise in usage in 1919, Belvin, was the name of the winning pilot.
1921 – 13 baby boys named Belvin
1920 – 10 baby boys named Belvin
5 in N.C. specifically
1919 – 23 baby boys named Belvin [peak]
6 in N.C. specifically
1918 – 5 baby boys named Belvin
1917 – 5 baby boys named Belvin
Belvin Womble Maynard was born in North Carolina in 1892. He’d gone to school to become a Baptist minister in the early 1910s, but ended up discovering an aptitude for piloting airplanes while stationed in France during WWI.
Not long after returning to the U.S. in the summer of 1919, Maynard entered and won an air race from Long Island, New York, to Toronto, Canada.
Following that success, the “flying parson” (as he’d been dubbed by the press) entered an even more ambitious air race: the Army Air Service’s “Transcontinental Reliability and Endurance Test.” It required that entrants cross the nation not once, but twice.
Sixty-three planes entered. Most of them (48) started in New York and headed west, while the rest (15) started in San Francisco and headed east.
Maynard, his mechanic, and his dog (Trixie) took off from New York at the start of the contest. They were the first to reach California, on October 11.
They stayed until the 15th, then headed back toward the East Coast. On the return trip their engine failed, which could have cost them the race…but they cleverly replaced it with the engine of a wrecked plane nearby (that had been participating in the very same race). They made it back to New York on October 18 and were declared the winners.
(As for the other entrants, only about half of them completed the race. In total there were 54 accidents and seven deaths.)
For a time, Belvin Maynard was a national hero. The first commercial airfield in North Carolina, which opened in December of 1919, was named “Maynard Field” in his honor.
But sadly, in mid-1922, several weeks before his 30th birthday, Belvin was killed when his plane crashed during an air show in Vermont.
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…