The tiki craze of the mid-20th century that I mentioned in yesterday’s post was single-handedly kicked off by Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a.k.a., Donn Beach.
Ernest was a bootlegger as a young man in the 1920s. After Prohibition ended in 1933, he opened a bar/restaurant in Hollywood called Don’s Beachcomber. The establishment became very successful, introducing not just a slew of tiki drinks (e.g., the zombie) but also several food items (e.g., the pu pu platter). So Ernest started referring to himself as “Don the Beachcomber.” Eventually, he not only altered the name of the bar (“Don the Beachcomber”), but also legally renamed himself (“Donn Beach“).
The name Margaux debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1970s:
1978: 33 baby girls named Margaux
1977: 44 baby girls named Margaux
1976: 35 baby girls named Margaux
1975: 18 baby girls named Margaux [debut]
Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, who became famous as a fashion model in the mid-1970s. Notably, she was awarded the first-ever million-dollar modeling contract — from Fabergé. She was the spokesmodel for the company’s popular Babe perfume, launched in 1976.
Margaux was born “Margot,” but later changed the spelling of her name. According to her obituary in the New York Times, “[s]he was said to have changed her name from Margot when she learned that her parents drank Chateau Margaux on the night of her conception.”
Both “Margaux” and “Margot” can be traced back to the name Marguerite, the French form of Margaret (from the Ancient Greek word margarites, meaning “pearl”).
It’s interesting to note that the spelling of the French wine/winery/region has varied over time. One 17th-century map of Château Margaux, for instance, called it “Margaud.” And the wine has been labeled Margou, Margous, Margoo, Margoose, Margoux, etc.
Margaux Hemingway’s younger sister, actress Mariel Hemingway — named after the port town of Mariel in Cuba — starred in the 1979 Woody Allen film Manhattan and was likely the reason the name Mariel saw higher usage in 1980. (News about the Mariel boatlift that year may have been an influence as well, though.)
Which name would you be more likely to use for a baby girl, Margaux or Mariel?
Mary “Polly” Phelps Jacob was born in 1891 in New York to a blue-blooded family that could be traced back, on both sides, to colonial America.
She was an enterprising person, and in her early 20s — fed up with the corset-like undergarments of the era — she invented and patented a “backless brassiere.” (She constructed the first one out of handkerchiefs and pink ribbon.) Today, she’s credited with the invention the modern bra.
With her first marriage in 1915 to Richard Peabody, her name changed to the almost cartoonish Polly Peabody. (One of their two kids, legally named Polleen, also went by Polly.)
But that marriage didn’t last and, following the divorce in 1922, Polly married bon vivant Harry Crosby, with whom she’d been having an open affair. At first she went by Polly Crosby, but Harry declared that Polly needed a better name:
Clytoris, an early suggestion, was sensibly saved for the family’s second whippet (the first was named Narcisse Noir). They told Caresse’s daughter Polleen that she was named after a Greek goddess.
After deciding upon “Caresse,” the wealthy couple moved to Paris and “lived a theatrically mad, bad and Bohemian existence.” With the help of their small publishing house, Black Sun Press, they became close to many Lost Generation artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway.
Harry committed suicide two months after the stock market crash of 1929 (which kicked off the Great Depression). Caresse’s life post-Harry was slightly less colorful, and she used name “Mary Caresse Crosby” slightly more often, but was still primarily known as Caresse.
Just remember that the SSA data doesn’t become very accurate until the mid-to-late 20th century, so many of the numbers below don’t reflect reality all that well.
Same format as usual: Girl names on the left, boy names on the right. Numbers represent single-year decreases in usage. From 1880 to 1881, for instance, usage of the girl name Mary dropped by 146 babies and usage of the boy name William dropped by 1,008 babies.
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and will write about others in the future. In the meanwhile, feel free to beat me to it! Comment below with the backstory on the fall of Shirley in the late ’30s, Linda in the early ’50s, etc.
This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.
The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.
The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.
So let’s turn this into a name game!
First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:
What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
What would you have named him?
Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:
For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)