Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Esther in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Esther and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Esther.
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1,633 babies were babies were born in Providence in 1866, by my count. (The number given by the author of the document is 1,632.)
1,457 of these babies (707 girls and 750 boys) had names that were registered with the government at the time of publication. The other 176 babies got blank spaces.
234 unique names (123 girl names and 108 boy names) were shared among these 1,457 babies.
And here’s some extra information I forgot to mention in the last post: In 1860, the city of Providence was home to 29.0% of Rhode Island’s population. In 1870, it was home to 31.7% of the population. So each of these 3 sets of rankings (1866, 1867, 1868) ought to account for roughly 30% of the residents of the state.
Now, on to the names…
The top 5 girl names and boy names of 1866 were, unsurprisingly, very similar to the top names of 1867.
Top Baby Girl Names
Top Baby Boy Names
The girls’ top 5 is identical, while the boys’ top 5 includes Thomas instead of George.
As expected, Mary was the front-runner by a huge margin. And, while there were dozens of Catherines, and a single Catharine, there weren’t any Katherines.
Mary, 149 baby girls
Anna & Eliza, 14 each (2-way tie)
Carrie, Emma, Jane & Susan, 10 each (4-way tie)
Grace & Ida, 9 each (2-way tie)
Esther, Martha & Minnie, 7 each (3-way tie)
Anne & Julia, 6 each (2-way tie)
Agnes, Charlotte, Cora, Harriet, Jennie, Joanna, Maria & Rosanna, 5 each (8-way tie)
The registrar of Providence, Rhode Island, published a series of documents listing all “of the names of persons deceased, born and married in the city of Providence” during years 1866, 1867 and 1868. The series may have been longer, but these are the only documents I could find online.
I’ve finally finished creating a set of rankings using one of the documents — 1867. But before we get to the rankings, here are some stats:
1,547 babies were born in Providence in 1867, going by the number of babies listed in the document itself. According to the document’s introduction, though, the number is 1,625. Not sure what to make of this discrepancy.
1,431 of these babies (713 girls and 718 boys) had names that were registered with the government at the time of publication. The other 116 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps they died young and never received a name.
254 unique names (141 girl names and 113 boy names) were shared among these 1,431 babies.
And now, on to the names…
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1867:
Top Baby Girl Names
Top Baby Boy Names
Notice how the #1 name, Mary, was bestowed three times as often as the #2 name, Catherine.
Twenty-one sets of twins and two sets of triplets were born in Providence in 1867. (All of these names were accounted for above — I just thought it’d be fun to check out the sibsets.)
Abraham & George
Charles & George
Charles & John
Daniel & David
Dunlap & Frank
Eugene & Timothy
George & John
George & William
James & John
John & Martin
Albert & Harriet
Ashel & Ida
George & Grace
James & Mary
Maurice & Ann
Annie & Fannie
Annie & Mary
Ann & Ellen
Jennie & Minnie
Margaret & Martha
(blank) & (blank)
Carl, (blank) & (blank)
James, Alexander & Sarah
I’ll post Providence’s 1866 and 1868 rankings as soon I get them done. Until then, here are two older posts featuring uniquely named Rhode Islanders: Aldaberontophoscophornia (b. 1812) and Idawalley (b. 1842).
Women’s History Month is almost over, so let me squeeze in a post about Fifinella, a rare-but-real name with ties not only to the pioneering female aviators of WWII, but also to Walt Disney, Roald Dahl, Tchaikovsky, and a champion British racehorse.
Fifinella began as a children’s Christmas play. It was co-written by Englishmen Barry Jackson and Basil Dean, with music by Norman Hayes. Fifinella was first performed at the Liverpool Repertory Theatre in December of 1912.
The play — sometimes called “Fluffy Nellie” — “included 14 scenes and a harlequinade.” It was also adapted into the book Fifinella, a fairy frolic (1912) by Basil Dean’s then-wife Esther Van Gruisen.
The next year, an English thoroughbred horse was born to dam Silver Fowl and sire Polymelus. The chestnut filly, owned by newspaper proprietor Sir Edward Hulton, was named Fifinella.
Fifinella went on become the last horse to win both the Derby and the Oaks in a single year, 1916.
That’s the same year English author and former Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot Roald Dahl was born — reason enough, apparently, for him to want to use Fifinella in his very first children’s book The Gremlins (1943), “a story drawing on RAF folklore which held that little creatures were responsible for the various mechanical failures on aeroplanes.”
The gremilns are convinced by a pilot named Gus to make peace with the RAF and join forces with the British to combat a more sinister villain; Hitler and the Nazis. The gremlins are then re-trained by the RAF to repair British aircraft instead of destroy them.
In the book, “fifinella” isn’t a name but a noun referring to a female gremlin. (Baby gremlins are called “widgets.”)
The book was put out by Walt Disney Productions and Random House. Walt Disney had wanted to make the book into a movie, but the movie never happened.
The gremlins “did live on in the form of military insignias,” though.
Walt Disney himself granted at least 30 military units permission to use gremlins as mascots/insignias during WWII, and even “assigned several artists to create these one-of-a-kind designs on a full-time basis.”
Units with gremlin mascots included the 17th Weather Squadron of San Francisco, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School, and the Royal Canadian Air Force ‘Sky Sweepers.’
But the most famous gremlin mascot, Fifinella, belonged to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), an paramilitary unit of 1,000+ women who flew non-combat flights in order to free male pilots for combat service.
(She had been an unofficial mascot of the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), which in August of 1943 merged with another group of female pilots to become the WASPs, even before permission was granted.)
The WASPs put Fifinella’s image on everything from patches to letterheads to matchbook covers. The Fifinella mascot even made an appearance in a mid-1943 LIFE article about the WASPs.
After the WASPs were disbanded in late 1944, ex-WASPs created the Order of Fifinella, an group that was both social (e.g., organizing reunions) and political (e.g., working to gain recognition as veterans).
Finally, one last Fifinella reference: In late 1945, Austrian tenor Richard Tauber recorded an English version of “Pimpinella – Florentine Song” (1878) by Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. One of the many lyrical changes he made was replacing the name Pimpinella with the name Fifinella. (Here’s Richard Tauber singing Fifinella.)
So the name Fifinella has been around for at least a century. It’s been associated with theater, literature, sport, war, feminism and music. Has it ever been used as the name of a human being?
Yes, but rarely. I’ve only found a handful of Fifinellas, and all of them were born outside the United States:
Fifinella Downes (later Clarke), Australia
Fifinella “Fif” Beatrice Evans, d. 2007, England
Fifinella Flavell, b. 1923, England
Fifinella Hill (later Gratwick), Australia
Fifinella Lewis, b. 1914, Ireland
Fifinella Mallard (later Newson), 1901-1969, England
Fifinella Charlotte Agatha Nelson, d. 1947, Australia
Fifinella Patricia Russell (later Ceret), b. 1927, Ireland
Fifinella Silcox (later Mccluskey), b. 1948, England
So it’s definitely an unusual name. It’s also quite whimsical, and it has a ton of nickname potential (Fifi, Fina, Nell, Nella, Nellie). Do you like it? Would you ever consider using Fifinella as a baby name?
Willis and Esther Scott of Beloit, Wisconsin, welcomed twins (one boy, one girl) on the evening of September 24, 1935 — the day heavyweight boxer Joe Louis both got married to his girlfriend Marva Trotter and defeated fellow heavyweight Max Baer at Yankee Stadium.
What did they name the twins? Joseph Louis and Josephine Marva, of course.
And they weren’t the only ones to opt for Marva that year. Usage of the girl name rose significantly following the marriage:
1937: 343 baby girls named Marva (ranked 342nd)
1936: 350 baby girls named Marva (ranked 334th)
1935: 187 baby girls named Marva (ranked 466th)
1934: 74 baby girls named Marva (ranked 785th)
1933: 60 baby girls named Marva (ranked 873rd)
Source: “Wisconsin Twins Named After Joe Louis and Bride.” Afro-American 5 Oct. 1935: 1.