Canadian writer Mazo de la Roche found fame in her late 40s when her third novel, Jalna, won first prize (and $10,000) in the first “Atlantic Novel Contest” in 1927. The book was serialized in Atlantic Monthly, then released as a standalone volume.
The book’s main characters were members of the prosperous Whiteoak family. They lived at an estate in southern Ontario called Jalna. The estate had been built by family patriarch Capt. Philip Whiteoak, a retired officer of the British Army in India. He’d named it “Jalna” after the garrison town in India where he’d met his Irish wife, Adeline.
The book was a top-10 bestseller in the U.S. in both 1927 and 1928. It was such a big commercial success that the author kept writing novels about the Whiteoaks. She ended up with a total of 16 books, now known as the “Whiteoak Chronicles,” which cover four generations (1850s-1950s) of the fictional family.
Many of de la Roche’s character names — which included Finch, Pheasant, and Wakefield/”Wake” — came directly from from gravestones in Ontario’s Newmarket cemetery.
Given the popularity of the book, and the distinctiveness of the character names, it’s not too surprising that Jalna had an influence on U.S. baby name data in the ’20s and ’30s…
Character Alayne Archer was introduced in Jalna when Eden Whiteoak, an aspiring poet, traveled to New York City to meet with a publisher. Alayne was the publisher’s assistant, and she and Eden became romantically involved.
The debut of the baby name Alayne in 1929 was due to the much-anticipated follow-up book, Whiteoaks of Jalna — specifically, to the book reviews that ran in newspapers throughout the U.S. during the second half of 1929. Many of them mentioned Alayne.
1937: 19 baby girls named Alayne
1936: 23 baby girls named Alayne
1935: 16 baby girls named Alayne
1934: 9 baby girls named Alayne
1933: 5 baby girls named Alayne
1932: 5 baby girls named Alayne
1931: 9 baby girls named Alayne
1930: 7 baby girls named Alayne
1929: 11 baby girls named Alayne [debut]
Notice how usage rose during the mid-1930s. This was due to a related reason: the movie Jalna (1935), which was based on the first book and featured actress Kay Johnson as Alayne. (By 1935, five of the 16 books were out.)
Jalna & Renny
The year after the movie came out, two more Jalna-inspired names emerged in the data. One was Jalna itself, which didn’t stick around long:
1937: 9 baby girls named Jalna
1936: 6 baby girls named Jalna [debut]
(You could compare to Jalna to Tara, the plantation in Gone with the Wind.)
The other was Renny, from Eden’s half-brother Renny Whiteoak, who became Alayne’s love interest after Alayne and Eden grew apart.
1941: 8 baby boys named Renny
1939: 5 baby boys named Renny
1937: 8 baby boys named Renny
1936: 9 baby boys named Renny [debut]
Another factor that could have given Renny a boost that year was the fifth book in the series, Young Renny, which focused on that character specifically.
…So how did Mazo de la Roche come by her own unique name?
She was born “Mazo Louise Roche” in Ontario in 1879. She added the “de la” not (necessarily) to sound noble, but to reflect the historical spelling of the family name. And here’s what she said in her autobiography about her first name:
When my father saw me he said to my mother, “Let me name this one and you may name all the others.” And so he named me and there were never any others. Mazo had been the name of a girl to whom he once had been attached.
Looking for an uncommon K-name for your baby girl? Here’s the next installment of rare female names collected from very old films (released from the 1910s to the 1940s). For those names that saw enough usage to register in the national data set, I’ve included links to the popularity graphs.
Kabirah was a character played by actress Emily Seville in the film Kismet (1920).
Kalaniweo was a character played by actress Enid Markey in the film Aloha Oe (1915).
Kalora was a character played by actress Ruth Stonehouse in the film The Slim Princess (1915) and by actress Mabel Normand in the remake The Slim Princess (1920).
Kaluna was a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Isle of Abandoned Hope (1914).
Kamamamalua was a character played by actress Hilo Hattie in the film Miss Tatlock’s Millions (1948).
Kameela was a character played by actress Ann Rork in the film The Notorious Lady (1927)
Karamaneh was a character played by either of two actresses, Joan Clarkson and Dorinea Shirley, in various short films, including The Shrine of the Seven Lamps and The Cafe L’Egypte, during the 1920s.
Karanina “Nina” Novak was a character played by actress Anne Shirley in the film Four Jacks and a Jill (1942).
Karin Touzac was a character played by actress Merle Oberon in the film This Love of Ours (1945).
Kathe was a character played by actress Dorothy Tree in the film Sky Murder (1940).
Usage of the baby name Kathe (which debuted in the data the year Sky Murder came out).
Kathlyn Williams was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1930s. She was born in Montana in 1879. Her birth name was Kathleen Mabel Williams. Kathlyn was also a character played by actress Bessie Eyton in the film The City of Purple Dreams (1918).
Katina Paxinou was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was born in Greece in 1900. Her birth name was Ekaterini Konstantopoulou. Katina was also a character played by actress Sonja Henie in the film Iceland (1942).
Katuma was a character played by actress Tsuru Aoki in the short film A Relic of Old Japan (1914).
Katyusha Maslova was a character played by various actresses (such as Florence Lawrence, Pauline Frederick, Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez) in various movies called Resurrection, all based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.
Kawista was a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film Return of Ta-Wa-Wa (1910).
Kay Laurel was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1890. Her birth name was Ruth Leslie. Kay Aldridge was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. Aldridge was born in Florida in 1917. Kay was also a character name in multiple films, including The Scarlet Honeymoon (1925) and Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Kittens Reichert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1910. Her birth name was Catherine Alma Reichert. Kittens was also a character played by actress Dorothy Abril in the film Rouge and Riches (1920).
Kittie Swasher was a character played by actress Madge Kennedy in the film The Girl with the Jazz Heart (1921).
Kitty Gordon was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in England in 1878. Her birth name was Constance Blades. Kitty was also a character name in multiple films, including Five Star Final (1931) and The Challenge (1948).
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
Nalu was a character played by actress Ramsay Ames in the film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944).
Nan Christy was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in 1894. Nan was also a character name in multiple films, including Nan’s Victory (short, 1914) and Nan of the North (1922).
Nazama was a character played by actress Binnie Barnes in the film The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938).
Alla Nazimova, often credited simply as Nazimova, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in Russia (now Ukraine) in 1879. Her birth name was Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon. Alla was also a character played by actress Sally Crute in the film The Cossack Whip (1916).
Nea was a character played by actress Dona Drake in the film Aloma of the South Seas (1941).
Neleta was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film Anthony Adverse (1936).
Nelga Petrona was a character played by actress Julia Swayne Gordon in the short film The Tigress (1915).
Nell Craig was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in New Jersey in 1891. Nell Shipman was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Canada in 1892. Her birth name was Helen Foster-Barham. Nell was also a character name in multiple films, including The Reward of Thrift (short, 1914) and Nell Gwyn (1926).
Nennah was a character played by actress Ynez Seabury in the film The Calgary Stampede (1925).
Neola May was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in California in 1891. Neola was also a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Olana of the South Seas (1914).
Netta Westcott was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in England in 1893. Netta was also a character played by actress Linda Darnell in the film Hangover Square (1945).
Nirvena was a character played by actress Stephanie Bachelor in the film Lady of Burlesque (1943).
Nista was a character played by actress Caroline Frances Cooke in the film The Devil Bear (1929).
Nita Naldi was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1894. Her birth name was Mary Nonna Dooley. Nita was also a character name in multiple films, including Jane Goes A’ Wooing (1919) and Two Gun Sheriff (1941).
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).