How popular is the baby name Lester in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Lester and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Lester.
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We’ve talked about Faron, so now let’s talk about Ferlin — a similar name that debuted for a similar reason during the very same decade.
1959: 22 baby boys named Ferlin
1958: 26 baby boys named Ferlin (peak)
1957: 15 baby boys named Ferlin
1956: 17 baby boys named Ferlin
1955: 9 baby boys named Ferlin
1954: 7 baby boys named Ferlin [debut]
The name Ferlin was inspired by American country singer Ferlin Husky. His 1953 singles “A Dear John Letter” and “Forgive Me, John” — both duets with Jean Shepard — are what put him, and his name, on the map.
But the name Ferlin would never have come to anyone’s attention if Ferlin Husky had stuck with the stage name Terry Preston, which he’d been using since the late ’40s. Some sources say he began using a stage name because he felt his real name “sounded too rural.” He was convinced by record producer Ken Nelson to revert to his birth name in the early ’50s:
[Nelson] pushed Terry Preston to drop his stage name and use his given name, Ferlin Husky. “I thought, ‘Oh, my god, Terry Preston, my goodness’ sake’ — it sounded too sweet for a country singer. So I said, ‘Ferlin, why don’t you use your right name? It’s a good masculine name, and it’s an unusual name.’ And he didn’t want to do it. One day, he and his father and I were riding in the car, and I mentioned it to his father, and his father said, ‘Ferlin, you’re never gonna be a success until you use your right name.'”
Ironically, Ferlin’s “right name” was invented by a wrong spelling. His father had intended to name him Ferland after a friend, but the name was misspelled “Ferlin” on the birth certificate.
Do you like the name Ferlin? Do you like it more or less than Faron?
In April of 1937, the film A Star Is Born was released. It starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March as a married couple at opposite ends of their Hollywood careers: hers beginning, his ending.
The husband was named Norman Maine. The wife, on the other hand, had several identities. At first she was North Dakota farm girl Esther Victoria Blodgett. Then she morphed into movie star Vicki Lester for most of the film. Finally, in that memorable last line, she said: “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”
So how did she go from Esther Blodgett to “Vicki Lester”? Here’s the scene:
Press Agent: Do you know what her name is? Esther Victoria Blodgett.
Producer: Gee, we’ll have to do something about that right away.
Press Agent: …Esther Victoria Blodgett…
Producer: Well that Blodgett’s definitely out. See, uh…Esther Victoria, Victoria, Vicki…how about Vicki?
Producer’s Secretary: Oh I think that’s terribly cute.
Producer: Let’s see, Vicki…Vicki what?
Press Agent: Vicki Vicki, pronounced Vicki Vicki. [sarcasm]
Producer: Siesta, Besta, Sesta, Desta, Fester…
Press Agent: Oh that’s very pretty.
Producer: …Jester, Hester, Jester, Lester…Vicki Lester!
Secretary: Oh I like that!
Everyone in the office started chanting the newly minted name Vicki Lester…and with that the star was born.
On the name charts, the entire name-group — Vicki, Vickie, Vicky, Vickey, and so forth — rode a wave of trendiness that started in the ’30s, peaked around 1957, and was over by the ’80s. It’s hard to say how much of this trendiness (if any of it) was fueled by the movie, but one thing definitely attributable to the movie is the higher-than-expected usage of “Vicki” in the late ’30s:
1941: 542 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 274th]
1940: 405 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 316th]
1939: 334 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 355th]
1938: 367 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 332nd]
1937: 148 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 555th]
1936: 82 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 738th]
1935: 70 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 822nd]
Notice how the number adjusted downward in 1939 before the name was picked back up by the wave.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that several baby girls born in the late ’30s were named “Vicki Lester.” In 1940, for instance, the Seil family of Washington included parents Orval (26 years old) and Beryl (25) and daughters Arlene (4) and Vicki Lester (1).
History repeated itself in 1954 upon the release of the first A Star is Born remake, which starred Judy Garland as Esther/Vicki. The name Vicki was again nudged upward a few years ahead of schedule:
1958: 7,434 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1957: 8,101 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 51st]
1956: 7,762 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1955: 7,978 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 52nd]
1954: 8,220 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 50th]
1953: 6,822 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
1952: 6,774 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
And, again, records from the mid-1950s reveal a handful of baby girls named “Vicki Lester.”
The second remake — the 1976 Barbra Streisand version — didn’t include the name change. Even if it had, though, the popularity of Vicki was plummeting by the ’70s and I doubt the film could have done much to boost its image/usage.
Currently the name Vicki is only given to about a dozen baby girls in the U.S. per year. But another version of A Star is Born is in the works — a Lady Gaga version slated for 2018. If this third remake materializes, and if it features the name Vicki, do you think it will influence the baby name charts?
(While we wait for 2018, check out the original version of A Star is Born (1937), which is in the public domain.)
The names Dorcasina, Malaeska, and Trilby were inspired by characters from 19th-century novels. Altruria also comes from a 19th-century novel, but not from a character.
A Traveler from Altruria (1894) by William Dean Howells was first published in installments in Cosmopolitan in 1892-1893. The protagonist is Aristides Homos, a visitor to America from the fictional island of Altruria, “a Utopian world that combined the foundations of Christianity and the U.S. Constitution to produce an “ethical socialism” by which society was guided.”
The fictional place-name Altruria is a play on the word “altruism,” which was coined relatively recently (circa 1830) by French philosopher Auguste Comte.
Though A Traveler from Altruria isn’t well-remembered today, it was influential during the 1890s. Altrurian Clubs started sprouting up across the country. A short-lived commune called Altruria was established in Sonoma County, California, in the mid-1890s. And at least two babies were given the (middle) name Altruria:
Carrie Altruria Evans, born in 1900 in Van Wert, Ohio
Lester Altruria Eby, born in 1895 in Des Moines, Iowa
The official history book of the Van Wert Altrurian Club even mentions Carrie by name:
What do you think of Altruria as a baby name? Do you think it could be an alternative to the fast-rising Aurora (which broke into the top 100 last year)?
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy