On August 6, 1911, Dr. George Thaddeus Brown of the Georgia House of Representatives and his wife Avis welcomed a baby girl.
The Georgia General Assembly promptly passed a resolution stating that the baby would be named Georgia after the state.
They then presented Avis with a certified copy of the resolution and a “magnificent silver loving cup” whose inscription noted that Georgia was “named by this body August 11th 1911.”
Georgia’s obituary in the Miami Herald noted that she was the inspiration behind the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown” (1925):
According to family legend, it was her father who immortalized her when he met composer Ben Bernie in New York. A medical student at the time, George Brown told the composer about his family, including his youngest daughter with one brown eye and one green eye. Bernie whipped up lyrics to a melody by Kenneth Casey and Maceo Pinkard.
There’s no way to know if the story is true. (One part doesn’t quite work: Dr. Brown attended post-graduate medical school in New York in the 1890s, long before his daughter was born.) But the last line of the chorus does seem to refer to Dr. Brown’s daughter: “Georgia claimed her, Georgia named her, sweet Georgia Brown.”
A whistled version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” recorded by Brother Bones in 1949 became world-famous after it became the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1952. According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), “Sweet Georgia Brown” was one of the most-performed songs of the 20th century.
“First Picture of Baby Named by Georgia General Assembly.” Atlanta Constitution 24 Mar. 1912: A15E.
Knight, Lucian Lamar. A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians. Vol. 5. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1917.
The brief Spanish-American War (1898), which began in April and ended in August, inspired hundreds of patriotic parents in the U.S. to choose war-inspired baby names. Here are some examples:
Maine & Havana
One of the events that led to war was the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbor on February 15. The explosion killed more than 260 men. Many people in the U.S. blamed the explosion on Spain.
The baby names Maine and Havana both debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1898.
1898: 9 baby girls named Maine (plus 5 more named Mayne)
Maine was a one-hit wonder on the list — a rarity that never returned — but Havana has been on the list dozens of times since (and regularly since 1995).
1898: 8 baby girls named Havana [debut]
The SSDI tells a more complete story (though it doesn’t offer information on gender). It indicates that 25 babies were named Maine and 12 were named Havana in 1898.
Dewey & Manila
War was formally declared on April 25. On May 1, the Battle of Manila Bay took place in the Philippines. The U.S. fleet, under the command of Commodore George Dewey, defeated Spain.
Usage of the name Dewey spiked in 1898, both for boys and for girls:
1901: 137 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Dewey
1900: 345 baby boys and 9 baby girls named Dewey
1899: 499 baby boys and 24 baby girls named Dewey
1898: 1,115 baby boys and 104 baby girls named Dewey
1897: 158 baby boys and 13 baby girls named Dewey
1896: 63 baby boys named Dewey
1895: 28 baby boys named Dewey
In terms of rankings, Dewey hit 19th (!) for boys and 305th for girls in 1898. Also that year, the spelling variants Dewie and Dewy debuted.
Going back to the SSDI, we see even higher numbers — 6,708 babies named Dewey, 36 named Dewie, and 1 named Dewy in 1898.
We even see evidence of Dewey’s spike on the U.S. Census of 1920:
1910s: over 4,300 people named Dewey were born
1900s: over 11,000 people named Dewey were born
1890s: over 12,100 people named Dewey were born
1880s: over 200 people named Dewey were born
1870s: over 100 people named Dewey were born
An article in the Reading Eagle in 1899 listed ten local babies named for George Dewey, and another article I spotted from decades later joked about starting a George Dewey namesake club.
We see a similar (though less pronounced) spike of in the usage of Manila for baby girls:
According to the SSDI, at least 161 babies were named Hobson that year.
(Hobson was a handsome Southerner who became a national celebrity following his month-long imprisonment. He became well known for kissing pretty young women as he toured the country. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch jokingly called him “the champion kisser of the universe.”)
The baby name Admiral was the rank of many of the men (e.g. Admiral Dewey, Admiral Sampson, Admiral Schley) who played a part in the war — Dewey especially.
1899: 13 baby boys named Admiral
1898: 25 baby boys named Admiral [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 154 babies were named Admiral.
The baby name Shafter was inspired by army general William Rufus Shafter, who had command of the U.S. forces in Cuba during the war.
1898: 14 baby boys named Shafter [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 58 babies were named Shafter.
The baby name Maceo was inspired by Cuban revolutionary Antonio Maceo, “one of the outstanding guerrilla leaders in nineteenth century Latin America. (He died in late 1896, actually.)
1899: 9 baby boys named Maceo
1898: 13 baby boys named Maceo [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 34 babies were named Maceo.
The baby name Schley was inspired by Winfield Scott Schley, hero of the Battle of Santiago Bay.
1898: 10 baby boys named Schley [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 39 babies were named Schley.
Finally, the baby name Philippina, possibly inspired by the Philippines, was a one-hit wonder the year of the war:
1898: 5 baby girls named Philippina [debut]
Interestingly, only one Philippina is accounted for in the SSDI data.
“Berks Babies Named in Honor of Dewey.” Reading Eagle 30 Apr. 1899: 4.