How popular is the baby name Melvin in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Melvin.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Melvin


Posts that Mention the Name Melvin

What gave the baby name Hildy a boost in the 1950s?

Hildy McCoy, Hildy Ellis, 1957
Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Ellis with Hildy (in May of 1957)

The rare baby name Hildy — which can be traced back to the Germanic name element hild, meaning “battle” — saw successive increases in usage in 1955, 1956, and 1957:

  • 1959: 13 baby girls named Hildy
  • 1958: 19 baby girls named Hildy
  • 1957: 36 baby girls named Hildy [peak popularity]
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Hildy
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Hildy
  • 1954: 9 baby girls named Hildy
baby name Hildy popularity graph

What caused all this heightened interest in the name Hildy?

A little girl named Hildy who was at the center of “the most controversial and mass-mediated adoption struggle of the 1950s.”

She was born in Boston on February 23, 1951, to a 21-year-old unmarried Roman Catholic woman named Marjorie McCoy — a nursing student who’d had a romance with an intern at the Children’s Hospital.

Before the birth, Marjorie had arranged (through her family physician) for the baby to be privately adopted. So, in early March, when she was ten days old, the baby was taken home by Melvin and Frances Ellis, a “childless Jewish couple from nearby Brookline” who had paid Marjorie’s medical bills as part of a prenatal adoption agreement.

The Ellises named their new baby Hildy Carol Ellis.

Six weeks later, Marjorie learned that the Ellises were Jewish.

She didn’t want the baby back, but she also didn’t want the baby placed with a non-Catholic family. So she asked the couple to hand the child over to the Catholic Charitable Bureau. When the Ellises refused, Marjorie filed suit.

The legal battle lasted for four years, with Massachusetts courts continually siding with Marjorie (because state adoption law at the time required that, “where practicable, a child be placed with foster parents of the same religious faith as the mother”). On February 14, 1955, the highest court in the commonwealth handed down the final ruling — in Marjorie’s favor, yet again.

Now out of appeals, the Ellises promised to raise Hildy as a Catholic. The court rejected their plea and ordered them to surrender the child by June 30th.

The Ellises, unwilling to surrender Hildy, fled from Massachusetts in April. When that happened, “Hildy’s custody battle quickly became national news, captivating a large audience.”

The fugitive family “lived secretly in no less than six places” while on the run. The media was still able to keep tabs on them, though. For instance, in January of 1956, a recent photo of Hildy ran in newspapers nationwide (but her location was not disclosed).

The Ellises eventually settled in Miami, Florida — this is where Massachusetts discovered them in March of 1957. The state requested that Melvin Ellis be extradited immediately in order to face kidnapping charges.

In May, Florida governor LeRoy Collins eloquently denied the request. He said, in part:

It is clear to me that the criminal proceedings against Mr. and Mrs. Ellis are synthetic. No crime of kidnapping in a proper sense is involved.

[…]

It has been argued that the natural mother has the right to have Hildy reared in the environment of her own faith. This is a right I respect, but it must yield to more fundamental rights. The great and good God of all of us, regardless of faith, grants to every child to be born first the right to be wanted, and secondly the right to be loved. Hildy’s mother has denied both of these rights to her.

[…]

It was the Ellises in truth and in fact who have been the persons through whom God has assured to Hildy these first two rights as one of His children. It was the Ellises who wanted Hildy to be born. It was they who anxiously awaited her birth with tender emotions of excitement, anticipating fulfillment of the joys and obligations of parenthood. It was the Ellises also who have given of themselves to Hildy, as only parents can understand, thereby fulfilling Hildy’s right to be loved.

With no feeling against the natural mother, except that of pity and compassion; with no antagonism toward our great sister State of Massachusetts; I further deny this application based upon the equities involved.

In July, a Dade County judge formally approved the adoption under Florida law.

“The child shall be hereafter known as Hildy Ellis,” the judge decreed.

Sources:

Image from The New York Times, 24 May 1957, page 1.

What Would You Name the Catfish-Riding Boy?

little boy, large catfish, old photo, texas, 1940s

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:

Albert
Arthur
Carl/Charles
Clarence
Daniel
David
Don/Donald
Edward/Eddie
Ernest
Frank
Fred
Gary
Gene/Eugene
George
Gerald
Harold
Henry
Jack
James
Jerry
Jesse
Jesus
Jimmie/Jimmy
Joe/Joseph
John/Johnny
Jose
Juan
Kenneth
Larry
Louis
Manuel
Melvin
Paul
Raymond
Richard
Robert/Bobby
Ronald
Roy
Thomas/Tommy
Walter

For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)

(If you like this game, here’s a similar one from years ago: What Would You Name the Two Frenchmen?)

Names in the News: Pauline, Ela Melanie, Doctor James

Three baby names that have been in the news recently:

  • Pauline, born in March, is the third child of actor Vin Diesel. She was named in honor of Diesel’s “Fast and the Furious” co-star and Paul Walker, though it should be noted that Diesel also happens to have a twin brother named Paul.
  • Ela Melanie, born March 30th in Brooklyn, is the first-ever baby born in an Uber car. Her name pays tribute to her late paternal grandfather, Melvin.
  • Doctor James, born in March in Sierra Leone, arrived while his mother was at an Ebola treatment center. He was named after British doctor James Meiring. Both mother and baby ended up testing negative for Ebola, luckily, and were soon discharged.

Sources: Vin Diesel Welcomes Daughter Pauline, Baby born in back of Uber on way to hospital, British Ebola worker risked his life to help deliver baby

Baby Name Needed: Boy Name Similar to William

A reader named Ashley writes:

I have a nearly 4 year old named William Benjamin, both family names. For the next child, we are considering Gillian (with a traditional J sound) for a girl. I would like another boy name that has an L in the middle, to sound similar to Will. I’ve considered Dillon, Elliot, Nolan, Nelson, Phillip. I know there must be others out there I’m not thinking of. Which one would match well?

This is a fun question. :)

Here’s a bunch of other names with an L-sound in the middle. (I left off W-names, figuring Ashley wouldn’t be interested in those.)

Alan
Albert
Alfred
Alistair
Alvin
Caleb
Calum
Calvin
Coleman
Collin
Colvin
Cullen
Delton
Delvin
Ellis
Ellsworth
Elton
Elwood
Felix
Fuller
Galen
Gilbert
Gilford
Gilman
Halbert
Halsey
Holden
Hollis
Julian
Kellen
Kelton
Kelvin
Malcolm
Malachi
Melvin
Milburn
Milford
Milton
Millard
Miller
Raleigh
Roland
Sheldon
Solomon
Salvador
Tilman
Tolbert
Volney

The names in boldface are the ones I personally like best with William. (I also think Elliot would be a great choice.)

Which name(s) do you guys like best with William? What other names would you suggest?