In 1908, the boy name Robley debuted in the U.S. baby name data. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.
1909: 5 baby boys named Robley
1908: 12 baby boys named Robley
These raw numbers from the SSA are deceptively low, though, because many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card. The following numbers, from the Social Security Death Index, should be more accurate:
1910: 17 people named Robley born
1909: 23 people named Robley born
1908: 41 people named Robley born
1907: 23 people named Robley born
1906: 12 people named Robley born
So, why did the name Robley get a boost in 1908?
Because that was the year Rear Admiral Robley Dunglison Evans (1846-1912) commanded the Great White Fleet on the first leg of its voyage around the world.
From December of 1907 to May of 1908, Evans guided the Great White Fleet (16 U.S. Navy battleships, hulls painted white) from Virginia to California via the Strait of Magellan (as the Panama Canal was not open until 1914). Along the way, the Fleet stopped at ports in Trinidad, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Mexico.
In San Francisco, Evans was relieved of command due to ill health. Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry took over, and the circumnavigation continued until the Fleet was back in Virginia in February of 1909.
Robley Dunglison Evans was named after English physician Robley Dunglison (1798-1869), who had instructed his father in medical school at the University of Virginia.
Evans, Robley Dunglison. Sailor’s Log: Recollections of Forty Years of Naval Life. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1901.
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!
I think both Beckham (1903) and Graydon (1905) could really appeal to modern parents — Beckham for its association with soccer star David Beckham, Graydon for its similarity to currently popular names like Grayson and Jayden.