A reader got in touch recently to ask about several unusual names. One of them was “Vouletti,” which belonged to a daughter of Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875).
Isaac Singer is best remembered for his successful sewing machine manufacturing company, founded in 1851 and still going strong today. Also notable, though, is the fact that he had a total of 24 children with five different wives and mistresses.
With Maria Haley, he had two children:
- William Adam (b. 1834)
- Lillian C. (b. 1837)
With Mary Ann Sponsler, he had ten children:
- Isaac Augustus (b. 1837)
- Vouletti Theresa (b. 1840)
- Fanny Elizabeth (b. 1841)
- John Albert (b. circa 1843)
- Jasper Hamet (b. 1846)
- Julia Ann (b. circa 1847)
- Mary Olivia (b. 1848)
- Charles Alexander (1850-1852)
- Caroline Virginia (b. 1857)
- …plus one more
With Mary McGonigal, he had five children:
- Charles Alexander (b. 1859)
With Mary E. Walters, he had one child:
- Alice Eastwood (b. 1852)
With Isabella Eugenie Boyer (of France), he had six children:
- Adam Mortimer (b. 1863)
- Winnaretta Eugenie (b. 1865)
- Washington Merritt Grant (b. 1866)
- Paris Eugene (b. 1867) – Palm Beach developer, namesake of Singer Island
- Isabelle Blanche (b. 1869)
- Franklin Morse (b. 1870)
These are traditional names for the most part, which makes “Vouletti” all the more intriguing.
Vouletti Singer was born in 1840, married William Proctor in 1862, had three children, and died in 1913. Though her name was definitely spelled Vouletti — that’s the spelling passed down to various descendants, and the one used by her friend Mercedes de Acosta in the poem “To Vouletti” — I found it misspelled a lot: “Voulitti” on the 1855 New York State Census, “Voulettie” on the 1900 U.S. Census, “Voulettie” again in a Saturday Evening Post article from 1951.
So…where does it come from?
I have no clue. I can’t find a single person with the given name Vouletti who predates Vouletti Singer. I also can’t find anyone with the surname Vouletti. (There was a vaudevillian with the stage name “Eva Vouletti,” but she doesn’t pop up until the early 1900s.)
Theater could be a possibility, as Isaac Singer was an actor in his younger days. Perhaps Vouletti was a character name he was familiar with?
My only other idea is the Italian word violetti, which means “violet.” Her parents might have coined the name with this word in mind.
Do you have any thoughts/theories about the unusual name Vouletti?