Marie Ahnighito, the Snow Baby

Marie Ahnighito Peary
Marie Ahnighito Peary, mid-1890s
Roald Amundsen was the first explorer to verifiably reach the North Pole (in 1926, with the help of a dirigible). But he wasn’t the first explorer to claim to have reached the North Pole.

One of those early claimants was Robert Peary, who said he reached the Pole in 1909. While no one knows for sure if this is true, other facts about Peary’s travels are not in question.

For instance, there’s the fact that he brought his pregnant wife Josephine to northern Greenland in 1893 so that she could give birth to their first child in the Arctic. The baby girl, who arrived in September, was the first Caucasian child to be born at that altitude.

The baby’s name? Marie Ahnighito. She was often called the “snow baby” by the media.

In her 1901 book “The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures,” Josephine described an outfit one of the Inuit women had constructed for Marie, and that led to the story of the name:

This costume was made by a woman named AH-NI-GHI-TO; so, when the baby was christened, she too was called AH-NI-GHI-TO. She was also named Marie for her only aunt, who was waiting in the far-off home land to greet her little niece.

(I wish she’d included a translation/interpretation of Ahnighito, but alas she did not.)

Marie Ahnighito was probably the first non-Inuit baby to get that particular Inuit name, but she wasn’t the last. So far I’ve found four U.S. babies (two male, two female) named Ahnighito. Two were born in the late 1930s, not long after Marie’s book “The Snowbaby’s Own Story” (1934) was published, and the other two were born in the late 1950s. (One was Ahnighito Eugene Riddick.)

…Oh, and I know of one more thing named after Marie Ahnighito: A meteorite. Or at least a big chunk of one.

About 10,000 years ago, a meteorite entered the atmosphere, broke up, and landed in pieces close to Cape York, Greenland. For centuries the Inuit of the region used iron from the fragments to make tools and harpoons.

Peary discovered these meteorite fragments around 1894. A few years later, he sold the three largest pieces — called “Tent,” “Woman” and “Dog” by the Inuit — to the American Museum of Natural History for $40,000. (Essentially, he profited from stealing/selling the Inuit’s only source of metal.) At some point Peary renamed the largest fragment “Ahnighito” in honor of his daughter, and today all three pieces — Ahnighito, Woman and Dog — remain on display in New York City.

Sources:

Image: Marie Peary (LOC)


The Baby Name Fathergone

What’s the story behind the name Fathergone from yesterday’s list of rare names in early Boston?

Well, it’s similar to the story behind the name Posthumous.

Fathergone Dinely was born in late 1638, just after the death of his father, William (a barber-surgeon). On the 1638 baptismal list, Fathergone is described as, “son of William Dynely our gone brother”:

Fathergone son of William Dyneley our gone brother

After Fathergone himself was gone, the story of his name took on a life of its own. (The same thing happened to Ono Titchiner.)

The earliest account I found was in a 1869 speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

A little incident throws a glimmer from the dark lantern of memory upon William Dinely, one of these practitioners with the razor and lancet. He was lost between Boston and Roxbury in a violent tempest of wind and snow; ten days afterwards a son was born to his widow, and with a touch of homely sentiment, I had almost said poetry, they called the little creature “Fathergone” Dinely.

Here’s another account, from a 1885 book by the American Antiquarian Society:

William Dinely is perhaps remembered by most people rather through his son, Fathergone Dinely, than in his own personality. He was a barber-surgeon, and combined with this vocation the art of drawing teeth, as was then customary. He was a favorer of the heretical doctrines advanced by Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, and on account of his peculiar calling had a very great opportunity to instill these doctrines into the minds of his patients. But being sent for on a winter’s night by one of Roxbury (and may be read in Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, Book II. chap. xv.) to draw a tooth, he went forth with the maid who had summoned him, and there being a violent snow-storm, they both lost their way on going over the Neck, and died in the snow. His son, born shortly after this event, was baptized with the name of Fathergone.

I won’t list all the others, but here’s a smart-alecky one from 1922:

This grotesque naming habit [of the Puritans] overlapped into nonsectarian camps and all sorts of descriptive cognomens were hung about the necks of newly born babes. When Dinely, Senior, of Boston rushed for the doctor he fell in a snow-drift, and was brought home a stiffly frozen corpse on a shutter. It seemed infinitely appropriate to name the infant “Fathergone Dinely,” and throughout a long life Fathergone Dinely strode the Boston streets.

Sources:

  • American Antiquarian Society. Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Vol. 7. 1885.
  • Holmes, Oliver Wendell. “The Medical Profession in Massachusetts.” Medical Essays. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1892.
  • Sawyer, Joseph Dillaway. History of the Pilgrims and Puritans. Vol. 2. New York City: The Century History Company, 1922.

McKinley’s Namesakes

William McKinleyWilliam McKinley may have lost his mountain namesake, but he still got plenty of human namesakes back in the 1890s.

For instance, the New York Times reported in June of 1896 that Mr. and Mrs. John Karl of South Baltimore had welcomed a son named William McKinley Karl. “It is the first baby in Baltimore, so far as is known, to be named for the popular statesman, and the parents are proud of the fact.”

Turns out there were at least two earlier Baltimore babies named William McKinley, though. One was William McKinley Tilghman, born in October of 1895.

William McKinley’s election in 1896 had no discernible influence on the already-popular baby name William, but it did give the name McKinley a boost nationally:

  • 1898: 79 baby boys named McKinley
  • 1897: 115 baby boys named McKinley
  • 1896: 121 baby boys named McKinley
  • 1895: 34 baby boys named McKinley
  • 1894: 19 baby boys named McKinley

Source: “McKinley’s Baltimore Namesake.” New York Times 19 Jun. 1896.

First and Last Names Swapped for Inheritance

Petrus Stuyvesant (1612-1672) was the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland before it was taken by the English in 1664 and renamed New York.

One of his grandsons, Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, was called the “wealthiest man in New York, after Astor” in the mid-19th century.

But he and his wife, Helen Rutherfurd, had no children.

His sizable estate had to go somewhere upon his death (which happened in 1847 when he drowned at Niagara Falls) so, in his will, he split the bulk of his wealth into thirds: one-third to nephew Hamilton Fish, one-third to nephew Gerard Stuyvesant, and one-third to great-grandnephew Stuyvesant Rutherfurd.

Before 4-year-old Stuyvesant could receive his share of the fortune, though, he had to satisfy a single condition: change his name to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant.

This was done in 1863, “by act of the legislature.”

Thanks in part to his inheritance, Rutherfurd Stuyvesant went on to become a successful New York developer. His biggest achievement was introducing well-off New York City residents to the apartment building circa 1870, “at a time when row houses were the rule for the middle and upper classes.”

Stuyvesant Rutherfurd, Rutherfurd Stuyvesant…it’s a mouthful either way. Which order do you prefer?

Sources:

A Baby Named for the Circus

circus scene

Edward and Lucinda Favor of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, had at least a dozen children from the late 1820s to the early 1850s:

  • Orville Burton, born in 1827
  • Vera Ann, born in 1828
  • Danville Bryant, born in 1830
  • Edward D., born in 1833
  • Josephine Augusta, born in 1835
  • Daniel Webster, born in 1837
  • Edward Webster, born in 1839
  • Angevine June, born in 1841
  • Eugene Sue, born in 1844
  • Zachary Taylor, born in 1847
  • Franklin Percival, born in 1850
  • Fannie Eva, born in 1852

It’s easy to guess where a name like “Zachary Taylor” came from, but what’s the story behind Angevine June?

On the afternoon of October 22, 1841, the Favor family went to see the circus. They were so impressed that, when Lucinda gave birth to a baby boy the very next day, they decided to name him Angevine June after the company that owned the circus: Angevine, June, Titus & Company.

Several newspapers including the New York Times reported that his full name was “Angevine June Titus and Company Favor.” While I can’t refute this, I also can’t find any official records to back it up.

Angevine “Vine” Favor left home at the age of 19 to serve in the Civil War. After that he made his way west, working as a stagecoach driver. By the late 1860s he was a landowner in Washington Territory, and in 1882 he platted the Washington town of Pataha City, which was briefly known as “Favorsburg” in his honor.

The surname Angevine can be traced back to the Old French angevin, meaning “man from Anjou.”

Sources:

  • A Boy Who Was Named for a Circus.” New York Times 6 Feb. 1885.
  • Garfield County – HistoryLink.org
  • Gilbert, Frank T. Historic Sketches of Walla Walla, Whitman, Columbia and Garfield Counties, Washington Territory. Portland, Oregon: 1882.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Where Did Hoagy Carmichael’s Name Come From?

Hoagy Carmichael, 1953No doubt you’ve heard of composer Hoagy Carmichael, who wrote the music for “Georgia on My Mind,” “Stardust,” “New Orleans,” “Lazy River,” and other classic pop/jazz songs.

But do you know where his distinctive name came from?

Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael was born in Indiana in late 1899 to parents Howard Clyde and Lida Mary Carmichael. He had three sisters named Geogiana (nn Georgia), Martha, and Joanne.

Wikipedia claims Hoagy was named for a circus troupe called “The Hoaglands,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

According to an autobiography, right around the time Hoagland was born “[t]here was a new railroad spur being built on the Monon line near Harrodsburg, and some of the surveyors were living in our neighborhood.” One of the railroad men, Harry Hoagland, was boarding with a relative.

Mother liked the unusual and had the imagination and the temperament of a poet, or a piano player. “Well, Hoagland sounds grand!” she said.

My father didn’t mind. “Sure, we can always use my name in the middle.”

Grandma Carmichael raised her hands in horror. “Lida, dear, please don’t name him Hoagland. They’ll nickname him Hoagy for sure. And besides, I like Taylor better.” [Taylor was Grandpa Carmichael’s name.]

Lida’s choice won, and the baby’s name became Hoagland Howard Carmichael.

His grandmother’s nickname prediction did come true, but not for a couple of decades: Hoagland didn’t start going by “Hoagy” until college.

Hoagy went on to marry a woman named Ruth. They had two sons, Hoagy Bix (born in 1938) and Randy Bob (born in 1940). Hoagy Bix’s middle name honors jazz cornetist Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke, who was a big influence on Hoagy, Sr.:

Hoagy heard a young white cornetist named Bix Beiderbecke and, “it threw my judgment out of kilter.” This was a sound like nothing he’d heard before and when Hoagy played an improvised tune for Bix, the strange young man with a magical horn said, “Whyn’t you write music, Hoagy?” The rest of his life was the answer to Bix’s question.

Randy Bob’s first name was inspired by movie actor Randolph Scott, but I’m not sure where his middle name came from.

What do you think of the name Hoagland? How about Hoagy?

Sources:

How Did Virginia Dare Get Her Name?

Detail of "Baptism of Virginia Dare" (1880) by Henry Howe
From “Baptism of Virginia Dare” (1880)
by Henry Howe
In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I of England granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of a section of North America. In honor of the “Virgin Queen,” the settlement would be called the Colony of Virginia.

Raleigh sent several expeditions to the New World over the next few years. One of the expeditions, which arrived at Roanoke Island on July 22, 1587, included a group of 120 English settlers. Among these settlers were married couple Ananias and Eleanor Dare, who were expecting a baby at the time.

Their baby was born less than a month later, on August 18. She was the first child born to English parents in North America.

The following Sunday she was baptized “Virginia” in honor of the Colony of Virginia.

No one knows what became of Virginia Dare or the rest of the English settlers of Roanoke Island, as the site was found to be mysteriously deserted in 1590. But Virginia Dare is well-remembered today thanks to the many places and products that have since been named after her, such Dare County, North Carolina — the present-day location of Roanoke Island.

Sources:

  • Virginia Dare – Wikipedia
  • Williams, Henry Smith. The Historians’ History of the World. vol. XXII. London: Hooper and Jackson, Ltd., 1908.