Baby Isla, Named after Coney Island

Isla Tudor, 1915In the late 1800s and early 1900s, English showman and “Animal King” Frank C. Bostock brought his performing menagerie of lions, jaguars, elephants, camels, and other animals to various cities in Great Britain and America.

Given that Bostock was famous for hosting weddings (for humans) inside the lion cage, the following story isn’t too surprising:

On August 23, 1903, Bostock’s English-born, Brooklyn-based business manager, Harry E. Tudor, had a baby girl. At three weeks old, the newborn was taken to an afternoon Bostock show on Coney Island, at the Sea Beach Palace.

Bostock’s lion tamer, Captain Jack Bonavita, took the newborn inside the lion cage, which contained 27 lions at the time. “[H]e commanded them to stand on their hind legs, which they did, supporting themselves against the bars of the cage.”

He then conducted some sort of naming ceremony in front of several thousand spectators, choosing the name Isla for the baby because, he said, it paid tribute to Coney Island. The baby was then passed out of the cage “and the regular exhibition took place.”

According to New York City birth records, the baby’s name was officially Isabel, same as her mother. Regardless, she was always called Isla by the newspapers.

And why was she in the newspapers? Because she led a fascinating (if short) life.

During her childhood, Isla crossed the Atlantic dozens of times “and visited Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.” She spent her eighth birthday sailing to Europe aboard the RMS Olympic, and her 12th picnicking with a lion named Baltimore at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

When her father took up flying, she took it up as well. She participated in aviation exhibitions in both England and America, eventually piloting a plane herself. Aerial Age Weekly said Isla was “known on two continents as the youngest girl aviator.”

isla tudor, air lady
Isla Tudor, “Little Air Lady” (1914)

Sadly, Isla Tudor died of appendicitis in 1916, one month after her 13th birthday. News of her death was reported in the New York Times, Billboard magazine, and many other publications. (In the New York City death records she’s listed as Isla, not Isabel; her name may have been legally changed at some point.)

Sources:


Baby Named Kelowna After Canadian Town

Kelowna, 1920
Early Kelowna
So far we’ve talked about two babies named for newly formed towns — Salida and Nira — and today we have one more: Kelowna.

The Canadian town of Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada, was settled in the mid-1800s and incorporated in 1905. The name of the town means “grizzly bear” in the Okanagan language.

For several decades during the early 1900s, the residents of Kelowna’s Chinatown made up as much as 15% of the total population. But the birth rate in Chinatown was quite low, as most of the residents were men whose families remained in China due to Canada’s discriminatory Chinese head tax.

Chinatown’s first baby didn’t arrive until early 1906. Her name? Kelowna, after her Canadian birthplace.

Sources: Okanagan history not sexy, but it is ours, UBC O 2013 GREEN EDUC 417 “Kelowna’s Chinatown” (video)

P.S. Here’s a related post from the archive: Pay Tribute to a Place Without Using a Place Name.

Baby Named Etruria for Ocean Liner

Ocean liner Etruria, Cunard

That recent post about Altruria reminded me of a similar-sounding name: Etruria.

In early January, 1907, the Cunard ocean liner RMS Etruria encountered rough seas while crossing the Atlantic. Two of the crewmembers were killed, several others were injured, and passengers were forced to wait out the storm below deck.

During that time, a baby girl was born in steerage to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Goldstein. Her name? Etruria Rachel Goldstein.

And records reveal that the ship had at least one other namesake: Thomas Etruria Walter, born at sea aboard the Etruria in November of 1887.

The ship was in service from 1885 to 1908. It was named after the ancient civilization that lived in what is today central Italy. The earliest inhabitants of Etruria (that we know of) spoke Etruscan — the presumed origin of a handful of modern baby names including Anthony/Antonio, Camille/Camilla, Horatio, Ignatius, Lavinia, Minerva, and Sergey/Sergio.

Source: “Seaman Killed as Waves Swept Decks of Ocean Liner.” Daily True American [Trenton, NJ] 7 Jan. 1907: 1.

Baby with “Unusual Fortitude” Gets Name Changed

Barbara McClintock in 1947Maize cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock was born on June 16, 1902, in Hartford, Connecticut.

She discovered transposons or “jumping genes” in the 1940s. For this discovery of mobile genetic elements, she won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983, becoming the very first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.

She wasn’t born a “Barbara,” though. Her birth name was Eleanor.

Her parents changed her name because they thought “Eleanor” wasn’t a good fit to her personality:

By McClintock’s own account, her “capacity to be alone” began in the cradle: “My mother used to put a pillow on the floor and give me one toy and just leave me there. She said I didn’t cry, didn’t call for anything.” Her temperament, she says, led her parents to change her name when she was only four months old. Instead of Eleanor, a name they had originally chosen as especially feminine and delicate, they soon decided that “Barbara” would be more appropriate for a girl with such unusual fortitude. It sounded to them more masculine.

Barbara, the third of four children, had siblings named Marjorie, Mignon, and Malcolm.

Sources:

Image: Smithsonian Institution Archives

Baby Born on Ship, But Not Named for It

Back when ocean liners were the main mode of long distance travel, it was common for babies born at sea to be named after the ship they were born on (e.g., Cleveland, Martello, Numidian).

So it was notable when a baby was born on a ship and not named for that ship.

Case in point, the first baby born aboard the RMS Carmania:

The first baby to be born on board the new Cunard turbine liner Carmania came into the world in midocean last Wednesday. The baby is a boy, the son of Russian parents, who were among the 1,001 steerage passengers arriving here on the Carmania yesterday. The saloon passengers made up a purse of $60 and presented it to the parents. Strange to say, the boy was not christened Carmania. His parents decided that when he grew up he might object.

According to the manifest for that trip, the baby was named Gerschon. (His father’s first and middle names were Abram Gerschon.)

The Biblical name Gerschon/Gershon is a variant of another Biblical name, Gershom, which is thought to mean “[a person in] exile” in Hebrew.

Sources:

  • First Carmania Baby.” New York Times 5 Mar. 1906.
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.