In January of 1910, Cleveland-based pastor W. J. Vernon and his pregnant wife were riding through Ohio aboard a southbound passenger train. As the train reached Marion, Ohio, Mrs. Vernon gave birth to a baby girl. “The baby was named Marion, in honor of the first stop in her journey in the world.”
The British ocean liner SS Ivernia (1899-1917) made many voyages between Europe and North America during the early 1900s. Various babies were born on board during these years, and at least two of these babies were given names to honor the ship.
The first was born in May of 1906, while the Ivernia was sailing from Liverpool to Boston. A Polish passenger (“Mrs. Micholius Pacer”) welcomed a baby girl named Pauline Ivernia Pacer.
The second was born in April of 1914, when the Ivernia was sailing from Naples to New York City. A Hungarian passenger (“Mrs. Sandor Szentkiraly”) welcomed a baby girl named Gazilla Ivernia Szentkiraly.
The word “Ivernia” is a version of the geographical term “Hibernia,” which was used by ancient Greek and Roman writers to refer to the island of Ireland.
“Ivernia Met Fogs and Gales.” Boston Evening Transcript 11 May 1906: 3.
“Two Babies Born on Ship.” New York Times 27 Apr. 1914.
In late 1913, while the eugenics movement was picking up steam, various newspapers ran the story of England’s “first eugenic baby.”
The baby’s name? Eugenette Bolce.
Eugenette’s parents, both American, hadn’t been specially selected for one another (as you might expect, given the term “eugenic”).
Instead, while pregnant, Mrs. Bolce had made it a point to attend concerts and plays, and to have conversations with famous authors. She hoped this would positively influence the baby. (One modern writer called Mrs. Bolce “enterprisingly Lamarckian.”)
Born in March, 6-month-old Eugenette already had a sense of humor and was “absolutely fearless,” according to her parents. They claimed these favorable attributes were “due to their deliberate plan of eugenic training.”
Writers of the day mocked the idea of a eugenic baby. LIFE published a parody piece featuring a smug “first eugenic baby” who ended up getting punched in the jaw by a decidedly non-eugenic baby. One writer even mocked Eugenette’s name: “Eugenette Bolce — that is the name, and it is the name of a baby and not a skin-ointment.”
If you can divorce the idea of eugenics from the name for a second…what do you think of “Eugenette”? Do you like it more or less than Eugenie and Eugenia?
“Armchair Reflections.” Flight: First Aero Weekly in the World 11 Oct. 1913: 1123.
“Eugenette: First Eugenic Baby Brought Up on Humor.” Feilding Star 14 Oct. 1913: 4.
Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Roald Amundsen wasn’t the only person racing southward in the early 1910s. English explorer Robert Falcon Scott was also trying to be the first to reach the South Pole.
But Scott’s team arrived in January on 1912 — more than a month after Amundsen’s team. Even worse, during the 800-mile return trek, Scott and all four of his companions died.
Scott’s body was discovered in November, but the news of his death didn’t reach civilization until February of 1913. At that point, he became a national hero.
It’s hard to know how many babies worldwide were named “Robert” in his honor, given both the prevalence of the name and the sheer size of the British Empire at that time, but I have found a pair of unmistakable tributes:
Robert Falcon Scott Simpson, born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1913.
Robert Falcon Scott Grieve, born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1916.
Both babies were born in Canada, but Simpson’s parents were both from England, while Grieve’s were from the U.S. and Scotland.