The 24 Children of Isaac Singer

isaac singer
Isaac Singer: businessman & baby-daddy
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:

  • Ruth
  • Clara
  • Florence
  • Margaret
  • 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?


Family of Food Names: Taco, Apple, Chili, Bran…

Florida-born rugby player Taco Pope — who’s in the Jacksonville Axemen Hall of Fame and who made it to the NOTY Final Four last year — comes from a family full of food-names.

He has brothers named Apple-Joe and Pepci. His mother, Chili-Lu, has a brother named Pepar and a sister named Cofi. Pepar has a daughter named Colby (“after the cheese”). Cofi has four children named Sage, Bran, Cinnamon-T and Dentyne (“after the American chewing gum brand”).

The initial food names were thought up by grandparents Rex and Dortha Lou. Dortha Lou’s nickname? “Pork.”

So does Taco Pope like his name? He told one reporter that it had never been a hindrance. On the contrary, it was “a good conversation starter.”

Sources: Taco and Apple take the cake, Obituary of Rex Marion Anspaugh

[For more edible appellations, check out this list of unusual names, which includes Apple Pie, Apple Seed, Lemon Lime, Orange Lemon, and more.]

Baby Nearly Named After Police Officer

On July 30, 1946, Los Angeles police officer Harry Dowty helped a pregnant woman named Edith Runfola deliver a baby girl.

According to the LA Times, Edith “said she [would] name the baby Harriet in honor of Officer Dowty.”

But what do the records say? The California Birth Index shows that Edith’s daughter got the first name Josephine and middle name Katherine. No mention of “Harriet.”

Did Edith change her mind? Did her husband veto “Harriet”? We shall never know…

But we do know the names of Edith’s other children. The article listed the 10 born before Josephine and the California Birth Index revealed that at least two more came along after:

  • Florence
  • Pearl
  • Ruby
  • Willie
  • Hazel
  • Marie
  • Daniel
  • Grace
  • Edith
  • Kenneth
  • Josephine (and not Harriet)
  • Jack
  • Helena

Source: “Police Officer Assists at Birth of Baby Girl.” Los Angeles Times 31 Jul. 1946: A1.

Rhyming Nicknames – Polly, Dolly, Molly, Lolly

New York City businessman Isaac Rice, founder of the Electric Boat Company (maker of the first modern submarine used by the U.S. Navy), married his wife Julia in 1885. They had six children:

  • Muriel
  • Dorothy
  • Isaac
  • Marion
  • Marjorie
  • Julian

All six went by nicknames — mostly rhyming nicknames (for the girls):

  • Dolly
  • Polly
  • Tommy
  • Molly
  • Lolly
  • Babe

Several decades later, actor Don Ameche also had six kids, most of whom also had rhyming nicknames.

P.S. Julia Rice founded the Society for Suppression of Unnecessary Noise in the early 1900s.

California Family with 22 Children

Story family of California in 1940 U.S. census
The Story family on the 1940 U.S. Census
Marion and Charlotte “Lottie” Story of Bakersfield, California, had at least 22 children — including five sets of twins — from 1922 to 1946. Seventeen of their kids are listed on the 1940 U.S. Census (at right).

I don’t know the names of all the Story children, but here are 20 of them: Jean, Jane, Jack, Jacqueline, June, Eileen, Clyde, Robert, James, Jeannette, Steve, Jerry, Terry (sometimes “Terrytown”), Charlotte, Scotty, Sherrie, Garry, Joanne, Frances (called Lidwina), and Monica (called Sandy).

Charlotte Story herself was one of a dozen children, born from 1899 to 1919. Her 11 siblings were named Pearl, George, Rhea, Hazel, Fern, Ira, Myrtle, Dorothy, Helen, Russell, and Viola.

And Charlotte’s mother Elsie was one of 13 children, born from 1865 to 1892. Her 12 siblings were named Edward, Levi, William, Frank, Rosa, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Archibald, Gertrude, and Emma.

So here’s the question: If you had to choose all of your own children’s names from just one of the sibsets above, which set would you pick? Why?

Sources: Charlotte M Lacount Story – Find A Grave, Elsie E Dubay LaCount – Find A Grave