A Spike in Eulalias

Infanta Eulalia

In the early 1890s, the baby name Eulalia saw a distinct spike in usage:

  • 1895: 34 baby girls named Eulalia
  • 1894: 39 baby girls named Eulalia
  • 1893: 55 baby girls named Eulalia
  • 1892: 19 baby girls named Eulalia
  • 1891: 20 baby girls named Eulalia

That’s what the SSA data indicates; here’s the spike mirrored in the SSDI data:

  • 1895: 81 people named Eulalia
  • 1894: 92 people named Eulalia
  • 1893: 156 people named Eulalia
  • 1892: 59 people named Eulalia
  • 1891: 46 people named Eulalia

What caused it?

Spain’s 29-year-old Infanta Eulalia — whose full name at birth was María Eulalia Francisca de Asís Margarita Roberta Isabel Francisca de Paula Cristina María de la Piedad. (The name Eulalia is derived from the ancient Greek word eulalos, meaning “well spoken.”)

In 1893, she visited the U.S. to attend the Chicago World’s Fair — officially the “Columbian Exposition,” held in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.

This Columbus connection made the fair’s organizers eager to host a member of the Spanish royal family as a guest of honor. So Queen Isabella II of Spain sent her youngest daughter, Eulalia, to represent the family.

Even before Eulalia appeared at the fair on June 7, she attracted U.S. media attention over the 49 days she spent traveling to various places (Puerto Rico, Cuba, Washington DC, and New York) along the way to Chicago.

Once she finally arrived, she was followed closely by the media. Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune offered daily updates on Eulalia and her various activities (e.g., parades, banquets, concerts).

However, despite the glowing reports on the front pages, the Tribune began carrying references to misunderstandings and insinuations of friction over matters of etiquette, precedence, and, especially, the Princess’ cavalier attitude toward arrangements made for her.

In fact, at the end of her “brief but not altogether satisfactory” visit, the Tribune went so far as to say the efforts put in by those who’d entertained Eulalia and her entourage were akin to “seeds flung away on barren ground.”

…All this press coverage, both positive and negative, gave the name a lot of extra exposure during 1893. And this resulted in more U.S. parents naming their babies “Eulalia” the same year.

What are your thoughts on the name Eulalia? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

Sources:

A Whole Bunch of Hobarts

Garret A. Hobart

In 1896, people were thinking politics. We can see it in the baby names that saw the biggest relative increases in usage from 1895 to 1896: Hobart (744%), Hobert (488%), Bryan (481%), Jennings (344%), Bryant (271%), and Mckinley (256%).

I think most of us will recognize William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan as two of the influences here. But where did “Hobart” and “Hobert” come from?

Before I get to the answer, here’s some data on the usage of Hobart and Hobert for baby boys in America during the 1890s:

Year# Hobarts, SSA# Hoberts, SSA
189842 (rank: 281st)42 (rank: 282nd)
1897105 (rank: 148th)60 (rank: 216th)
1896135 (rank: 128th)47 (rank: 263rd)
189516 (rank: 515th)8 (rank: 829th)
18947 (rank: 907th)5 (not in top 1,000)

And here’s some (more reliable) data from the Social Security Death Index showing the same overall trend:

Year# Hobarts, SSDI# Hoberts, SSDI
1898229141
1897514243
1896770263
18958443
18944010

So where did Hobart (and Hobert) come from?

Garret Hobart, the corporate lawyer who became the Republican nominee for vice president in June of 1896. He and running mate McKinley were strong advocates of the Gold Standard, whereas Bryan was as supporter of Free Silver.

McKinley and Hobart won the election and were sworn into their respective offices in March of 1897. Unlike most vice presidents up to that point, Hobart “enjoyed an unusually close relationship with the president and was often consulted on major policy issues.”

But his term was cut short. He became ill in early 1899, his health declined as the year wore on, and he died of heart disease in November at age 55.

During his last summer, though, he and his wife Jennie had some fun with names while staying at their seaside New Jersey home, which featured an outdoor fountain:

This fountain we stocked with gold fish that grew so tame they followed us as we walked round it. One fish, with a huge gold spot on his back, we named McKinley; one with a big silver mark we named Bryan. The most gorgeous one of all whose coat, shot with crimson, white and gold looked like a uniform, we named General Miles.

What are your thoughts on Hobart as a first name? Is it usable these days?

Sources:

Babies Named for Kentucky’s Assassinated Governor

William Goebel, Kentucky governor
William Goebel of Kentucky

Who knew that the only U.S. governor assassinated while in office would have so many namesakes?

In 1899, the two men running for governor of Kentucky — “the most violent state in the union” at the end of the 19th century — were William Goebel (Democrat) and William S. Taylor (Republican).

Goebel — a crafty politician who had murdered one of his rivals several years earlier — was the favorite.

But, in an unexpected turn of events, Taylor ended up defeating Goebel by a narrow margin.

While Goebel was ready to accept the loss, his supporters were not, and the election results were challenged on the grounds of voter fraud.

Taylor was inaugurated on December 12, but chaos reigned in Kentucky for many weeks. In fact, “Kentucky was teetering on the brink of civil war by January 30, 1900” — the day an unseen gunman shot William Goebel in the chest while he was walking toward the State House.

The very next day, the Kentucky General Assembly decided that Goebel had indeed won the election. He was immediately sworn in as governor, but died on the evening of February 3.

Thus, Goebel became the only U.S. state governor to be assassinated while in office.

And 1899-1900 is exactly when we first see the baby name Goebel appear in the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1901: unlisted
  • 1900: 10 baby boys named Goebel
  • 1899: 5 baby boys named Goebel [debut]
  • 1898: unlisted

The SSA data from that era is incomplete, though, so let’s also look at data from the Social Security Death Index (SSDI):

  • 1904: 2 people named Goebel
  • 1903: 5 people named Goebel
  • 1902: 8 people named Goebel
  • 1901: 10 people named Goebel
  • 1900: 73 people named Goebel
  • 1899: 54 people named Goebel
  • 1898: 5 people named Goebel
  • 1897: 2 people named Goebel
  • 1896: 1 person named Goebel
  • 1895: no one named Goebel

I don’t know for sure where all of the 1899/1900 Goebels listed in the SSDI were born, but I can tell you that most died in the state of Kentucky.

Finally, other turn-of-the-century records reveal hundreds of babies named “William Goebel” specifically. Here are a dozen of them:

  1. William Goebel Bower, 1900-1980
  2. William Goebel Darland, 1900-1923
  3. William Goebel Fowler, 1900-1924
  4. William Goebel Haley, 1899-1936
  5. William Goebel Johnson, 1899-1908
  6. William Goebel Kendall, 1900-1947
  7. William Goebel Locknane, 1900-1977
  8. William Goebel Mers, 1899-1932
  9. William Goebel Pulliam, 1899-1924
  10. William Goebel Spurlin, 1899-1964
  11. William Goebel Todd, 1900-1956
  12. William Goebel Whitney, 1899-1965

So what does the German surname Goebel mean? It’s a respelling of Göbel, a pet form of the Germanic personal name Godebert, made up of the elements g?d, “good,” or god, “god,” and berht, “bright; famous.”

Sources:

  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Newton, Michael. Famous Assassinations in World History, vol. 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2014.
  • Walker, Marianne C. “The Late Governor Goebel.” Humantities Jul./Aug. 2013.
  • William Goebel – Wikipedia

Babies of Silverites Named “Silver” in 1896

“Silver Lunatics”

The baby name Silver is now a regular on the SSA’s annual baby name list. But it wasn’t quite as common back in the 1890s when it suddenly debuted with an impressive 10 baby boys:

  • 1898: unlisted
  • 1897: unlisted
  • 1896: 10 baby boys named Silver [debut]
  • 1895: unlisted
  • 1894: unlisted

If we look at SSDI data we see a similar spike in the number of people named Silver in 1896:

  • 1898: 8 people named Silver
  • 1897: 6 people named Silver
  • 1896: 18 people named Silver
  • 1895: 6 people named Silver
  • 1894: 8 people named Silver

Can you guess the cause?

I’ll give you two hints. First, look what happens to the name Bryan that year:

  • 1898: 57 baby boys named Bryan
  • 1897: 97 baby boys named Bryan
  • 1896: 157 baby boys named Bryan
  • 1895: 27 baby boys named Bryan
  • 1894: 9 baby boys named Bryan

Now check out how the name Jennings peaks a year later:

  • 1898: 28 baby boys named Jennings
  • 1897: 50 baby boys named Jennings
  • 1896: 40 baby boys named Jennings
  • 1895: 9 baby boys named Jennings
  • 1894: 5 baby boys named Jennings

No doubt you’ve pieced it together: 1896 was the year William Jennings Bryan ran for president, and the central issue for Democrats that year was Free Silver.

The U.S. was in the middle of a depression, and Free Silver supporters (the “Silverites”) thought the depression could be alleviated via the coinage of silver.

“For true believers,” the Encyclopedia Britannica states, “silver became the symbol of economic justice for the mass of the American people.”

And those “true believers” were very likely the ones naming their kids Silver back in 1896.

But Bryan’s opponent, William McKinley, was able to convince voters that Free Silver was a bad thing — that the resultant inflation would harm the economy — and won the election.

What do you think of the baby name Silver?

Sources: William Jennings Bryan – Wikipedia, Free Silver – Wikipedia, Free Silver Movement | United States history | Britannica.com
Image: A down-hill movement – LOC

P.S. Want to see other money-inspired monikers? Try Legal Tender, Depression, Cash Money, Rose Mary Echo Silver Dollar, Millionaire, Billionaire, Trillionaire, Free Silver, Gold Standard.

The Baby Name Trilby

trilby, book, cover,

The gothic melodrama Trilby by British author George du Maurier was first published serially in Harper’s Monthly from January to August, 1894. It was released as a book in September.

The story was set in Paris in the early 1850s. The title character, Trilby O’Ferrall, was a naïve, tone-deaf artist’s model who went on to become a world-famous singer, thanks to the hypnotic powers of the sinister Svengali. But when Svengali suddenly died, Trilby lost her ability to sing and ended up wasting away.

the baby name trilby

Trilby wasn’t just a bestseller — the entire country was gripped by Trilby-mania for several years straight. (Not unlike the Twilight-mania that emerged more than 100 years later.)

Many things, from fashion to food, were influenced/inspired by Trilby during this time. Here’s a partial list:

  • Language:
    • Trilbies became slang for “(women’s) feet,” as Trilby had particularly beautiful feet
    • Svengali became slang for “a person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another, especially for a sinister purpose”
  • Music:
  • Products:
    • Trilby hat
    • Trilby dolls
    • Trilby ice cream (it was molded into the shape of a foot)
    • Trilby board game
    • Trilby high-heeled shoes
    • Trilby jewelry
    • Trilby belts
    • Trilby bathing suits
    • Trilby cigars/cigarettes
    • Trilby hearth brush
    • Trilby tea
    • Trilby cocktail
    • Trilby pie
    • Trilby sausage
    • Trilby ham
  • Non-human namesakes:
    • Trilby, Florida
    • USS Trilby
  • Adaptations:
    • Trilby, stage play
    • Trilby (1915), movie
    • Trilby (1923), movie
    • Svengali (1931), movie
  • Influence on other literary works:
    • Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker
    • Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909) by Gaston Leroux

Trilby and its glamorization of the bohemian lifestyle even “excited a vogue for nude modeling among the many young women who wished to follow the Trilby life.” (And this, of course, “alarmed the clergy and other guardians of morality.”)

So where does the name Trilby come from?

For a long time I’d assumed that George du Maurier had based it on the musical term trill, which refers to rapid alternation between two adjacent musical notes. Turns out this isn’t the case.

He borrowed the name from an earlier work of literature, the story “Trilby, ou le Lutin d’Argail” (“Trilby, or the Fairy of Argyle”) (1822) by French writer Charles Nodier. In Nodier’s story, which is set in Scotland, Trilby is a male sprite who seduces a mortal woman.

In 1895 a New York Times writer guessed that the name of Nodier’s Trilby might be “an endearing diminutive of “trall,” a member of the brownie clan,” but I can’t find any outside confirmation that the word “trall” even exists. (Perhaps it’s a Scottish variant of the word “troll”…?)

How many people in the U.S. have been named Trilby?

According to the SSA data, Trilby was the 978th most popular girl name in the U.S. in 1895, the year after the book was published. This was the only time Trilby managed to rank within the U.S. top 1,000.

  • 1897: unlisted
  • 1896: 6 baby girls named Trilby
  • 1895: 12 baby girls named Trilby [debut] (rank: 978th)
  • 1894: unlisted

But the SSA data from that period is incomplete, so here are the SSDI numbers for the same years:

  • 1897: 10 people named Trilby
  • 1896: 22 people named Trilby
  • 1895: 34 people named Trilby
  • 1894: 5 people named Trilby

These days, Trilby rarely appears on the SSA’s list:

  • 2014: unlisted
  • 2013: unlisted
  • 2012: unlisted
  • 2011: unlisted
  • 2010: 6 baby girls named Trilby
  • 2009: unlisted
  • 2008: 7 baby girls named Trilby
  • 2007: unlisted
  • 2006: unlisted
  • 2005: unlisted
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: unlisted
  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: unlisted

Trilby may be an unfashionable name right now, but for the parents-to-be who want something a bit retro-sounding, this could be a good thing.

The name is also an intriguing option for lovers of trivia and/or quirky history, as it’s tied to a fascinating pop culture craze from over a century ago. (We might be saying the same thing about Renesmee 100 years from now!)

Plus, Trilby is one of a small number of names with that distinctive “-by” ending, such as Ruby, Shelby, Darby, Colby, Kirby and Rigby.

One possible drawback to the name is the not-so-subtle anti-Semitism in the book itself. Svengali is not merely the “greasily, mattedly unkempt” antagonist of the story, but he’s also Jewish — with “bold, black, beady Jew’s eyes” no less. Then again…similar things could be said about other historical pieces of literature that have inspired baby names.

If you’re considering the naming your baby girl Trilby, I highly encourage you to head over to Project Gutenberg and read (or at least skim) the text of Trilby.

What are your thoughts on the name Trilby?

Sources: