Transient Tessibel

secret of storm country, 1917, movieTessibel appeared only once in the Social Security Administration’s baby name data, way back in 1917:

  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: 7 baby girls named Tessibel [debut]
  • 1916: unlisted
  • 1915: unlisted

For a better picture of what usage looked like around this time, though, let’s check out data from the Social Security Death Index:

  • 1921: 2 people named Tessibel
  • 1920: 1 people named Tessibel
  • 1919: 2 people named Tessibel
  • 1918: 2 people named Tessibel
  • 1917: 6 people named Tessibel
  • 1916: 3 people named Tessibel
  • 1900-1915: zero people named Tessibel

So where did the name Tessibel come from in the 1910s, and why were there extra Tessibels in 1917?

The inspiration was fictional character Tessibel Skinner, invented by author Grace Miller White and first introduced in the 1909 book Tess of the Storm Country. A second book featuring Tess, The Secret of the Storm Country, came out in 1917.

The first book was made into four different films (in 1914, 1922, 1932, and 1960) and the second was made into a single film the same year it was published.

My guess is that the name got a nudge in 1917 thanks to the release of the new story, which was also serialized in the now-defunct magazine Woman’s World. The marketing for the movie — which featured popular actress Norma Talmadge (who went on to star in The Heart of Wetona and Smilin’ Through) — could have been a factor as well.

Do you like the name Tessibel? Do you think it’s a good alternative to names like Isabel and Annabel?


The Vivacious Name Viviette

Illustration from book Viviette (1910) by W. J. LockeThe rare name Viviette first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1919:

  • 1920: unlisted
  • 1919: 6 baby girls named Viviette [debut]
  • 1918: unlisted

After 1919, it fell off the charts for nearly a century before reappearing in 2014 (and hence being knocked off the one-hit wonder list).

The SSDI also reveals a slight uptick in usage in 1919:

  • 1921: 0 people named Viviette
  • 1920: 1 people named Viviette
  • 1919: 3 people named Viviette
  • 1918: 1 people named Viviette
  • 1917: 1 people named Viviette

So what was the cause? The silent film Viviette, released way back in 1918.

Coincidentally, the character Viviette was played by an actress with a very similar name: Vivian Martin. Both names can be traced back to the Latin word vivus, which means “alive, living.”

The movie was based on the book Viviette (1910) by William J. Locke. Here’s a synopsis:

Viviette is a girl of many lovers, but for the purpose of this story the number narrows down to two, the brothers, Austin and Dick Ware. Austin is the brilliant successful one of the two, Dick, hot tempered and passionate, is the failure. Viviette plays one off against the other and carries the flirtation to dangerous lengths. But in the end she makes her choice.

Which name do you like better, Viviette or Vivian?

Sources:

The Baby Name Wetona

heart of wetona, norma talmadge, silent film, 1919

Here’s a curious one: Wetona. The name started appearing in the baby name data during the second half of the 1910s:

  • 1922: 10 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1920: 12 baby girls named Wetona [peak]
  • 1919: 9 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 5 baby girls named Wetona [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted

The SSA data from that far back isn’t terribly reliable, though, so here’s SSDI data for the same time period:

  • 1922: 6 Wetonas
  • 1921: 4 Wetonas
  • 1920: 9 Wetonas and 1 Wetonah
  • 1919: 10 Wetonas, 1 Wetonah, and 1 person with the middle name Wetona
  • 1918: 1 Wetona
  • 1917: 1 Wetona
  • 1916: 1 Wetona and 1 Wetonah
  • 1915: none

What put Wetona (and Wetonah) on the map in 1916? The play The Heart of Wetona, which was written by George Scarborough and performed on Broadway from February to May, 1916. It starred actress Lenore Ulric as the “Indian princess” Wetona.

How did Scarborough come up with the name Wetona? I’m not sure that he did. “The play was originally called Oklahoma and focused on problems of religious leaders in the new state.” It was then rewritten by theatrical producer/playwright David Belasco, who “changed some of the characters to Indians and the locale to a reservation.”

A few years later, in 1919, two things happened. First, the play was turned into a silent film starring Norma Talmadge. Second, the song “Heart of Wetona” — which was “inspired by and dedicated to Norma Talmadge” — was published. These two things together account for the increased usage of the name Wetona that year.

Do you like the name Wetona? Do you think it’s usable nowadays?

Sources:

One-Hit Wonder Baby Name: Ysobel

movie, 1916, yaqui, yona

If you like the baby names Isabelle and Isabel but want a something a bit different, here’s an idea: Ysobel, which appeared for the first and only time on the U.S. baby name charts in 1916:

  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 6 baby girls named Ysobel [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted

The inspiration was either (or both?) of two 1916 films featuring characters named Ysobel:

  • The Yaqui, released in March of 1916. Ysobel was played by actress Yona Landowska.
  • Lieutenant Danny, U.S.A., released in August of 1916. Ysobel was played by actress Enid Markey.

queen ysabel, spain, 1492(My guess is that the first film had more influence, both because it was released earlier and because another character name, Modesta, also saw higher usage in 1916.)

The rare spelling “Ysobel” is likely based on the Old Spanish version of the name, Ysabel.

In fact, did you know that the historic Spanish queen we call “Isabella” in English was actually known as “Ysabel” during her lifetime? (And her husband Ferdinand was actually “Fernando.”) Their initials, “F” and “Y,” were featured on the banner that Christopher Columbus created for his 1492 expedition to the New World.

Images:

  • The Movie Picture World, Mar. 18, 1916: 1847.
  • Lossing, Benson J. The Pictorial Field-book of the Revolution. Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851.

McCutcheon’s Baby Names: Nedra, Yetive, Gerane, Doraine…

The name “George Barr McCutcheon” probably doesn’t mean anything to you, right? But the name has become pretty familiar to me over the years, because George Barr McCutcheon — who wrote dozens of novels in the early 1900s — put several brand new baby names on the map during the early 20th century.

The Indiana-born writer lived from 1866 to 1928, and many of his books became bestsellers. Today, his best-remembered story is Brewster’s Millions, which has been adapted into a movie several times. The most memorable adaptation would have to be the 1985 version starring comedians Richard Pryor (as protagonist Montgomery Brewster) and John Candy.

So which baby names did McCutcheon introduce/influence? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Nedra

nedraMcCutcheon’s novel Nedra (1905) was the 5th best-selling book of 1905. Though there’s a lady on the front cover, “Nedra” isn’t a female character, but the name of an island on which several of the characters are shipwrecked.

The next year, the name Nedra debuted on the baby name charts. In fact, it was the top debut name of 1906.

  • 1909: 14 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1908: 18 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1907: 10 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1906: 11 baby girls named Nedra [debut]
  • 1905: unlisted

SSDI data confirms that the name Nedra saw noticeably higher usage after the book was released.

One of these baby Nedras grew up to become actress Nedra Volz (b. 1908).

Yetive, Truxton, Gerane, Beverly

McCutcheon wrote six novels about the fictional Eastern European country of Graustark:

  • Graustark (1901) – the 9th best-selling book of 1901
  • Beverly of Graustark (1904) – the 6th best-selling book of 1904
  • Truxton King (1909) – the 6th best-selling book of 1909
  • The Prince of Graustark (1914) – the 10th best-selling book of 1914
  • East of the Setting Sun (1924)
  • The Inn of the Hawk and Raven (1927)

Several of these books were later made into movies and plays. The three Graustarkian names I’ve noticed on the charts are:

  • Yetive, inspired by the character Princess Yetive from the first two books. First appeared in the SSA data in 1911.
  • Truxton, inspired by Truxton King from the 3rd book. First appeared in the data in 1912.
  • Gerane, inspired by Gerane Davos from the final book. First appeared in the data 1928.

Plus there’s Beverly, which was used for a female character in Beverly of Graustark. The novel, along with a 1926 film adaptation, helped pull the once-gender-neutral name onto the girls’ side definitively. (Ironically, the actress who played Princess Yetive in a 1915 film adaptation of Graustark used the stage name Beverly Bayne.)

Here are some of Graustarkian names that did not make the charts: Ganlook, Grenfall, Dantan, Dannox, Marlanx, Bevra (the daughter of Beverly), Hedrik, and Pendennis.

Doraine

McCutcheon’s novel West Wind Drift (1920) is like his earlier book Nedra in that both stories involve a shipwreck and an island. In Nedra, “Nedra” is the name of the island; in West Wind Drift, “Doraine” is the name of the ship.

The year West Wind Drift came out, the name Doraine debuted in the baby name data.

  • 1923: 5 baby girls named Doraine
  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Doraine
  • 1920: 11 baby girls named Doraine [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

It was tied for 2nd-highest debut name that year. (#1 was Dardanella.)

Coincidentally, the shipwrecked characters in West Wind Drift have a debate at one point about using “Doraine” as baby name. They argue over whether or not they should give the name to an orphaned baby girl who had been born aboard the ship. Here’s the opinion of character Michael Malone: “We can’t do better than to name her after her birthplace. That’s her name. Doraine Cruise. It sounds Irish. Got music in it.”

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Have you ever a George Barr McCutcheon book? If so, do you remember any unusual character names? (If not, and you’d like to check him out, here are dozens of George Barr McCutcheon novels archived at Project Gutenberg.)

Sources: The Books of the Century: 1900-1999 – Daniel Immerwahr, George Barr McCutcheon – Wikipedia