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.”

*

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


The Baby Name Avalon

Avalon, song, Al Jolson

Avalon began as a legendary Arthurian island. It was first mentioned in the early 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who may have derived the name from the Welsh word afal, meaning “apple.”

By the late 1800s, Avalon was seeing regular (if rare) usage as a baby name in the U.S., probably thanks to Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King — a series of Arthurian poems published from 1859 to 1885.

These poems also influenced real estate developer George Shatto to use the name “Avalon” for the Catalina Island resort town he was building in the late 1880s.

California’s Avalon became a popular vacation destination for the Hollywood film community during the early 1900s, and in 1920 the town (and the name) were featured in a song called “Avalon.” Here’s the chorus:

I found my love in Avalon
Beside the bay
I left my love in Avalon
And sailed away
I dream of her and Avalon
From dusk ’til dawn
And so I think I’ll travel on
To Avalon

Al Jolson’s rendition of “Avalon” became one of the top songs of 1921.

Not surprisingly, the baby name Avalon saw a spike in usage the same year:

  • 1923: 22 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1922: 23 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1921: 43 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1920: 11 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1919: unlisted

You can see a similar spike in the SSDI data:

  • 1923: 17 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1922: 17 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1921: 36 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1920: 10 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1919: 3 people with the first name Avalon

After the 1920s, the usage of Avalon as a baby name tapered off. In fact, the name wasn’t in the SSA data at all during the ’60s and ’70s.

But it popped up again in 1982. One influence could have been the 1982 Roxy Music album Avalon, which included a song of the same name. A slightly later influence was no doubt Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1983 fantasy novel The Mists of Avalon. (The name of the lead character, Morgaine, debuted in the data in 1984.)

The usage of Avalon has been steadily rising ever since, though the name has yet to hit the top 1,000.

What do you think of the baby name Avalon?

P.S. One of the pre-1921 Avalons was a baby girl born in late 1903 to Mr. and Mrs. Goslin of Maryland. She was born aboard the Chesapeake Bay paddle steamer Avalon. Sadly, Avalon Goslin died of pneumonia in 1918 — just a few years before the song “Avalon” became famous.

Sources:

[Another top song from around this time was Dardanella.]

Babies Named for Jeanne d’Arc

Joan of Arc, Jeanne d'ArcJeanne d’Arc (1412-1431), known as Joan of Arc in English, was a French peasant, Christian mystic, and teenage warrior during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between France and England.

Well, she wasn’t a “warrior” exactly, as she never actually fought in battle. She was more of an “inspirational mascot, brandishing her banner in place of a weapon.”

In any case, she ended up being captured by the enemy, convicted of heresy and witchcraft (among other things), excommunicated from the church, and burned at the stake — all before the age of 20.

But a few decades later the verdict was overturned, the excommunication was invalidated, and she was declared a martyr.

And during the centuries that followed, her reputation grew — especially among the French.

Despite all this, the well-known St. Joan didn’t officially become a Roman Catholic saint until the early 20th century. She was canonized in May of 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

The same year, the full French form of her name, Jeannedarc, debuted on the U.S. baby name charts and reappeared several more times during the same decade:

  • 1927: unlisted
  • 1926: 5 baby girls named Jeannedarc
  • 1925: unlisted
  • 1924: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
  • 1923: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
  • 1920: 5 baby girls named Jeannedarc [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

And that’s not all. Records show that more than a few of the babies simply named Jeanne and Joan in the 1920s had as middle names “d’Arc” and “of Arc.” Two examples:

  • Jeanne D’Arc Florabel Menard, daughter of David and Georgiana Menard, born in Vermont in 1924.
  • Joan of Arc Mary Agnes Chabot, daughter of Thomas and Zelia Chabot, born in Vermont in 1923.

A disproportionate number of these 1920s babies named Jeanne d’Arc and Joan of Arc were born in the Northeastern U.S. to families of French (Canadian) extraction.

Interestingly, St. Joan herself only used the medieval spelling of her name, “Jehanne,” and never included the surname “d’Arc,” which was a form of her father’s surname. In fact, if she’d been forced to use a surname, she likely would have chosen her mother’s, Romée, as per hometown tradition. The surname Romée denoted someone who had made a pilgrimage (though not necessarily to Rome).

Sources: Joan of Arc – Wikipedia, Joan of Arc – Facts & Summary – HISTORY.com, 7 Surprising Facts About Joan of Arc

The Baby Name Monda (Inspired by a Chicago Socialite)

Monda Rose Schweiburg
“Monda Rose” Schweiburg of Chicago
The name Monda debuted on the SSA’s baby name list nearly a century ago:

  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: unlisted
  • 1920: 10 baby girls named Monda [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: unlisted

The SSDI data reveals a similar spike in the number of people named Monda in 1920:

  • 1922: 1 person named Monda
  • 1921: 1 person named Monda
  • 1920: 8 people named Monda
  • 1919: 1 person named Monda
  • 1918: 1 person named Monda

What was the cause?

A Chicago woman who led a double life!

News broke on February 3, 1920, that a 27-year-old Chicago woman named Rose Schweiburg, alias “Monda Rose,” had been apprehended in Winnipeg, Canada.

She had been a employee at Biehl & Sifferman Leather Co. in Chicago until January 24, when she disappeared.

A few days after her disappearance, her employer found a shortage in excess of $10,000 on the books.

While investigating both the missing money and the missing lady (who had been a bookkeeper earning $25 per week) a detective discovered that Rose Schweiburg had a second identity: She was also Monda Rose, a wealthy “society butterfly” who hung out with the fashionable set on the North Side of Chicago.

During the hunt for “Monda Rose” Schweiburg, the leather company had some of her property seized. This included a “$1,500 saddle horse, $2,000 automobile, and the furnishings of her luxurious apartment” on Winthrop Avenue.

She returned to the U.S., all the while telling authorities that she was not to blame — that her lifestyle and lavish expenditures “were made possible by money given her by a man.”

Here’s what else she said, according to the New York Times:

“If there’s any music,” said “Monda Rose,” “I’m willing to face it. I have profited some, but not in any illegal manner. If there’s any money missing somebody else has it. I haven’t.”

“I simply adore society,” she continued. “Long ago I used to watch the well dressed people and envy girls who rode or drove smart rigs or did any of the attractive things.

“I made up my mind then, and never have lost the vision, that some day I would be well dressed and that when the time came I would have read enough and observed enough to be able to maintain my place and be certain of myself in any company.”

By now, the books were known to be off by $25,000, and a shortage of $50,000 was expected once the audit was complete.

Detective Charles W. Haas said, “Her method of obtaining the money was simple. She had access to bank checks which she filled out, forged, and cashed. The stubs retained by the company showed the amounts she should have drawn had been written over for several times the amount.”

Meanwhile, the newspapers — all but declaring Monda Rose guilty of embezzlement — had fun with the details of the case. One brought up her “butcher boy lover” Harry Berger. Another detailed what she was wearing the day she was arrested (she was “bundled up in an expensive sealskin coat and bedecked with a small fortune in diamonds”). One even mentioned her weight (190 lbs).

Monda Rose was released from jail on bonds of $10,000. She continued to deny any wrongdoing.

Her attorney claimed that company co-owner Joseph Sifferman was behind the check raising, and that Rose had merely been following Sifferman’s instructions.

Many months later, in mid-December, the charges against Rose were finally dropped. Attention was then turned toward Sifferman, who said: “This whole thing is frame-up. Now I will have a chance to prove it.”

I’m not sure what happened after that — if Sifferman was ever charged, or if the missing money was ever located.

But I can tell you that society-loving “Monda Rose” Schweiberg went on to marry Harry the butcher boy, and that the two lived out their days in Chicago.

I can also tell you that at least 2 of the babies born in 1920 and named Monda got the middle name Rose:

  • Monda Rose Farmer, born Jan. 25, 1920, in Missouri
  • Monda Rose White, born Feb. 3, 1920, in Illinois

What do you think of the name Monda? Would you ever use it? How about the combo “Monda Rose”?

Sources:

  • “Chicago Butterfly Dances in Her Cell.” Pittsburgh Press 10 Feb. 1920: 13.
  • “Chicago News in Brief” Chicago Tribune 20 Apr. 1920: 14.
  • Missing Monda Rose Arrested in Canada.” New York Times 3 Feb. 1920.
  • “Monda’s Lawyer Passes Check Charge to ‘Boss.'” Chicago Tribune 10 Feb. 1920: 7.
  • ‘Monda Rose’ Returns.” New York Times 8 Feb. 1920.
  • “Pretty Bookkeeper Social Butterfly on Stolen Funds.” Evening News 3 Feb. 1920: 1.
  • Rose M (Schweiburg) Berger – Find a Grave
  • “Schweiburg Girl Keeps up Fight on Extradition.” Chicago Tribune 6 Feb. 1920: 4.
  • “She Cashiered by Day and Played Society by Night.” Arizona Republican 17 Feb. 1920: 2.
  • “Suit May Bare Hidden Chapter of ‘Monda Rose.'” Chicago Tribune 18 Dec. 1920: 1.

The Baby Name Marcheta

Marcheta, songThe baby name Marcheta wouldn’t have become trendy back in the 1920s if not for a newfangled invention: radio.

Marcheta debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1923:

  • 1927: 25 baby girls named Marcheta
  • 1926: 41 baby girls named Marcheta
  • 1925: 46 baby girls named Marcheta
  • 1924: 57 baby girls named Marcheta
  • 1923: 14 baby girls named Marcheta [debut]
  • 1922: unlisted

One year later, usage peaked.

The obvious explanation is the song “Marcheta: A Love Song of Old Mexico” (1913) written by Victor Schertzinger. Except the song was published ten years too early. Also, it was a flop.

A decade later, though, the radio had been invented and the song was revived.

By the end of 1922, “Marcheta” was a hit. Millions of copies were sold in the early-to-mid 1920s, and various artists recorded the song, including Elsie Baker and Olive Kline in 1922:

Victor Schertzinger went on to become a successful motion picture director, but he never used “Marcheta” in one of his movies. In fact, I don’t believe the song was ever used in a movie.

But it had an impact on the movies, because in 1924 the otherwise rare name Marcheta was used in not once but twice as the name of a lead character in a film:

  • Marcheta, character played by Estelle Taylor in the movie Tiger Love
  • Marcheta, character played by Derelys Perdue in the movie Untamed Youth

Because of this, there’s no telling how much of Marcheta’s usage in 1924 was due to radio and how much was due to cinema.

What do you think of the baby name Marcheta?

Sources:

Image: Marcheta; Love song of old Mexico