Originally called High Hat: A Radio Romance, the story was written by Alma Sioux Scarberry. (Her middle name was originally “Sue,” but she changed it when she learned she was part Native American — Cherokee specifically, not actually Sioux.) It was serialized in the newspapers in 1930 — from March to May, in most of them. It was published as a stand-alone book over the summer.
The main character, Elanda Lee, was a singer with “high hat” ambitions: she worked in radio, but wanted to become an opera star. Her love interest was popular radio star Suwanee Collier, who she initially dismissed because he was “only a ukulele player.” In the end, “[s]he stoops to conquer by becoming the most popular girl on the radio programs singing the praises of complexion soap.” (Here’s a longer synopsis of High Hat, if you’re interested.)
And in 1930, right on cue, the baby name Elanda debuted in the U.S. baby name data:
- 1932: unlisted
- 1931: 6 baby girls named Elanda
- 1930: 19 baby girls named Elanda [debut & peak usage]
- 1929: unlisted
- 1928: unlisted
…But it doesn’t end there. Because in early 1937, the movie High Hat was released. (Here’s a complete copy of High Hat up at the Internet Archive, if you’d like to watch.) And it seems that, in the movie, Swanee — now being spelled like the Gershwin song — was the central character. He ultimately helped classically trained singer Elanda adapt to the trend of “swing” music.
The same year, the baby name Swanee was a one-hit wonder in the data, showing up as a girl name. (This is one of several baby names that came from male character, yet popped up on the girls’ side of the list. Another example is Kookie.)
- 1939: unlisted
- 1938: unlisted
- 1937: 5 baby girls named Swanee [debut]
- 1936: unlisted
- 1935: unlisted
Curiously, the baby name Elanda did not re-emerge in ’37. That said, the name “Landa” did pop up the next year…perhaps there’s a connection?
What are your thoughts on the names Elanda and Swanee?
- Alma Sioux Scarberry Papers – Texas Archival Resources Online
- High Hat advertisement. Evening Gazette [Xenia, Ohio] 14 Mar. 1930: 5.
- High Hat (1937) – TCM.com