Where did the baby name Anona come from in 1903?

Sheet music for the song "Anona" (1903)
“Anona” sheet music

Music has introduced dozens of new names (like Rhiannon, Monalisa, and Alize) to the baby name charts.

I believed for a long time that Dardanella was the first of these introduced-by-song names. It bounded onto the charts in 1920 — before the widespread usage of radio and record players, impressively. This must make it one-of-a-kind, right?

Nope. I’ve since gone back over the early name lists and discovered a musical name that debuted on the charts a whopping 17 years earlier, in 1903. That name is Anona:

  • 1906: 12 baby girls named Anona
  • 1905: 22 baby girls named Anona
  • 1904: 22 baby girls named Anona
  • 1903: 7 baby girls named Anona [debut]
  • 1902: unlisted
  • 1901: unlisted

The SSA’s early name lists are relatively unreliable, though, so here are the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) numbers for the same time-span:

  • 1906: 38 baby girls named Anona (SSDI)
  • 1905: 48 baby girls named Anona (SSDI)
  • 1904: 57 baby girls named Anona (SSDI)
  • 1903: 18 baby girls named Anona (SSDI)
  • 1902: 1 baby girl named Anona (SSDI)
  • 1901: 1 baby girl named Anona (SSDI)

The song “Anona” was published in mid-1903. It was written by Vivian Grey, which was a pseudonym for either presidential niece Mabel McKinley or prolific songwriter Robert A. King, sources don’t agree.

The song became very popular and was recorded multiple times. (Here’s Henry Burr’s version, for instance.) This is the chorus:

My sweet Anona, in Arizona,
There is no other maid I’d serenade;
By camp-fires gleaming, of you I’m dreaming,
Anona, my sweet Indian maid.

So-called “Indian love songs” were becoming trendy around this time, thanks to the success of the song “Hiawatha” (1902). Here are a few more that, like “Anona,” have titles that were also used as female names in the songs:

  • “Kick-apoo” (1904)
  • “Oneonta” (1904)
  • “Tammany” (1905)
  • “Silverheels” (1905)
  • “Iola” (1906)
  • “Arrah Wanna” (1906)
    • Dozens of babies were named Arrahwanna, Arrah-Wanna, and Arrah Wanna after this song was published.
  • “Sitka” (1909)
  • “Ogalalla” (1909)

What do you think of the baby name Anona? Would you ever consider using it?

Source: Native Americans: The Noble Savage: The Indian Princess

6 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Anona come from in 1903?

  1. Anona sounds nice, but I don’t find the song — Anona in Arizona — conducive to promoting the name. Many years ago, I knew an elderly woman called “Nonie” (“no-nee”) from her given name Winona. I imagine some of the Anonas were also called “Nonie”. Anona reminds me of Ramona too, a name that was associated with a song more substantial (less corny) than Anona. I just looked up Ramona on the SSA website and see that it ranked in the 400s during the years when Anona was being used for a few baby girls.

    Interesting about these so-called “Indian maiden” names and the exotic view of Native American *women* that was held in the early 20th century.

  2. Anona is one of my favorite names. I would use it to honor my friend named Autumn.

  3. @Diana – Anona Winn is another — she was born in Australia not long after the song came out.

    @Patricia – That “Indian maiden” stereotype really is interesting — I’m guessing it can ultimately be traced back to all the romanticized stories of Pocahontas.

    @Elizabeth – Is it really? Where did you first learn about the name? I’m curious because I don’t think I was even aware of it before discovering it buried in the data.

  4. I like that the ever-common nickname of Annie could work for a little Anona if she didn’t want to stand out.

    Anona has a nice, soft sound that reminds me of Winona and Ramona.

    Fascinating find!

  5. @The Mrs. – The name Ramona has a similar story, actually. It was also popularized in the early 1900s by an “Indian maiden”-type song. The spike was a lot bigger, though, and it happened two and a half decades later. And it was more than a song that did it — the song was part of the soundtrack to the silent film “Ramona.”

    Anona keeps reminding me of that word for pineapple, ananas. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.