Mystery baby name: Bisceglia

Graph of the usage of the baby name Bisceglia in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Bisceglia

The unusual name Bisceglia debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1979 and stuck around for 3 more years before disappearing again:

  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: 6 baby girls named Bisceglia
  • 1981: 7 baby girls named Bisceglia
  • 1980: 5 baby girls named Bisceglia
  • 1979: 8 baby girls named Bisceglia [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

The name must come from the Italian surname Bisceglia [be-SHAYL-yah], which refers to the town of Bisceglie in southern Italy, but I have no idea what drew people’s attention to the surname circa 1979.

The closest I’ve got to a proper theory is Steve Bisceglia, who played football at the University of Alabama in the early ’70s — but the years don’t match up, and male sports stars typically don’t inspire female names.

Any other ideas?

Update, Aug. 2021: The more I look into it, the more I like Becca’s theory about the influence being an ad campaign for wine.

Bisceglia Brothers Wine Co. (which was founded in California in the 1880s) became a subsidiary of Canandaigua Wine Company of New York in 1974. Around 1980, Canandaigua was apparently marketing Bisceglia wine on television. I haven’t been able to track down any commercials (or even print ads) from that time period yet, but here’s a quote from a 1980 issue of Beverage Industry (also originally found by Becca) about the campaign:

Canandaigua’s new Bisceglia line of semi-premium jug wines is advertised as the wine for the liberated woman executive. Television commercials, bearing the brunt of the Bisceglia campaign, feature a woman in a variety of responsible positions as sports editor, successful mayoral candidate and chairperson of the board. Canandaigua’s vice president for sales, Robert Huntington, says market research showed that whereas ten years ago women purchased only about 24% of all wine, now they make purchasing decisions on from 60 to 75% of all wine.

I don’t think we can declare this mystery solved, though, until we learn more about the nature of the advertisements — particularly the commercials. (I just want to be sure they were featuring the name “Bisceglia” prominently enough to affect baby names.)

6 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Bisceglia

  1. The football player’s an interesting detail/ Steve Bisceglia’s family operated the Bisceglia Brothers Winery in California. (The one described here:, not the newer Italian vinery of the same name.) He’s a wine marketer now. I wonder if he did some kind of print advertising campaign or Crimson Tide team sponsorship in 79-80? I can’t find a smoking gun, but that’s the best guess I can come up with.

    There was also an IRS v. Bisceglia Supreme Court case in 1975, but that seems pretty remote as an influence.

  2. All I can tell you is that during those years I started and operated the BTB Christmas tree farm in Coarsegold, California which is in the foothills of Yosemite National Park.
    It’s a mystery to me too.
    Steve Bisceglia
    Universal of Alabama #44 ’71& ’72

  3. From of a GoogleBooks snippet of a 1980 Beverage World magazine, “Canandaigua’s new Bisceglia line of semi-premium jug wines is advertised as the wine for the liberated woman executive. Television commercials, bearing the brunt of the Bisceglia campaign…” Television ad + specifically marketed to women seems like a baby name recipe to me!

  4. And a 1982 article from the Finger Lakes Times: “Canandaigua is no stranger to California. The company acquired the Bisceglia Brothers Winery in Fresno in 1974. It is now promoting those wines nationally.”

  5. Thank you, Steve, for stopping by!

    Becca, that’s a solid theory! I didn’t know there was a national ad campaign around that time for the brand of wine. That might make all the difference. I’ll do some research on this!

    (And I’m sorry, Elisabeth, for not following up on the wine connection when you first mentioned it.)

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