Where did the baby name Tinker come from in 1954?

The character Tinker from the TV series "Tinker's Workshop" (1954-1958)
Tinker from “Tinker’s Workshop

The curious name Tinker first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1950s:

  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: 5 baby girls named Tinker
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Tinker [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted

Where did it come from?

I think the girls may have been named Tinker with the Peter Pan character Tinker Bell in mind. (Disney’s film version of Peter Pan came out in ’53, and the Broadway musical came out in ’54.)

But for boys, the inspiration is more likely to be the children’s TV program Tinker’s Workshop, which was on the air from 1954 to 1958. The sole human character was gray-haired, Geppetto-like “Tinker the Toymaker” played by Bob Keeshan (who also produced the show). Keeshan wrote in the ’80s that:

[Tinker] was warm and welcoming, a grandfather who finds joy in talking to young people, passing on his wisdom, exploring the world with them.

The show was a success, but Keeshan left less than a year after it premiered to become “Captain Kangaroo” — a role he played for the next three decades.

Tinker’s Workshop continued until mid-1958, with the role of Tinker being taken up by several other actors, the last of whom was a young Dom DeLuise.

Do you like Tinker as a baby name? Do you think it works better for boys or for girls?

Source: Keeshan, Bob. Growing Up Happy: Captain Kangaroo Tells Yesterday’s Children How to Nurture Their Own. New York: Doubleday, 1989

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Tinker come from in 1954?

  1. Personally I associate the name Tinker with the phrase “Tinker to Evers to Chance” in the poem about the 3 Cubs players by those names. I doubt that had any connection to the use of Tinker as either a boys or girls name in the 1950’s since it was written in the early 1900s.

  2. Interesting! I’ve never heard of the poem, but I’m sure that’s the first association for a lot of baseball fans. Here’s Tinker’s baseball card (from the LOC):

    joe tinker, baseball

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