Where did the baby name Tessibel come from in 1917?

The character Tessibel Skinner from the movie "The Secret of the Storm Country" (1917).
Tessibel from “The Secret of the Storm Country

The name Tessibel has appeared only once in the U.S. baby name data, way back in 1917:

  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: 7 baby girls named Tessibel [debut]
  • 1916: unlisted
  • 1915: unlisted

For a better picture of what usage looked like around this time, though, let’s check out data from the Social Security Death Index:

  • 1919: 2 people named Tessibell, 1 person named Tesibel
  • 1918: 1 person named Tessibel, 1 person named Tessibell
  • 1917: 4 people named Tessibel, 1 person named Tessibell, 1 person named Tessibelle
  • 1916: 3 people named Tessibel
  • 1900-1915: no one with any of these names

So where did the name Tessibel come from in the mid-1910s, and why were there a few extra Tessibels in 1917?

The inspiration was fictional character Tessibel Skinner, invented by author Grace Miller White and first introduced in the 1909 book Tess of the Storm Country. A second book featuring Tess, The Secret of the Storm Country, came out in 1917.

The first book was made into four different films (in 1914, 1922, 1932, and 1960) and the second was made into a single film the same year it was published.

My guess is that the name got a nudge in 1917 thanks to the release of the new story, which was also serialized in the now-defunct magazine Woman’s World. The marketing for the movie — which featured popular actress Norma Talmadge (who went on to star in The Heart of Wetona and Smilin’ Through) — could have been a factor as well.

Do you like the name Tessibel? Do you think it’s a good alternative to names like Isabel and Annabel?

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Tessibel come from in 1917?

  1. Given the popularity of names beginning with Tess and other names ending in -bel or -belle, this name should fit perfectly into contemporary naming style. Some writer could pick it up and popularise it again.

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