“Miss” Zane Grey

American author Zane Grey (1872-1939)
Zane Grey

According to a newspaper article from 1911, many people assumed that Zane Grey was a woman because of his first name:

Zane Grey, who is spending the summer at Cottage Point, Lackawaxen, Pa., complains that his unusual first name is the cause of much misunderstanding and that he has received numerous letters addressed to “Miss” Zane Grey and requests for the lady’s photograph.

But “Zane” wasn’t his actual first name. It was his middle name, taken from his mother’s maiden name.

His full name at birth was Pearl Zane Grey. He was born in early 1872 in the Ohio town of Zanesville, which was named after his maternal ancestor Ebenezer Zane.

The name “Pearl” is usually considered feminine, but it seems to have been used for males in Zane’s family; he had a male cousin named Pearl. He disliked the name and dropped it when he began his writing career.

Various sources claim the name “Pearl” was chosen because, around the time of Zane’s birth, newspapers were describing Queen Victoria’s mourning attire as pearl gray. (He was born a few weeks after the tenth anniversary of Prince Albert’s death.) I did some research, though, and couldn’t find a single American newspaper from that era that mentioned pearl gray in association with the queen.

What are your thoughts on the name Zane? Do you view it as masculine or feminine?

P.S. The Zane Grey-inspired television show Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961) gave rise to five (!) other TV shows. These spin-offs were behind several baby name debuts, including Hoby, Case and Cully.

Source: “Authors and their work.” Sun [New York] 14 Jul. 1911: 7.

4 thoughts on ““Miss” Zane Grey

  1. I think Pearl did chart for males in the early 1900’s, so I’m not surprised one bit. I can only picture it on a girl though – even if it does sound like Earl with a P.

    Zane I only see it as a masculine name.

  2. You’re right about Pearl showing up in the boys’ data. It was a top-1,000 boy name all the way until the end of the 1930s, in fact.

    I see Zane as masculine…but only because of the writer. If I didn’t have that association, I’m not sure what I’d think.

  3. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband, Almanzo (have you researched his name?), had a brother named Perley, I believe Perley Day. He also had a brother Royal, but interestingly, I think his sisters were the much more common Laura and Eliza. The 1800’s certainly had their unique names.

  4. @Jessie – Thanks for the extra info! I’ve drafted a post on Almanzo, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing it yet. In the books, Laura suggested the name “Almanzo” had been passed down in her husband’s family (ultimately connecting it to the Crusades and the name “El Manzoor”), but genealogists researching his family tree (here’s one example) have been unable to find any other Almanzos, so that story doesn’t appear to be true (and I’m not sure where it came from — Laura? Almanzo’s parents?).

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