Unusual real name: Preserved Fish

Shipping merchant Preserved Fish (1766-1846)
Preserved Fish

Preserved Fish (1766-1846) had an interesting life, but he’s best remembered for having an interesting name.

Preserved — pronounced with three syllables: preh-ZUR-ved — was born a Quaker in Rhode Island. (Eighty years later, he died an Episcopalian in New York City.) He was one of at least ten men in the Fish family to have the Quaker name Preserved, which referred to being “preserved in a state of grace” or “preserved from sin.”

As a teen, he went to sea. By the age of 21, he’d become the captain of a whaler. Later on, he “realized that a fortune could be made in selling whale oil, but not in securing it, and in 1810 he went into the whale oil business.” He also got involved in other types of business — he “acquired ships and organized packet lines to Liverpool and London,” for instance. Later still he became a banker, and, “in 1826, he was one of twenty-eight brokers of the New York Stock Exchange Board, the nucleus of the New York Stock Exchange.”

Along the way, he married three times: his first wife was named Abigail, his second was named Mary, and his third was also a Mary.

What are your thoughts on the name Preserved?


5 thoughts on “Unusual real name: Preserved Fish

  1. At that time it probably didn’t seem odd. Virtue names were common and exhibited more variety than they do now — hence a name like Preserved. For me the “bridge too far” is pairing Preserved with Fish. Even in the 1800s that seems like cruel and unusual punishment. As a child, did his peers taunt him with nicknames such as Pickled Herring or Salted Cod or were many of them saddled with equally quirky names?

    I once knew someone who was given a family name that had been used for many generations. His first name was Fl@v3l (“yellow hair”) and his last name originated in Yorkshire and was very uncommon in the U.S. When I first met him he went by his middle name (think the Duke of Cambridge’s oldest son) or a common nickname that sounds like a salty snack. Later on he switched to his first name. All to say, long-standing traditions can be hard to break.

  2. I agree that it’s the combination of Preserved + Fish that makes this name worse than it otherwise would be, though I have to admit I don’t care for Preserved no matter what the last name might be.

    I do think it’s a marvelous twist of fate that he made his fortune selling whale oil. I have to wonder if his last name was Wood if he would have become a lumber baron…

  3. @ab: I wish I knew what his experience of the name was like! I couldn’t find any information along those lines, though.

    @Ellyn: That “twist of fate” is my favorite part for sure. I love that a guy named Preserved Fish made his living from the sea.

    @Christa L Gettys: The idea of “Preserved Fish” as a band name immediately made me think of Skinny Puppy. :)

  4. WOW, I had to google that, but what a group of characters! Love the names cEvin and Nivek so there weren’t two kevins on stage lol

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