Where did the baby name Radames come from in 1950?

Richard Tucker (Radamès) and Herva Nelli (Aida) in the NBC radio/TV broadcast of "Aida" in 1949.
Richard Tucker and Herva Nelli performing “Aida

The curious name Radames has appeared in the U.S. baby name data rather consistently since the early ’50s.

  • 1952: 5 baby boys named Radames – all 5 born in NY
  • 1951: 6 baby boys named Radames – all 6 born in NY
  • 1950: 5 baby boys named Radames [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: unlisted

The name Radames was created by Giuseppe Verdi for the opera Aida (1871), which was set in ancient Egypt. The character Radamès was a soldier involved in a love triangle: he was in love with Aida, the Ethiopian slave of Princess Amneris, who was in love with him.

A full concert-version of Aida was performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Arturo Toscanini) in New York City in 1949. The performance — featuring tenor Richard Tucker as Radamès and soprano Herva Nelli as Aida — aired not just on radio, but also on television. Due to length, it was divided into two broadcasts (March 26 and April 2).

Thanks to these broadcasts, more people experienced a performance of Aida at one time “than had seen the work performed in the previous 60-some years of its existence.” This could account for the debut of Radames in 1950. After all, the name Aida saw increased usage in 1949, and much of that increase happened in New York specifically:

  • 1951: 105 baby girls named Aida – 39 (37%) born in NY
  • 1950: 107 baby girls named Aida – 42 (39%) born in NY
  • 1949: 112 baby girls named Aida – 50 (45%) born in NY
  • 1948: 73 baby girls named Aida – 31 (42%) born in NY
  • 1947: 76 baby girls named Aida – 32 (42%) born in NY

That said…there’s also immigration to consider.

Puerto Rican immigration to New York City peaked in the early 1950s. The name was already in use on the island, so some of the 1950s New York usage of Radames is no doubt attributable to Puerto Rican families. (And this is on top of the pre-existing low-level usage of Radames in the city thanks to the Italians.) So immigration is another possible explanation for the debut.

Actor Sophia Loren as the title character in the movie "Aida" (1954).
Sophia Loren in “Aida

But, getting back to the opera…in October of 1954, a movie-version of Aida (starring teenage Italian actress Sophia Loren) was released in the U.S. The same year, we see higher usage of both Aida and Radames:

Girls named AidaBoys named Radames
1956163 [rank: 766th]9
1955173 [rank: 718th]7
1954193 [rank: 669th†]10
1953129 [rank: 810th].
1952128 [rank: 800th]5
†Peak ranking

So we can assume that pop culture had at least some influence on these names during the ’50s.

What are your thoughts on the name Radames? Which factor — radio/TV or immigration — do you think had more of an influence on the usage of Radames in 1950?


2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Radames come from in 1950?

  1. Even more remarkable than Radames is the given name of the singer Herva Nelli. She was named after a French socialist, Gustave Hervé. Her name was never in the SSA statistics.

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