What gave the baby name Davy a boost in 1955?

The character Davy Crockett from the TV series "Davy Crockett" (1954-1955).
Davy Crockett from “Davy Crockett

The name Davy, a diminutive of David, saw a sharp rise in usage in 1955 according to the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1957: 54 baby boys named Davy
  • 1956: 92 baby boys named Davy [rank: 772nd]
  • 1955: 195 baby boys named Davy [rank: 525th]
  • 1954: 32 baby boys named Davy
  • 1953: 30 baby boys named Davy

That spike qualified Davy the fastest-rising boy name of the year.

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Davy in the U.S. since 1880.
Usage of the baby name Davy

The variant spelling Davey peaked in usage that year as well.

David itself — already very popular (and still rising) — also saw an uptick:

  • 1957: 82,404 baby boys named David [rank: 3rd]
  • 1956: 81,645 baby boys named David [rank: 4th]
  • 1955: 86,304 baby boys named David [rank: 2nd]
  • 1954: 79,561 baby boys named David [rank: 5th]
  • 1953: 76,119 baby boys named David [rank: 5th]

(It finally reached #1 in 1960, though it dropped back down to #2 the following year.)

What was influencing these names?

Frontiersman David “Davy” Crockett — or, to be more precise, Walt Disney’s fictionalized version of Davy Crockett.

The real Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was a Tennessee-born soldier and politician who died during the Texas Revolution, at the Battle of the Alamo. Outside of Tennessee and Texas, he was a “relatively obscure” historical figure.

In the early 1950s, animator and entrepreneur Walt Disney decided to build an amusement park. To fund the project, he made a deal with the ABC network to create a weekly anthology show called Walt Disney’s Disneyland. It was Walt’s first television series.

The initial hour-long episode aired in October of 1954. It began with Walt talking directly to viewers about Disneyland, which was then under construction in Anaheim. While describing Frontierland, Walt mentioned “the first coonskin Congressman,” Davy Crockett. Soon after, viewers saw Davy Crockett himself (played by Texas-born actor Fess Parker) singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”:

The first episode to feature a Crockett storyline was “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter,” which was broadcast in mid-December. The second, “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress,” aired in January of 1955. The third and final episode, “Davy Crockett at the Alamo,” followed in February. All three were filmed largely in the Great Smoky Mountains, and each one featured that catchy theme song.

Three episodes and a single song were all it took to make the King of the Wild Frontier an overnight sensation among U.S. children. (Which is doubly impressive when you consider that, in 1955, only about half of American homes had a television set.)

Title of the TV serial "Davy Crockett" (1954-1955)
Davy Crockett

In April of 1955, Life magazine reported that the Crockett craze — “unexpected even by the watchful Walt Disney” — had resulted in “a corresponding frenzy in commercial circles.”

Dozens of manufacturers are hustling to turn out more than 200 items, from baby shoes to wallets, which might conceivably be connected with Crockett’s life. By June they will sell to the retail tune of $100 million — just about the largest merchandising feat of its kind.

Other Davy Crockett products included comic books, trading cards, toy rifles, toy holsters, toy guns, toy powder horns, shirts, pants, jackets, pajamas, bathing suits, bath towels, bedspreads, lunchboxes, mugs, plates, jigsaw puzzles, guitars, and records.

Speaking of records, renditions of the Davy Crockett theme song by Bill Hayes, Fess Parker, and Tennessee Ernie Ford ended up ranking 6th, 22nd, and 24th (respectively) on the list of top-selling records of 1955, according to Billboard.

But the most coveted Davy Crockett item of all, of course, was the coonskin cap.

At the height of the fad in the summer of 1955, coonskin caps sold upward of 5,000 a day. […] A shortage in coonskins caused furriers to resort to muskrat, rabbit and fox skins to produce the caps.

To capitalize on the Crockett craze, Walt Disney not only rebroadcast all three TV episodes (in April and May), but also combined the episodes into a feature-length film, Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, released in late May.

Then — after the Disneyland theme park opened in July, and The Mickey Mouse Club premiered in October — Walt revived Davy (who had technically been killed at the Alamo in episode three) and created a pair of prequel episodes: “Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race” (which aired in November) and “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates” (December). These were likewise turned into a movie, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, released in July of 1956.

Crockett-obsessed American families ended up spending more than $300 million on Davy Crockett merchandise during the mid-1950s. (That’s about $3.4 billion in 2023 dollars.)

While dozens of these families chose to name their baby boys Davy — which is why the name increased in usage more than sixfold in 1955 — very few, if any, went for Crockett, which remained absent from the baby name data throughout the 1950s.

What are your thoughts on the name Davy? Would you use it? (How about Crockett?)

P.S. If you’re wondering about Fess Parker’s first name, it was passed down from his father, who’d been named in honor of Ohio politician Simeon D. Fess.


6 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Davy a boost in 1955?

  1. I always used to get him mixed up with Daniel Boone. But since vacationing in Kentucky and Tennessee, now I know Boone=Kentucky and Crockett=Tennessee. Crockett is also 50 years younger than Boone, but since both were born in the 18th century, that is not terribly relevant to me. I love the name David, but I am not a fan of grown men being called Davy. I would imagine most of them go by Dave after age 11 or so. I also love the name Daniel, but I am less bothered by grown men going by Danny, for some reason.

  2. I know of someone who goes by his nickname of Crockett, which I think is cool. I don’t know the whole story, but believe that his given name is either David or Davy and that he got the nickname in childhood and kept it.
    I’ve always kind of liked Fess Parker’s first name, too. But I don’t think I’d use any of these choices if I actually had a son. My favorite name for a son has always been Tell, influenced by Tell Sackett, the name that author Louis L’Amour used for one of his characters…another somewhat-frontier personality!

  3. Is it bleak that I would have assumed Crockett’s parents were huge Miami Vice fans (if he was the right age)?

  4. I don’t know – I never watched Miami Vice. This Crockett would be in his late 40’s now, maybe early 50’s.

  5. He’s too old, then — the show was on from 1984-1989. It was the last name of Don Johnson’s character. I’ve never seen it either; I just have a brain that’s a sponge for pop culture trivia, especially as pertains to baby names.

  6. I think it’s a cute nickname for a strong and appealing given name. I would go for David on the birth certificate, but I’d like Davy as a nickname. I’m a huge fan of classic Disney, though, so it might be a little “much” if I were to *actually* use the name. Everyone who knows me would figure out the “why” a little too easily. As for Crockett, surname given names aren’t my style, but I think it could be a very nice middle.

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