How popular is the baby name Amos in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Amos.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Amos


Posts that Mention the Name Amos

Common Amish names: Jacob, Malinda, Benuel, Naomi

Amish man in a buggy

Which names are the most common among the Amish?

The simplest answer is “Biblical names,” but that’s not the full answer.

Because certain Biblical names are preferred over others, and Biblical names aren’t used exclusively.

Plus, the prevalence of a name could vary depending upon the specific Amish settlement you’re talking about.

I’ve gathered about 100 of the most common Amish names below. Before we get into specifics, though, here’s a bit of background on the Amish…

Who are the Amish?

The Amish are an Anabaptist group that intentionally maintain a degree of separation from the wider world. They wear plain clothing, eschew modern conveniences (like cars), and partake in traditional occupations such as farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, and (for women) homemaking.

The Anabaptist movement began in Europe in the 1520s, at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists were particularly known for the practice of adult baptism. They were also opposed to war, and they believed in the separation of church and state.

Considered radicals, the Anabaptists were widely persecuted.

In 1693, the Swiss branch of the Anabaptist movement (a.k.a., the Swiss Brethren) experienced a schism. Those who followed reformer Jacob Amman came to be known as the Amish, whereas those who did not came to be known as the Mennonites (after Dutchman Menno Simons, one of the original Anabaptist leaders).

In the early 1700s, many Amish (and Mennonites) immigrated to the New World — specifically to the Province of Pennsylvania, which had been founded upon the principle of religious freedom.

Today, over 367,000 Amish live in the U.S., and roughly two-thirds of them reside in three states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

Amish men and women.

Common Amish names

The most comprehensive source of Amish names I came across was also the oldest, so let’s go through all the sources chronologically.

In 1960, researcher Elmer L. Smith published data on the most common male and female names among the Amish of southeastern Pennsylvania from 1890 to 1956.

The 1,337 Amish males in the study shared a total of just 72 different first names. Over a quarter of the males had one of the top three names (John, Amos, or Jacob), and over 81% had one of the top 20 names.

The 1,356 Amish females in the study shared even fewer first names: only 55. Over a quarter of the females had one of the top three names (Mary, Sarah, or Annie), and over 88% had a top-20 name.

According to Smith’s research, these were the 20 most common names per gender (plus their frequency of usage):

Amish female namesAmish male names
1Mary, 10.0%John, 11.9%
2Sarah, 7.9%Amos, 7.3%
3Annie, 9.1%*Jacob, 6.5%
4Katie, 7.1%David, 6.4%
5Lizzie, 6.4%Samuel, 6.2%
6Rebecca, 6.1%Christian, 6.1%
7Fannie, 5.3%Daniel, 5.5%
8Barbara, 5.1%Benjamin, 3.8%
9Rachel, 5.1%Levi, 3.7%
10Lydia, 4.9%Aaron, 3.1%
11Emma, 3.8%Jonas, 3.0%
12Malinda, 3.5%Elam, 2.8%
13Susie, 3.2%Stephen, 2.8%
14Sadie, 2.5%Isaac, 2.5%
15Leah, 1.9%Henry, 2.4%
16Hannah, 1.5%Jonathan, 1.8%
17Naomi, 1.4%Eli, 1.7%
18Mattie, 1.3%Gideon, 1.6%
19Lavina, 1.1%Moses, 1.5%
20Arie, 1.1%Joseph, 1.1%
*Annie was ranked below Sarah in the research paper, but this seems to be a typo, given the percentages.

Smith also wrote the following:

Other given names for males may reflect the important place the martyred forefathers hold in the minds of the sect members. The given name Menno is frequently found; this honors Menno Simmons [sic] an early leader of the plain sects. Ammon is also quite common, and is traced to Jacob Amman for whom the Amish sect is named; otherwise given names are from the Bible.

(Menno, a form of the Dutch name Meine, can be traced back to the Old High German word magan, meaning “strength.” The occupational surname Amman(n), which was derived from the German word amtmann, originally referred to someone employed as an official or administrator.)

A couple of years after Smith’s study came out, Dr. William Schreiber (a professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio) published a book about the Amish of east-central Ohio. In one paragraph, he mentioned some of the names he’d encountered:

One learns here that the good old biblical names are still common with the Amish but are in competition with modern or more euphonious ones. The names of the children of large families are often a study in contrasts. In one family there are, for example, Benjamin, Samuel, Isaac, Stephen, John, Israel, Christ, Barbara, Mary, Hannah, Annie, Mattie, and Lizzie. Another family has chosen these names for its children: Sarah, Lizzie, Samuel, Benjamin, John, Annie, Marie, Daniel, David, Enos, Sylvia, and Malinda. Then there are three Amish brothers named Isaac, Levi, and Elmer. One wonders how Vesta, Delila, Dena, Saloma, Drusilla, or Verba, or boys’ names like Junie, Venus, or Aquilla came into strict Christian families?

Speaking of east-central Ohio, Barbara Yoder Hall — who was born in 1940 and grew up with ten siblings in the Amish community of Holmes County — recalled in her book Born Amish (1980) the following first names:

First names for girls are usually Cora, Mattie, Annie, Lizzie, Barbara, Fannie, Katie, Mary, Naomi, Emma, Jemima, Ella, Sarah, Levina and Mandy.

First names for boys are John, Mose, Ferdinand, Dannie, Sam, Amos, Albert, Emanual, Levi, Rudy, Enos, Eli, Jacob and Joseph.

Amish men in a wagon.

Now for a pair of sources from the digital age…

The website Amish America, run by Erik Wesner (who is not Amish, but has visited Amish communities in 15 different states), lists the following names as being common among the Amish. He found many of the male names in Raber’s Almanac, which “contains a listing of Amish church ministers,” while many of the female names came from various church directories.

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Elizabeth
Emma
Fannie
Hannah
Katie
Linda
Lizzie
Lovina/Lavina
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Rebecca
Ruby
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Waneta
Abram
Amos
Atlee
Eli
Elmer
Harley
Isaac
Jacob
John
Lavern
Leroy
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Samuel
Vernon
Wayne
Willis

Some of Erik’s commentary…

  • Eli: “You see a lot of Elis among Amish, but not many Elijahs.”
  • Leroy: “Seems to be more common in Midwestern communities.”
  • Lizzie: “Lizzie is a popular form in some Pennsylvania communities.”
  • Naomi: “Amish, at least in Lancaster County, pronounce this ‘Nay-oh-mah.'”
  • Ruby: “Quite a few Rubies in northern Indiana.”
  • Vernon: “[P]retty common in places like northern Indiana and Holmes County, Ohio.”

Finally, according to the blog Amish Heritage, written by a woman named Anna (who grew up Amish in Pennsylvania), common Amish names include…

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Amanda
Anna/Annie
Barbara
Betty
Clara
Edna
Elizabeth
Esther
Fannie
Hannah
Lavina
Lena
Lydia
Malinda
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Priscilla
Rachel
Rebecca
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Susie
Aaron
Abner
Abram
Amos
Benuel
Christian/Christ
Daniel
David
Eli
Elmer
Emmanuel
Henry
Isaac
Jacob
John
Jonas
Leroy
Lloyd
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Moses
Omar
Paul
Samuel
Steven/Stephen
Vernon

Both websites noted that some Amish communities (particularly New Order Amish communities) have recently started giving their children less traditional first names.


So how do these lists square with what we’ve observed in the U.S. baby name data?

It’s hard to tell with historically popular names like Mary and John, but we can see some interesting things when we focus on relatively rare names.

For instance, the names Atlee, Benuel, Delila, Dena, Lavina, Menno, Saloma, and Willis have all been mentioned recently in my posts about names with a high degree of state specificity (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). As you’d expect, they were associated with the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and/or Indiana. (Benuel, in fact, has only ever appeared in the Pennsylvania data — going all the way back to the 1940s.)

Several of the other names — including Amos, Elam, Fannie, Malinda, and Mervin — saw higher usage in Pennsylvania than in any other state in 2021.

I was surprised that none of my sources listed the name Barbie. Most of them mentioned Barbara (one of them was even named Barbara), and all of them included nicknames (like Lizzie). But Barbara’s diminutive form was curiously absent — even though most of its usage occurs in Pennsylvania:

Girls named Barbie, U.S.Girls named Barbie, Penn.
20213722 (59%)
20202617 (65%)
20193320 (61%)
20182113 (62%)
20172916 (55%)
20162814 (50%)

Rhoda and Mahlon are two more names that I somewhat expected to see.

Ammon is a very interesting case, because the name also has significance to an entirely different religious group: the Mormons. (The Book of Mormon features two prominent figures named Ammon.) From the 1910s to the 1960s, the name Ammon — much like Benuel — only appeared in the Pennsylvania data. Since the 1980s, though, the state with the largest number of baby boys named Ammon has been Utah.


What are your thoughts on the first names used by the Amish? Which of the above do you like the most?

And, for anyone out there with close ties to an Amish family/community: What other names would you add to this list?

P.S. This post is dedicated to my delightful commenters alex and Andrea. :)

Sources:

Images by Chris Chow from Unsplash, Amyd from Pixabay, and Clark Young from Unsplash

Popular baby names in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1868

19th-century Providence, Rhode Island
19th-century Providence

Years ago, I discovered three documents with relatively complete lists of births for the city of Providence, Rhode Island, for the years 1866, 1867, and 1868. I’ve already created Providence’s baby name rankings for 1866 and 1867 using the first two documents, and today (finally!) I’ve got the third set of rankings for you.

Let’s start with some stats:

  • 1,762 babies were born in Providence in 1868, by my count. According to the introduction of the document I’m using a source, however, the total number is 1,866. I don’t know how to account for this discrepancy.
  • 1,617 of these babies (791 girls and 826 boys) had names that were known at the time of publication. The other 145 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps these babies died young and never received a name.
  • 284 unique names (143 girl names and 141 boy names) were shared among these 1,617 babies.

And now, on to the names!

Top 5

A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:

Top baby girl namesTop baby boy names
1. Mary
2. Catherine
3. Sarah
4. Ellen
5. Margaret
1. John
2. William
3. James
4. Charles
5. George

All Girl Names

  1. Mary, 149 baby girls
  2. Catherine, 39
  3. Sarah, 38
  4. Ellen, 31
  5. Margaret, 28
  6. Elizabeth, 25
  7. Alice, 24
  8. Anna, 20
  9. Ann, 16
  10. Emma, 14
  11. Eliza, 13
  12. Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
  13. Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
  14. Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
  15. Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
  16. Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
  17. Anne, Carrie, Hattie, Ida, Mabel & Nellie, 6 each (6-way tie)
  18. Eva, Joanna, Lydia & Rosanna, 5 each (4-way tie)
  19. Abby, Charlotte, Emily, Jessie, Josephine, Lillian, Lizzie, Louisa, Louise, Marion, Phebe, Rosella & Theresa, 4 each (13-way tie)
  20. Anastasia, Bertha, Edith, Gertrude, Isabella, Nettie, Pearl, Rebecca & Susanna, 3 each (9-way tie)
  21. Ada, Almira, Edna, Fannie, Flora, Frances, Helen, Henrietta, Inez, Laura, Lelia, Lillie, Lottie, Maud, Priscilla & Virginia, 2 each (16-way tie)
  22. Addie, Adelaide, Adelicia, Adeline, Agatha, Allene, Amanda, Amy, Angelica, Antoinette, Arabella, Augusta, Aurelia, B.*, Belle, Bessie, Betsey, Catharine, Celia, Claudia, Della, Eleanor, Eleanora, Estella, Estelle, Esther, Eudavelia, Eulalie, Evelyn, Francenia, Genevieve, Georgia, Honora, Imogene, Jesse, Juliette, Kate, Leonora, Lilla, Lillias, Lorena, Luella, Luetta, Magdalena, Marian, Marietta, Matilda, Mercy, Minerva, Miriam, Myra, Myrtis, Nanoan, Nora, Pauline, Reberta, Rhoda, Roberta, Rosa, Rose, Ruth, Sabrina, Sophia, Stella & Winifred, 1 each (65-way tie)

*What do you think the “B.” might have stood for?

All Boy Names

  1. John, 112 baby boys
  2. William, 68
  3. James, 64
  4. Charles, 52
  5. George, 45
  6. Thomas, 37
  7. Frederick, 25
  8. Henry, 23
  9. Joseph, 22
  10. Edward, 19
  11. Daniel & Patrick, 18 each (tie)
  12. Robert, 17
  13. Frank, 16
  14. Francis, 15
  15. Walter, 13
  16. Michael, 11
  17. Albert, 10
  18. Arthur, 9
  19. Benjamin, Peter & Samuel, 7 each (3-way tie)
  20. Freddie, Harry, Herbert & Stephen, 6 each (4-way tie)
  21. Edwin, Lawrence, Lewis, Martin & Timothy, 5 each (5-way tie)
  22. Bernard, Edmund, Eugene, Louis, Philip & Richard, 4 each (6-way tie)
  23. Alfred, Augustus, Christopher, Eben, Horace, Howard, Hugh, Jeremiah, Matthew & Willard, 3 each (10-way tie)
  24. Abel, Barney, Byron, Dennis, Edgar, Ferdinand, Gilbert, Luke, Max, Nathaniel, Owen, Roger, Solomon & Victor, 2 each (14-way tie)
  25. Alden, Alexis, Allen, Alrick, Amos, Andrew, Ansel, Anson, Archibald, Asa, Ashby, Bartholomew, Calvin, Carlos, Clarence, Clark, Clarke, Clement, Clifford, Collyer, Crolander, Darius, David, Earl, Elisha, Ellis, Eri, Ernest, Erwin, Eusebe, Everett, Felix, Forrest, Foster, Franklin, Fred, Gardner, Jacob, Jason, Jerome, Jireh, Joaneto, Josiah, Jubal, Justin, Lawson, Lodovic, Louis, Lucien, Lyman, Major, Malachi, Manuel, Melbourne, Monroe, Morey, Morris, Myron, Nelson, Nicholas, Olney, Orville, Oscar, Pendleton, Ralph, Reuben, Rolfe, Rowland, Rufus, Simeon, Simon, Steven, Stewart, Theodore, Ulysses*, Volney, Warren, Whiting, Willie & Winchester, 1 each (80-way tie)

*Ulysses was likely named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, who was elected president in 1868.

Twins

Finally, nineteen sets of twins were born in Providence in 1868. (All of these twin names are accounted for in the rankings above.)

Girl-girl twinsGirl-boy twinsBoy-boy twins
Caroline & Harriet
Lucy & Lydia
Mary & Rosanna
Margaret & Mary
Lizzie & Martha
(blank) & (blank)
Anne & Thomas
Emma & Charles
Florence & William
Hannah & Josiah
Ida & John
Isabella & John
Jennie & Horace
Charles & William
Francis & Robert
George & John
James & John
James & Stephen
(blank) & (blank)

Have any thoughts about these rankings, or about any of the specific names above?

Source: Snow, Edwin M. Alphabetical Lists of the Names of Persons Deceased, Born and Married in the City of Providence. Number three. Providence: Millard & Harker, 1870.

Popular male names in England, 1560-1621

A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people who were associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s.

Interestingly, the author of the register decided to include a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter included a long list of male forenames and their frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.

The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.

So, are you ready for the list?

Here’s the top 100:

  1. John, 3,826 individuals
  2. Thomas, 2,777
  3. William, 2,546
  4. Richard, 1,691
  5. Robert, 1,222
  6. Edward, 957
  7. Henry, 908
  8. George, 647
  9. Francis, 447
  10. James, 424
  11. Nicholas, 326
  12. Edmund, 298
  13. Anthony, 262
  14. Hugh, 257
  15. Christopher, 243
  16. Samuel, 227
  17. Walter, 207
  18. Roger, 195
  19. Ralph, 182
  20. Peter (and Peirs/Pers), 175
  21. Humphrey, 168
  22. Charles, 139
  23. Philip, 137
  24. David, 129
  25. Matthew, 116
  26. Nathaniel, 112
  27. Michael, 103
  28. Alexander, 98 (tie)
  29. Arthur, 98 (tie)
  30. Laurence, 90
  31. Giles, 88
  32. Stephen, 86
  33. Simon, 83
  34. Daniel, 79
  35. Joseph, 78 (tie)
  36. Lewis, 78 (tie)
  37. Andrew, 69
  38. Roland, 65
  39. Griffith (and Griffin), 60
  40. Evan, 55
  41. Abraham, 54 (tie)
  42. Leonard, 54 (tie)
  43. Owen, 53
  44. Gilbert, 52
  45. Morris (and Maurice), 51
  46. Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
  47. Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
  48. Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
  49. Morgan, 45
  50. Martin, 44 (tie)
  51. Rice, 44 (tie)
  52. Gabriel, 41
  53. Benjamin, 40
  54. Jeffrey/Geoffrey, 38
  55. Ambrose, 36
  56. Adam, 35
  57. Toby (and Tobias), 34
  58. Jerome, 33
  59. Ellis, 30
  60. Paul, 29
  61. Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
  62. Gregory, 28 (3-way tie)
  63. Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
  64. Jasper (and Gaspar), 26 (3-way tie)
  65. Josiah (and Josias), 26 (3-way tie)
  66. Randall (and Randolph), 26 (3-way tie)
  67. Miles, 24
  68. Lancelot, 23
  69. Austin (and Augustine), 22 (tie)
  70. Jarvis (and Gervase), 22 (tie)
  71. Brian, 21
  72. Matthias, 20 (tie)
  73. Reginald (and Reynold), 20 (tie)
  74. Jeremy, 19
  75. Theophilus, 19
  76. Joshua 18 (3-way tie)
  77. Marmaduke, 18 (3-way tie)
  78. Valentine, 18 (3-way tie)
  79. Fulke, 17 (tie)
  80. Sampson (and Samson), 17 (tie)
  81. Clement, 16 (4-way tie)
  82. Ferdinando, 16 (4-way tie)
  83. Herbert, 16 (4-way tie)
  84. Zachary, 16 (4-way tie)
  85. Cuthbert, 15 (3-way tie)
  86. Emanuel, 15 (3-way tie)
  87. Vincent, 15 (3-way tie)
  88. Adrian, 14 (3-way tie)
  89. Elias, 14 (3-way tie)
  90. Jonah (and Jonas), 14 (3-way tie)
  91. Tristram, 13
  92. Allan, 12 (6-way tie)
  93. Ames, 12 (6-way tie)
  94. Barnaby (and Barnabas), 12 (6-way tie)
  95. Gerard (and Garret), 12 (6-way tie)
  96. Lionel, 12 (6-way tie)
  97. Mark, 12 (6-way tie)
  98. Abel, 11 (3-way tie)
  99. Erasmus, 11 (3-way tie)
  100. Roderic, 11 (3-way tie)

Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?

The author did note that “the more common names occur more frequently than they ought to…from the tendency to confuse less common names with them.”

For example, a person called ‘Edmund,’ if he is frequently mentioned in the Register, is almost certain to be somewhere quoted as ‘Edward,’ ‘Gregory’ as ‘George,’ ‘Randall’ or ‘Raphael’ as ‘Ralph,’ ‘Gilbert’ as ‘William,’ and so on.

Now here are some of the less-common names, grouped by number of appearances in the register:

10 appearancesIsrael, Luke
9 appearancesCadwalader, Jenkin, Percival
8 appearancesBennet/Benedict, Godfrey, Howell, Jonathan, Raphael, Theodore
7 appearancesBaldwin, Gawen/Gavin, Hercules, Job, Kenelm, Meredith, Silvester, Solomon, Watkin
6 appearancesAlban, Basil, Caleb, Cornelius, Dennis, Guy, Jacob, Patrick
5 appearancesDudley, Edwin, Eustace, Ezechias/Hezekiah, Ezekiel, Hannibal, Joel, Moses, Peregrine, Simeon, Thurstan, Zacchaeus
4 appearancesFelix, Maximilian, Phineas
3 appearancesAaron, Abdias, Amos, Arnold, Baptist, Barten, Devereux, Diggory, Eleazer, Elisha, Ely, Ephraim, Euseby, German, Hamnet, Hilary, Hopkin, Jevan (“a form for Evan”), Justinian, Lemuel, Osmund, Pexall, Shakerley, Swithin
2 appearancesAngell, Audley, Avery, Bruin, Caesar, Calcot, Carew, Carr, Cecil, Cheyney, Clare, Collingwood, Conon/Conan, Darcy, Dominic, Elkanah, Emor, Ethelbert, Fitz-William, Frederic, Gamaliel, Gideon, Gifford, Goddard, Gray, Hamlet, Hammond, Harvey, Hastings, Hatton, Hector, Isaiah, Jethro, Joscelyn, Julius, Knightley, Mordecai, Morton, Nathan, Nevell, Obadiah, Otho, Pascho, Philemon, Polydor, Price, Raleigh, Raymond, Reuben, Rouse, Sabaoth, Sebastian, Seth, Silas, Silvanus, Tertullian, Umpton, Warren, Wortley, Zouch

Finally, lets check out some of the single-appearance names.

Over 250 names were in the register just once. I won’t include all of them, but here are about half:

  • Accepted, Aegeon, Albinus, Alford, Algernon, Ammiel, Arcadius, Arundel, Atherton, Aubrey, Aunstey, Aymondesham*
  • Bamfield, Beauforus, Bezaliel, Blaise, Bulstrod, Burgetius
  • Cadoc, Calvin, Candish, Cannanuel, Chiddiock, Chilston, Chrysostom, Conrad (“probably a foreigner”), Cosowarth, Creswell, Cyprian
  • Dabridgcourt, Darby, Delvus, Deodatus, Dier, Donwald, Dunstan
  • Elihu, Erisy, Esdras, Everard
  • Fernand, Fettiplace, Fines, Florice, Fogge, Fulbert
  • Geraint, Gerald, Glidd, Gourneus, Granado, Grange, Gratian
  • Hattil, Haut, Hercius, Hodges
  • Jarniot, Jephson, Jerameel, Jeremoth, Jolliffe
  • Kelamus, Killingworth, Kingsmell
  • Lambard, Leoline, Levinus, Leyson, Livewell
  • Maior, Maniewe, Marchadine, Mardocheus, Mattathias, Moyle
  • Nargia, Nizael, Norwich, Noye
  • Ogier, Olliph, Otwell
  • Pancras, Peleger, Periam, Person, Phatnell, Poynings, Purify
  • Renewed, Rheseus (“a Latinism for Rice”), Rimprum, Rollesley, Rotheram, Rumbold
  • Sabinus, Scipio, Sefton, Slaney, Snappe, Southcot, St. John, Stockett, Stukeley
  • Tanfield, Thekeston, Thrasibulus, Timoleon, Tournie, Tupper
  • Ulpian, Utred
  • Wallop, Walsingham, Warian, Warnecombe, Whorwood, Willgent
  • Yeldard
  • Zorobabel

*Could “Aymondesham” be a typo for Agmondesham?

Which of these uncommon names do you find the most intriguing?

Source: Register of the University of Oxford, vol. 2, part 4, edited by Andrew Clark, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889.

[Latest update: 12/2022]

Where did the baby name Arbadella come from in 1936?

Amos 'n' Andy baby-naming contest ad, 1936
Amos ‘n’ Andy baby-naming contest ad, 1936

The similar names Arbadella and Arbedella both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1936, and both saw peak usage the following year:

Girls named ArbadellaGirls named Arbedella
1938125
193733†9†
19366*6*
1935..
1934..
*Debut, †Peak usage

What was the influence?

The radio serial Amos & Andy — one of the very first situation comedies. The initial version of the show (1928-1943) aired for 15 minutes, five days per week, and was the most popular radio program in the nation in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. In fact, the show’s “popularity ensured the success of radio broadcasting as a form of mass entertainment.”

The show “was based on the model of minstrel shows, [and] thus based on racial stereotypes.” The main characters — African-American men named Amos Jones and Andy Brown — were played by white radio performers Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

In an episode that aired during October of 1936, Amos and his wife Ruby welcomed their first child, a baby girl. The baby wasn’t named right away — instead, the show’s sponsor, Pepsodent Tooth Paste, held a baby-naming contest.

The contest was advertised in newspapers nationwide. The ads noted that the judges would consider “originality, uniqueness, and suitability” when making their decision, and also offered some name-choosing prompts, such as:

  • “…you might think “Amanda” would be a suitable name because it contains so many of the letters of both “Amos” and “Andy.””
  • “…remember, too, the baby’s maternal grandmother is named Lillian.”

Thousands of prizes were offered, including a $5,000 grand prize. Here’s the full list (and what the prizes would be worth in today’s dollars):

  • 1st: $5,000 in baby bonds (equivalent to $92,183.93 in 2020)
  • 2nd: $1,000 in baby bonds ($18,436.79)
  • 3rd: $100 baby bond to each of 10 winners ($1,843.68)
  • 4th: $50 baby bond to each of 100 winners ($921.84)
  • 5th: $25 baby bond to each of 720 winners ($460.92)
  • 6th: $2 cash to each of 2000 winners ($36.87)

The contest closed in mid-November. The winning name, Arbadella — suggested by Mrs. Joseph L. Smith of Ohio — was announced in mid-December. (The second-place name, Ladicia Ann, was suggested by 12-year-old Indiana boy Urcel D. Miller.)

The late-in-the-year announcement of the winning name accounts for why the baby name Arbadella (and spelling variant Arbedella) debuted in the data in 1936, but saw even higher usage in 1937.

After welcoming Arbadella, Amos and Ruby went on to have two more children: Amos, Jr., and Amosandra. Neither of these fictional babies had a discernible impact on U.S. baby names, though.

What are your thoughts on the name Arbadella? Do you like it?

Sources/Tools:

P.S. Norita was also a contest-winning name of the 1930s…

P.P.S. In the early 1950s, The Amos ‘n Andy Show aired on television. This time around, the characters were played by African-American actors. Despite good ratings, the show was cancelled after two years due to pressure from the NAACP.

The 10 siblings of Belvin Maynard

Belvin Maynard, the race-winning pilot we talked about earlier this week, had five brothers and five sisters. All 11 kids were born in North Carolina. Here are their first and middle names:

  1. Morell Battle, b. 1890
  2. Belvin Womble, b. 1892
  3. Anna Bailey, b. 1894
  4. Sherwood Amos, called “Amos,” b. 1896
  5. Vera Claire, b. 1899
  6. Worth Jackson, b. 1901
  7. Elizabeth Liles, b. 1903
  8. Atlas Alan, called “A. A.,” b. 1906
  9. Caralee, b. 1909
  10. Junius Huston Bryan, called “Bryan,” b. 1912
  11. Lalon, b. 1914

Kids #7 and #8 were named directly after the parents. Belvin’s curious middle name, Womble, was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother (first name Kiddy).

Which of these names do you like best?

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