Over at The Public Domain Review, I found a collection of 51 novelty playing cards — several incomplete decks, mixed together — from 1916 that feature the images and names of popular movie actresses from that era.
Below are all the first names from those cards, plus where those names happened to rank in the 1916 baby name data. (Two-thirds of them were in the top 100, and over 95% fell inside the top 1,000.)
The baby name Ryder became trendy in the early 21st century, thanks in large part to actress Kate Hudson naming her son Ryder in early 2004.
But Ryder wasn’t new to the data at that point. It first showed up in the early 1960s:
1963: 7 baby boys named Ryder
1960: 6 baby boys named Ryder [debut]
The source? Looks to be Where the Boys Are, which was actually three things: a bestselling novel published in early 1960, a successful movie released in late 1960, and the movie’s title track, which peaked at #4 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in early 1961.
The book focused on a group of four co-eds — Merritt, Tuggle, Melanie, and Angie — from a Midwestern college. For spring break, they decided to escape winter and head to the sunny beaches of Ft. Lauderdale. Because that’s where the boys were, of course. And the “boy” that main character Merritt eventually fell for was an Ivy Leaguer named Ryder Smith.
The book was a comedy, but also included realistic depictions of the behaviors and attitudes of teenagers in the early ’60s. The Saturday Review called it “[b]oth good comedy and first-rate social anthropology.”
The author, Glendon Swarthout, was an English professor at Michigan State University. In the late 1950s, when he was in his early 40s, he learned about the tradition of going to Fort Lauderdale for spring break (which had begun with collegiate swimmers in the 1930s). He tagged along with his students one year, and soon after wrote a book inspired by the experience.
The movie Where the Boys Are, which was a watered-down version of the book, was out by late December. It featured a cast of relatively unknown actors. The most famous face in the film was that of singer Connie Francis, who played Angie (and also sang the title track).
Merritt was played by Dolores Hart, and the character clearly had an influence on the usage of Merritt as a girl name:
1963: 12 baby girls named Merritt
1962: 13 baby girls named Merritt
1961: 17 baby girls named Merritt
Merritt’s love interest, Ryder, was played by “a young, preternaturally tan George Hamilton.” Her friend Melanie was played by Yvette Mimieux, who’d appeared on the big screen as Weena earlier the same year.
Thanks to the book and (especially) the movie, spring break grew from a minor phenomenon into the “cultural rite of passage” that it is today. The number of American college students flooding into Fort Lauderdale every spring swelled from about 15,000 before the book came out to about 370,000 by the mid-1980s.
The trendiness of Fort Lauderdale as a spring break destination peaked in the ’80s, but the trendiness of Ryder (as a boy name) didn’t peak until the mid-2010s:
2018: 3,000 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 131st]
2017: 3256 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 122nd]
2016: 3,883 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 102nd]
2015: 4,154 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 98th]
2014: 4,103 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 95th]
2013: 3,785 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 103rd]
2012: 3,814 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 100th]
2011: 3,706 baby boys named Ryder [rank: 108th]
What are your thoughts on the name Ryder? Would you use it?
The Dolores-like baby name Dellora appeared in the U.S. data for a total of six years, seeing peak usage in 1922:
1924: 8 baby girls named Dellora
1923: 13 baby girls named Dellora
1922: 14 baby girls named Dellora
1921: 7 baby girls named Dellora
1919: 7 baby girls named Dellora
1918: 5 baby girls named Dellora
Much of this usage is attributable to heiress Dellora Angell (1902-1979) of St. Charles, Illinois.
Her name first started popping up in the newspapers in late 1918, upon the death of her maternal aunt, Dellora Gates. Aunt Dellora was the widow of wealthy industrialist John W. Gates, and she left the bulk of the Gates fortune to her last two close relatives: her brother Edward, and her teenage niece/namesake Dellora (the daughter of her deceased sister Lavern).
In the early 1920s, the newspapers began linking young Dellora to various suitors (e.g., a Brazilian physician named Vantini, an oil man named Campbell).
In late 1922, she finally got engaged to a childhood friend from St. Charles named Lester Norris, described as a “poor artist and son of the village undertaker.” (He was a newspaper cartoonist; he later became a businessman.)
They had a small wedding in March of 1923. After that, they rented a modest apartment in St. Charles, where Dellora “began housekeeping, doing her own cooking and sewing, and having a lot of fun doing it.”
For several years the newspapers continued to report on Dellora’s growing family, and her unusual decision to live so simply:
The richest young woman in the world, who, from the number of her millions, and her youth and beauty, one would expect to find wintering at Cannes, moving with the seasons from one smart watering place to another and filling her wardrobe with Parisian gowns and jewels, lives quietly in a Middle Western town, wears gingham dresses, as she does own housework, and looks after her two babies herself.
(They went on to have a total of five children: Lavern, Lester*, Joann, Robert, and John.)
The baby name Dianalynn has been in the SSA data just twice, debuting in 1951, then popping up a second time in 1963.
The influence was surely American actress Diana Lynn (1926-1971), whose birth name was Dolores “Dolly” Loehr. But the reason the name debuted in that particular year — if there even is a reason — is hard to pin down.
In 1951 she co-starred with future president Ronald Reagan in the chimp movie Bedtime for Bonzo, which did well at the box office. But this was nothing new; she’d been appearing in well-received movies throughout the 1940s.
Also around 1951 she started appearing on TV, but, as LIFE mentioned in a mid-1952 article featuring Diana Lynn and five other leading ladies of television, “their faces are probably better known than their names. In the billings their names flash by so quickly that the audience is generally unable to identify them.” (The other five featured actresses were Stella Andrew, Rita Gam, Grace Kelly, Felicia Montealegre, and Neva Patterson.)