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!
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:
Top baby girl names
Top 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
Mary, 149 baby girls
Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
The United Drug Company — a cooperative of dozens of independently-owned drugstores — was founded by businessman Louis K. Liggett in Boston in 1902.
The affiliated drug stores soon began selling medicines and other products under the brand name Rexall. (Eventually, “Rexall” became the name of thousands of drug stores across the U.S. and Canada.)
Rexall products included perfumed toiletries — talcum power, complexion powder, cold cream, vanishing cream, toilet soap, toilet water, etc. — plus the perfumes themselves. And, interestingly, some of the fragrance names had a small influence on U.S. baby names.
I don’t know precisely when each fragrance was put on the market, so I’ll just list them alphabetically…
This is a fun one to start with because the fragrance name actually refers to a name.
United Drug’s Cara Nome fragrance was introduced around 1918 and saw its best sales in the 1920s. The Italian name, which translates to “dearest name,” was apparently inspired by an aria called “Caro nome che il mio cor” from the Verdi opera Rigoletto. (In case you’re wondering, the “caro nome” being referred to in the song is Gualtier.)
I found several people in the records named Cara Nome or Caranome:
Betty Cara Nome Patesel, b. 1923 in Indiana
Cara Nome Schemun, b. circa 1926 in North Dakota
Cara Nome Grable, b. 1929 in Michigan
Caranome Haag, b. circa 1931 in Wisconsin
Caranome Vollman, b. circa 1932 in Nebraska
Caranome Stiffey, b. circa 1933 in Pennsylvania
Caranome Fox, b. circa 1936 in Oklahoma
Caranome Cody, b. 1936 in Tennessee
In Italian, nome is pronounced noh-may (2 syllables). I don’t know how any of the people above pronounced their names, though.
Bouquet Jeanice, introduced around 1913, was one of United Drug’s earliest fragrances. It wasn’t on the market under the name “Bouquet Jeanice” very long, though, because the name was changed to “Bouquet Laurèce” (see below) in late 1915 due to a trademark dispute.
Still, the baby name Jeanice managed to debut in the U.S. baby name data during that short span of time, in 1915:
1917: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1916: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1915: 7 baby girls named Jeanice [debut]
A lot of Jean-names had appeared in the data up to this point, but none of them ended with an “-s” sound.
United Drug introduced Jonteel products in late 1917 and marketed them heavily with full-page color advertisements in major women’s magazines (like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal).
French names (or French sounding names) were all the rage for cosmetics at the time, and the name Jonteel — presumably based on the French word gentil, meaning “kind, courteous” — fit the trendy perfectly. (In fact, the name that was originally proposed “by a copywriter working for United Drug’s advertising manager” was Caresse-Jonteel, but the “Caresse” part was ultimately dropped.)
I found several people in the records with the name Jonteel:
The name Juneve also appeared a single time in the U.S. baby name data, the year after the scent was introduced:
1924: 5 baby girls named Juneve [debut]
Bouquet Laurèce was the new name for Bouquet Jeanice (see above). Advertisements for Bouquet Laurèce started appearing in the papers in late 1915, but I could find no mention of the scent after 1917, so apparently it was only on the market for a couple of years. But that was enough for the name Laurece to become a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:
1917: 6 baby girls named Laurece [debut]
United Drug introduced a scent called Shari in early 1926 with ads featuring copy like this:
Shari is something new in toilet goods. Shari appeals to most every woman and tends to add to personal loveliness. The distinctive fragrance of Shari perfume incorporated in the following beauty aids (now on sale at all our stores) will be the cause of their use on thousands of dressing tables during 1926.
Shari products proved popular, and the scent was on the market all the way until the early 1940s.
The baby name Shari debuted in the SSA data in 1927 and — like the Shari products themselves — gained momentum over the years that followed.
1929: 10 baby girls named Shari
1928: 8 baby girls named Shari
1927: 9 baby girls named Shari [debut]
(Similar names like Sharon and Sherry were also slowly picking up steam in the 1920s. All three names would go on to see peak usage in the middle decades of the 20th century.)
United Drug’s Violet Dulce fragrance was introduced in the early 1910s — even earlier than Bouquet Jeanice. The name Violet was already relatively popular for newborns at that time, but I did find a single example of a newborn with the first-middle combo “Violet Dulce”:
Violet Dulce Starr, b. 1913 in Washington state
Finally, I’ll mention that the baby name Rexall has popped up in the data a handful of times (1910s-1950s), though the usage doesn’t seem to follow any patterns.
How was the word coined? Here’s the story:
[Liggett] asked Walter Jones Willson, his office boy and an amateur linguist, to invent the brand name. It had to be short, distinctive, original, and easy to pronounce; it also had to look good in type and meet the legal requirements for a trademark. Willson submitted a long list of coined words, including “Rexal,” to Liggett, who added another “l.” Since “rex” was the Latin word for king, the new name supposedly meant “king of all.” (According to another explanation, “Rexall” stood for “RX for all.”)
Before settling upon “Rexall,” Liggett had considered using “Saxona” as the name of the brand.
Do you like any of the perfume names above? Would you give any of them to a modern-day baby?
Funderburg, Anne Cooper. Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2002.
Did you know that New York City’s website hosts vital statistics reports (PDFs) going all the way back to the 1960s? And that, from 1991 onward, these annual reports include baby name rankings for NYC?
I don’t want you to have to comb through a whole bunch of PDFs to find the city’s historical top-ten lists, though, so I gathered all the lists into a single blog post.
The name tables in the reports also incorporate several older sets rankings (from 1990, 1985, 1980, 1948, 1928, and 1898 specifically) for comparison, and those are here well — just scroll to the bottom.
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2019. (Here’s my post about the 2019 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2019)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2019)
1. Emma 2. Olivia 3. Sophia 4. Mia 5. Isabella 6. Leah 7. Ava 8. Chloe 9. Amelia 10. Charlotte
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Ethan 4. Jacob 5. Lucas 6. Aiden 7. Daniel 8. Michael 9. David 10. Matthew
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2018. (Here’s my post about the 2018 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2018)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2018)
1. Emma 2. Isabella 3. Sophia 4. Mia 5. Olivia 6. Ava 7. Leah 8. Sarah 9. Amelia 10. Chloe
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Ethan 4. Jacob 5. Aiden 6. David 7. Lucas 8. Matthew 9. Daniel 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2017. (Here’s my post about the 2017 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2017)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2017)
1. Emma 2. Olivia 3. Mia 4. Sophia 5. Isabella 6. Ava 7. Leah 8. Emily 9. Sarah 10. Abigail
1. Liam 2. Noah 3. Jacob 4. Ethan 5. David 6. Lucas 7. Matthew 8. Jayden 9. Aiden 10. Daniel
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2016. (Here’s my post about the 2016 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2016)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2016)
1. Olivia 2. Sophia 3. Emma 4. Isabella 5. Mia 6. Ava 7. Emily 8. Leah 9. Sarah 10. Madison
1. Liam 2. Jacob 3. Ethan 4. Noah 5. Aiden 6. Matthew 7. Daniel 8. Lucas 9. Michael 10. Dylan
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2015. (Here’s my post about the 2015 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2015)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2015)
1. Olivia 2. Sophia 3. Emma (tie) 4. Mia (tie) 5. Isabella 6. Leah 7. Emily 8. Ava 9. Chloe 10. Madison
1. Ethan 2. Liam 3. Noah 4. Jacob 5. Jayden 6. Matthew 7. David 8. Daniel (tie) 9. Dylan (tie) 10. Aiden
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2014. (Here’s my post about the 2014 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2014)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2014)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Olivia 4. Mia 5. Emma 6. Emily 7. Leah 8. Ava 9. Sofia 10. Chloe
1. Ethan 2. Jacob 3. Liam 4. Jayden 5. Noah 6. Daniel 7. Michael 8. Alexander 9. David 10. Matthew
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2013.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2013)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2013)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Mia 6. Emily 7. Leah 8. Sofia 9. Madison 10. Chloe
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Jacob 4. Daniel 5. David 6. Noah 7. Michael 8. Matthew 9. Alexander 10. Liam
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2012.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2012)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2012)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Emily 6. Mia 7. Chloe 8. Madison 9. Leah 10. Ava
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Jacob 4. Daniel 5. Matthew 6. Michael 7. Aiden 8. David 9. Ryan 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2011. (Here’s my post about the 2011 NYC rankings.)
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2011)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2011)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Olivia 4. Emma 5. Mia 6. Emily 7. Madison 8. Leah 9. Chloe 10. Sofia
1. Jayden 2. Jacob 3. Ethan 4. Daniel 5. Michael 6. Matthew 7. Justin 8. David 9. Aiden 10. Alexander
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2010.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2010)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2010)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Olivia 4. Emily 5. Madison 6. Mia 7. Emma 8. Leah 9. Sarah 10. Chloe
1. Jayden 2. Ethan 3. Daniel 4. Jacob 5. David 6. Justin 7. Michael 8. Matthew 9. Joseph 10. Joshua
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2009.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2009)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2009)
1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Mia 4. Emily 5. Olivia 6. Madison 7. Sarah 8. Ashley 9. Leah 10. Emma
1. Jayden 2. Daniel 3. Ethan 4. Michael 5. David 6. Justin 7. Matthew 8. Joshua 9. Alexander 10. Christopher
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2008.
Top Girl Names (NYC, 2008)
Top Boy Names (NYC, 2008)
1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emily 4. Olivia 5. Sarah 6. Madison 7. Ashley 8. Mia 9. Samantha 10. Emma
1. Jayden 2. Daniel 3. Michael 4. Matthew 5. David 6. Joshua 7. Justin 8. Anthony 9. Christopher 10. Ethan/Ryan (tied for 10th)
The most popular baby names in New York City in 2007. (Here’s my post about the 2007 NYC rankings.)
If you know Major League Baseball history, no doubt you’re familiar with Kenesaw Mountain “Ken” Landis, who served as professional baseball’s first commissioner from 1921 to 1944.
But…do you know how he got that unusual name?
In 1862 — in the middle of the Civil War — Ken’s father, Dr. Abraham Landis, left his family behind in Ohio to serve as a surgeon in the Union Army. (His family, at that time, consisted of wife Mary and five young children.)
Abraham was severely wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia on June 27, 1864. He spent many weeks in the hospital recovering before he was finally able to return home.
His sixth child, a son, arrived on November 20, 1866 — long after the war was over.
[I]t took Dr. and Mrs. Landis some time to decide on his name. In fact, the delay in providing a name prompted both family and community members to suggest a deluge of different names. Mary Landis did not like the name Abraham, so when Dr. Landis suggested calling their son “Kenesaw,” the name and alternate spelling stuck. Clearly, the site of the doctor’s personal tragedy remained in his thoughts.
The name of the mountain is an Anglicized form of the Cherokee name Gahneesah, which means “burial ground” or “place of the dead.”
(All of Ken’s eventual six siblings had more ordinary names: Katherine, Frances, Walter, Charles, John, and Frederick.)
Ken went on to pass the bar exam and attend law school (in that order) and, by the early 1890s, was practicing law in Chicago. Within a couple of years, he was offered (and accepted) a job in the federal government:
In the Union Army, Abraham Landis was under the command of Lt. Col. Walter Quinton Gresham during Sherman’s advance through Tennessee and Georgia. […] In 1893 Gresham was appointed secretary of state by President Grover Cleveland. He needed a personal secretary and he chose a 26-year-old Chicago attorney with no knowledge of foreign affairs, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
When Gresham unexpectedly died in 1895, Grover Cleveland offered Ken the post of minister to Venezuela. Ken declined this offer to return to private practice in Chicago and to get married to his fiancée, Winifred Reed.
A year later, Kenesaw and Winifred welcomed their first child, a son named Reed Gresham Landis — middle name in honor of Ken’s late boss (and his father’s former commander).
I have more to say about Kenesaw Mountain Landis, but I’ll save the rest for tomorrow. In the meanwhile, here’s a post about Malvern Hill — another unusual baby name inspired by a Civil War battle/location.