The Eiffel Tower was created by civil engineer Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Exposition of 1889 (which marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution). It took more than two years to construct and was the tallest man-made structure in the world until 1930.
We’ve already talked about one person named Eiffel Tower, and, since then, I’ve found a second Eiffel Tower. If we do a records search for the name Eiffel, though, we find dozens more. “Eiffel” was never common enough in the U.S. to appear in the SSA data, but I see Eiffels as early as 1889 in the SSDI, and as early as 1887 (the year construction began*) in vital records.
Here are the best-documented, U.S.-born Eiffels I found from the last years of the 1880s and the first years of the 1890s. Two-thirds of them are female.
Did you know that Gustave Eiffel’s surname at birth was actually Bönickhausen?
In the early 1700s, Gustave’s ancestor Jean-Rene Bönickhausen relocated from a town in the mountainous Eifel region of Germany to the capital of France and began going by Eiffel (perhaps because it was easier to pronounce than Bönickhausen). So the official surname of this branch of the family tree became “Bönickhausen, dit Eiffel.” Gustave didn’t legally shorten it to Eiffel until 1879.
The word “Eifel” can be traced back to the Early Middle Ages, but the etymology is unknown.
What are your thoughts on Eiffel as a first name? Would you use it?
*The Eiffel Tower was being mentioned in the newspapers was early as mid-1886, but the name wasn’t set yet; it was being called things like “the Great Tower,” “the Tower of Paris,” and “the Eiffel Tall Tower.”
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
What’s the best thing about Halloween? If you said the costumes, or the parties, or the history, or the carving of very elaborate jack-o’-lanterns…you’d be wrong. Because the correct answer is: the candy.
But, as funny as I think it would be to meet a kid named Twizzler, I don’t want people taking names from candy wrappers and putting them onto birth certificates. So let’s look at candy-inspired baby names in a slightly different way by focusing on a single brand with a simple name: M&M’S.
Did you know that M&M’S are the top-selling Halloween candy in California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.? They’re the second-best seller in eight other states, and the third-best seller in three more.
More important for our purposes, though, is the fact that the brand name is essentially the same letter twice. So let’s check out baby names that similarly have two M’s, but two separate M’s. Because, if the candies won’t melt in your hand, the M’s shouldn’t meld in a name.
So here are over 20 baby names with two audibly distinct M’s, just like M&M’S candies:
Tomomi (f) – Japanese name with various possible meanings, including “friend” + “beautiful.”
Which of the M+M names above do you like best?
And, are you curious to know what the M’s in “M&M’S” actually stand for? Mars and Murrie, the surnames of Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie, the businessmen who created M&M’S back in the early 1940s. Forrest was the sons of Frank C. Mars (founder of Mars, Incorporated) and Bruce was the son of William F. R. Murrie (president of Hershey’s).
Nine women graduated from Rutgers Female College in 1886, and three of these nine women went by the pet names Hattie, Bessie and Mamie (diminutives of Harriet, Elizabeth and Mary/Margaret) during the graduation ceremony.
A writer at the now-defunct NYC newspaper The Sun had a strong opinion about this:
“[I]t seems very incongruous, and it is very incongruous, to give scholastic degree to a young woman who is spoken of only as if she were a baby who had not yet mastered the pronunciation of some of the consonants, and who changed the construction of words to suit the limitations of her infantile vocal organs.”
In the domestic circle such nursery names have sweet and tender associations, but they sound quite silly when they are read out at a college commencement as the serious appellations of young women who are deemed worthy of grave scholastic degrees. Suppose that when Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was given an honorary degree in England, the other day, he had been described as Ollie Holmes or Noll Holmes.
These three young women allowed Dr. Samson and Dr. Burchard to address them before a large audience as if they were little girls in pinafores waiting for a present of a doll or of sweetmeats, instead of young ladies about to receive diplomas certifying that they had mastered studies within the ability of maturity only. They and their friends were not in the least indignant at the familiarity, but took it as altogether nice, pretty and proper.
Among the other recipients of degrees were two Marys and two Elizabeths, who were so called in their degrees, but Mamie and Bessie probably looked on them as the victims of the prejudices of old-fashioned and unreasonable parents. Yet we can never think of Mamie and Bessie and Hattie as dignified young women so long as they put those baby names on their cards.
The author didn’t strike me as being a feminist, but that’s how I saw his/her basic argument: women looking to be respected in the public sphere do themselves a disservice when they allow pet forms of their names to be used on serious/formal occasions.
And, back in that era — back when pet names typically were pet names (and not legal names) — I think I would have agreed. Because pet names would have denoted immaturity, familiarity, perhaps weakness — certainly not maturity, independence or power (traits that I imagine progressive women of the 19th century would have been aiming for).
These days the argument sounds a bit silly, though, as diminutives (e.g., Allie, Callie, Ellie, Sadie) are just as likely to be used as standalone legal names.
What’s your opinion?
Source: “Hattie, Bessie and Mamie.” Sun [New York] 12 Jun. 1886.