The brief Spanish-American War (1898), which began in April and ended in August, inspired hundreds of patriotic parents in the U.S. to choose war-inspired baby names. Here are some examples:
Maine & Havana
One of the events that led to war was the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbor on February 15. The explosion killed more than 260 men. Many people in the U.S. blamed the explosion on Spain.
The baby names Maine and Havana both debuted in the U.S. SSA baby name data in 1898.
1898: 9 baby girls named Maine [debut] (plus 5 more named Mayne)
Maine was a one-hit wonder in the data — a rarity that never returned — but Havana returned to the data dozens of times since.
1898: 8 baby girls named Havana [debut]
The baby name Cuba also saw a spike in usage that year:
1900: 8 baby girls named Cuba
1899: 14 baby girls named Cuba (rank: 884th)
1898: 29 baby girls named Cuba (rank: 597th)
1897: 9 baby girls named Cuba
According to U.S. Social Security Death Index (SSDI) data — which is more comprehensive than the SSA data for this time period — 25 babies were named Maine, 12 were named Havana, and 79 were named Cuba in 1898.
Dewey & Manila
War was formally declared on April 25. On May 1, the Battle of Manila Bay took place in the Philippines. The U.S. fleet, under the command of Commodore George Dewey, defeated Spain.
Usage of the name Dewey spiked in 1898, both for boys and for girls:
Boys named Dewey
Girls named Dewey
345 (rank: 75th)
499 (rank: 39th)
24 (rank: 632nd)
1,115 (rank: 19th)
104 (rank: 305th)
158 (rank: 111th)
13 (rank: 904th)
63 (rank: 224th)
Impressively, Dewey reached the boys’ top 20 in 1898. The spelling variants Dewie and Dewy also debuted that year.
Going back to the SSDI, we see even higher numbers — 6,708 babies named Dewey, 36 named Dewie, and 1 named Dewy in 1898.
We even see evidence of Dewey’s spike on the U.S. Census of 1920:
1910s: over 4,300 people named Dewey were born
1900s: over 11,000 people named Dewey were born
1890s: over 12,100 people named Dewey were born
1880s: over 200 people named Dewey were born
1870s: over 100 people named Dewey were born
An article in the Reading Eagle in 1899 listed ten local babies named for George Dewey, and another article I spotted from decades later joked about starting a George Dewey namesake club.
We see a similar (though less pronounced) spike of in the usage of Manila for baby girls:
1900: 10 baby girls named Manila
1899: 34 baby girls named Manila (rank: 512th)
1898: 104 baby girls named Manila (rank: 306th) [peak usage]
Here are six more war-related names that debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1898.
The baby name Hobson was inspired by Richmond Pearson Hobson, prisoner of war in Cuba. (Hobson was the top boy name debut of 1898, in fact.)
1900: 13 baby boys named Hobson (rank: 713th)
1899: 15 baby boys named Hobson (rank: 511th)
1898: 38 baby boys named Hobson (rank: 311th) [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 161 babies were named Hobson that year.
(Hobson was a handsome Southerner who became a national celebrity following his month-long imprisonment. He became well known for kissing pretty young women as he toured the country. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch jokingly called him “the champion kisser of the universe.”)
The baby name Admiral was the rank of many of the men (e.g. Admiral Dewey, Admiral Sampson, Admiral Schley) who played a part in the war — Dewey especially.
1900: 18 baby boys named Admiral (rank: 579th)
1899: 13 baby boys named Admiral (rank: 549th)
1898: 25 baby boys named Admiral (rank: 394th) [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 154 babies were named Admiral.
The baby name Shafter was inspired by army general William Rufus Shafter, who had command of the U.S. forces in Cuba during the war.
1900: 8 baby boys named Shafter
1898: 14 baby boys named Shafter (rank: 604th) [debut]
This was the first and only time Shafter landed in the SSA’s top 1,000. According to the SSDI, at least 58 babies were named Shafter.
The baby name Maceo was inspired by Cuban revolutionary Antonio Maceo, “one of the outstanding guerrilla leaders in nineteenth century Latin America. (He died in late 1896, actually.)
1900: 8 baby boys named Maceo
1899: 9 baby boys named Maceo (rank: 760th)
1898: 13 baby boys named Maceo (rank: 621st) [debut]
According to the SSDI, at least 34 babies were named Maceo.
The baby name Schley was inspired by Winfield Scott Schley, hero of the Battle of Santiago Bay.
1898: 10 baby boys named Schley (rank: 737th) [debut]
Like Maine, it was a one-hit wonder in the SSA data, and, like Shafter, it was in the top 1,000 just once. According to the SSDI, at least 39 babies were named Schley.
Finally, the baby name Philippina, possibly inspired by the Philippines, was another one-hit wonder the year of the war:
1898: 5 baby girls named Philippina [debut]
Interestingly, only single Philippina is accounted for in the SSDI data.
“Berks Babies Named in Honor of Dewey.” Reading Eagle 30 Apr. 1899: 4.