How popular is the baby name Walt in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Walt.
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New Mexican gunfighter and folk hero Elfego Baca (1865-1945).
But not the real Elfego Baca, who wasn’t well-known outside of New Mexico. Instead, Walt Disney’s fictionalized version of him.
From late 1958 to early 1960, Elfego Baca was featured in 10 irregularly-airing episodes of the TV anthology series Walt Disney Presents. (The series had been renamed since the days of Davy Crockett.)
The Baca miniseries, entitled The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, starred actor Robert Loggia as the title character — a New Mexico lawman during the final years of the Old West. Though the episodes didn’t popularize Baca to the same degree that earlier episodes had popularized Crockett, they did turn Baca into “America’s first Hispanic popular culture hero,” according to one historian.
In his introductions to the episodes, Walt Disney pronounced Baca’s first name the traditional way: EL-fay-go (stress on the first syllable). Characters within the episodes, however, tended to mispronounce it el-FAY-go (stress on the second syllable).
The name is a Spanish form of the Middle English name Alphege, ultimately based on the Old English words ælf, meaning “elf,” and heah, meaning “high, tall.”
The baby name Marty, which was rising in usage during the 1950s, rose much more quickly from 1955 to 1957 specifically:
Boys named Marty
Girls named Marty
1,413 [rank: 198th]
134 [rank: 881st]
1,348 [rank: 200th]
159† [rank: 803rd]
1,014 [rank: 229th]
130 [rank: 877th]
618 [rank: 287th]
422 [rank: 348th]
359 [rank: 360th]
95 [rank: 983rd]
Here’s a visual:
The name Martin (which had ranked inside the boys’ top 100 for decades by the 1950s) likewise saw an increase in usage during those years:
1958: 5,666 baby boys named Martin [rank: 71st]
1957: 5,964 baby boys named Martin [rank: 69th]
1956: 5,683 baby boys named Martin [rank: 73rd]
1955: 5,069 baby boys named Martin [rank: 77th]
1954: 4,964 baby boys named Martin [rank: 79th]
1953: 4,780 baby boys named Martin [rank: 82nd]
I think there are two reasons, though one was probably more influential than the other.
The primary reason was likely the character Marty from three different Spin and Marty serials (which aired as 11-minute segments on The Mickey Mouse Club):
The Adventures of Spin and Marty (1955) – 25 episodes
The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty (1956) – 23 episodes
The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (1957) – 30 episodes
Spin and Marty was set at the Triple R Ranch, a western-style summer camp for boys.
The main characters were teenagers Martin “Marty” Markham (played by David Stollery), who was rich and spoiled, and Spin Evans (played by Tim Considine), who was popular and athletic. “Walt Disney had never before created anything with two diametrically opposed leads.” By the end of the first serial, the boys had overcome their differences and become best friends.
The success of Spin and Marty led to merchandising that included comic books, coloring books, and phonograph records.
The secondary reason for the rise for the name Marty? The 1955 movie Marty, a poignant romantic drama about a man looking for love.
The film follows main character Marty Pilletti (played by Ernest Borgnine) — a lonely 34-year-old who lives with his widowed mother in the Bronx — over the course of a weekend. He meets a woman named Clara (played by Betsy Blair) at a dance hall, and they unexpectedly hit it off. But Marty’s mother and bachelor friends aren’t as excited about his budding romance, and they try to dissuade Marty from pursuing Clara.
The movie — despite being independently produced on a modest budget, and despite featuring ordinary-looking characters and a “quiet, simple story” — was a success at the box office. It also won four Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. (Borgnine’s “Best Actor” Oscar was presented by Grace Kelly.)
Did you know that The Walt Disney Company has a birthday coming up?
On October 16, 2023, Disney will mark its 100th anniversary. (I learned this while working on last month’s post about Davy Crockett.)
Let’s celebrate the upcoming centennial with more than 100 Walt Disney-inspired baby names. Just to make things interesting, all of the names below refer to Disney-related people, places, things, and events from the pre-television era.
Walt (Walter) or Elias for animator and businessman Walter Elias “Walt” Disney, who was born in 1901. His middle name was passed down from his father, Elias C. Disney.
Kaycee for Kaycee Studio, Walt’s first animation studio. It was named after its location, Kansas City — “K.C” for short.
Newman for the Newman Laugh-o-Grams, Walt’s first animated films, which aired exclusively at the Newman Theater in Kansas City starting in early 1921.
Jack for the Laugh-o-Gram shorts Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer, both from 1922.
Goldie for the Laugh-o-Gram short Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, also from 1922.
The name Goldie was used again (for an elf) in the future Disney short The Golden Touch (1935).
Alice for the Alice Comedies, a series of short films in which a live-action girl named Alice interacts with cartoon characters in an animated landscape. The first short, the unfinished Alice’s Wonderland, was created in Kansas City.
In the summer of 1923, after Walt’s second studio (Laugh-o-Gram) went bankrupt, Walt moved to Los Angeles, California.
Margaret for businesswoman Margaret J. Winkler, who agreed to distribute Walt’s proposed Alice Comedies series. The contract was signed on October 16, 1923.
Roy for Roy O. Disney, who, with Walt, co-founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (later The Walt Disney Company) upon the finalization of the distribution deal.
Virginia for child actress Virginia Davis, who originated the role of Alice. Her family relocated to California so that she could appear in 14 more films.
Kathleen for artist Kathleen Dollard, the studio’s first hire.
Julius for Julius the Cat, a recurring character in the Alice Comedies.
Pete for Peg Leg Pete, a villain who first appeared in Alice Solves the Puzzle (1925). He has since become Disney’s oldest recurring character.
Margie and Lois for child actresses Margie Gay and Lois Hardwick, who played Alice in later films.
Oswald for character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who was created in 1927 (by Universal Pictures) to star in a new series of animated films, the first 26 of which were animated by Walt’s company.
In 1928, the businessman who owned the rights to Oswald decided to create his own animation studio and produce the Oswald cartoons himself. He even hired away several of Walt’s animators.
It was a major setback, as Walt’s studio had already created more than two dozen successful Oswald films. But Walt refused to give up. Soon enough, he came up with an idea for a new character — a mouse!
Mickey and Minnie for characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. They technically first appeared in the short Plane Crazy (May 1928), but their first wide-release appearance was in Steamboat Willie.
Willie for the short Steamboat Willie (Nov. 1928). One of the first cartoons to synchronize sound and animation, it was an immediate hit.
The name Willie was used again in the future Disney short Willie the Operatic Whale (1946).
Charlotte for seamstress Charlotte Clark, who designed and sold the first Disney-approved Mickey Mouse dolls.
Walt’s studio not only continued making Mickey Mouse films, but also began another series of films, Silly Symphonies, which introduced a slew of new characters.
Horace for character Horace Horsecollar, who first appeared in the short The Plowboy (1929).
Adeline for “Sweet Adeline,” the song that Mickey (and a pair of alley cats) performed for Minnie in the short The Karnival Kid (1929). Mickey Mouse spoke his first words in this cartoon.
Clarabelle for Horace’s love interest, Clarabelle Cow, who first appeared in the short The Shindig (1930).
Pluto for Mickey Mouse’s dog, Pluto the Pup, who first appeared in the short The Chain Gang (1930). His name, inspired by the recently discovered planet Pluto, was first used in The Moose Hunt (1931).
Vance for actor Vance “Pinto” Colvig, the original voice of both Pluto and Goofy.
Fifi for Pluto’s love interest, Fifi the Pekingese, who first appeared in the short Puppy Love (1933).
Donald for character Donald Duck, who first appeared in the short The Wise Little Hen (1934).
Clarence for actor Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck.
Morty and Ferdie for Mickey Mouse’s nephews, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, from the short Mickey’s Steam Roller (1934).
Clara for character Clara Cluck, the operatic chicken who first appeared in the short Orphan’s Benefit (1934).
Peter and Polly for characters Peter and Polly Penguin from the short Peculiar Penguins (1934).
The name Peter was used again in the future Disney short Peter and the Wolf (1946).
Bianca for artist Bianca Majolie, the studio’s first female employee in the Story department (as opposed to the Ink and Paint department).
Max and Toby for characters Max Hare and Toby Tortoise, rivals first featured in the Oscar-winning short The Tortoise and the Hare (1935).
Ambrose (or Butch) for the kitten named Ambrose (who aspired to be a bandit called “Butch”) in the short The Robber Kitten (1935).
Jenny for Donald Duck’s burro, Jenny, who first appeared in the short Mickey’s Polo Team (1936).
The name Jenny had also been used in the unrelated 1935 short Who Killed Cock Robin?
Elmer and Tillie for characters Elmer Elephant and Tillie Tiger from the short Elmer Elephant (1936).
The name Elmer had also been used in the unrelated 1934 short Mickey Plays Papa.
Mortimer for character Mortimer Mouse from the short Mickey’s Rival (1936).
Did you know that Walt’s original name for Mickey Mouse was “Mortimer Mouse”? His wife Lillian convinced him to use the name Mickey instead.
Monty and Abner for characters Monty Citymouse and Abner Countrymouse from the Oscar-winning short The Country Cousin (1936).
Donna for Donald Duck’s first girlfriend, Donna Duck, from the short Don Donald (1937).
Hortense for the insatiable ostrich Hortense in the short Donald’s Ostrich (1937).
Snow for Snow White, the lead character from the studio’s first feature-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). This was the first animated feature in history “to receive a wide, Hollywood-style release.”
Adriana for actress and singer Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White.
Marge for dancer Marge Champion, the real-life model for Snow White. She was also the model for other Disney characters, including the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio.
Lucille for actress Lucille La Verne, the voice of the Evil Queen from Snow White.
Moroni for actor Moroni Olsen, the voice of the Magic Mirror from Snow White.
Larry and Frank for songwriters Larry Morey and Frank Churchill, who created the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” for Snow White.
The variant spelling Davey peaked in usage that year as well.
David itself — already very popular (and still rising) — also saw an uptick:
1957: 82,404 baby boys named David [rank: 3rd]
1956: 81,645 baby boys named David [rank: 4th]
1955: 86,304 baby boys named David [rank: 2nd]
1954: 79,561 baby boys named David [rank: 5th]
1953: 76,119 baby boys named David [rank: 5th]
(It finally reached #1 in 1960, though it dropped back down to #2 the following year.)
What was influencing these names?
Frontiersman David “Davy” Crockett — or, to be more precise, Walt Disney’s fictionalized version of Davy Crockett.
The real Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was a Tennessee-born soldier and politician who died during the Texas Revolution, at the Battle of the Alamo. Outside of Tennessee and Texas, he was a “relatively obscure” historical figure.
In the early 1950s, animator and entrepreneur Walt Disney decided to build an amusement park. To fund the project, he made a deal with the ABC network to create a weekly anthology show called Walt Disney’s Disneyland. It was Walt’s first television series.
The initial hour-long episode aired in October of 1954. It began with Walt talking directly to viewers about Disneyland, which was then under construction in Anaheim. While describing Frontierland, Walt mentioned “the first coonskin Congressman,” Davy Crockett. Soon after, viewers saw Davy Crockett himself (played by Texas-born actor Fess Parker) singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”:
The first episode to feature a Crockett storyline was “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter,” which was broadcast in mid-December. The second, “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress,” aired in January of 1955. The third and final episode, “Davy Crockett at the Alamo,” followed in February. All three were filmed largely in the Great Smoky Mountains, and each one featured that catchy theme song.
Three episodes and a single song were all it took to make the King of the Wild Frontier an overnight sensation among U.S. children. (Which is doubly impressive when you consider that, in 1955, only about half of American homes had a television set.)
In April of 1955, Life magazine reported that the Crockett craze — “unexpected even by the watchful Walt Disney” — had resulted in “a corresponding frenzy in commercial circles.”
Dozens of manufacturers are hustling to turn out more than 200 items, from baby shoes to wallets, which might conceivably be connected with Crockett’s life. By June they will sell to the retail tune of $100 million — just about the largest merchandising feat of its kind.
Other Davy Crockett products included comic books, trading cards, toy rifles, toy holsters, toy guns, toy powder horns, shirts, pants, jackets, pajamas, bathing suits, bath towels, bedspreads, lunchboxes, mugs, plates, jigsaw puzzles, guitars, and records.
Speaking of records, renditions of the Davy Crockett theme song by Bill Hayes, Fess Parker, and Tennessee Ernie Ford ended up ranking 6th, 22nd, and 24th (respectively) on the list of top-selling records of 1955, according to Billboard.
But the most coveted Davy Crockett item of all, of course, was the coonskin cap.
At the height of the fad in the summer of 1955, coonskin caps sold upward of 5,000 a day. […] A shortage in coonskins caused furriers to resort to muskrat, rabbit and fox skins to produce the caps.
To capitalize on the Crockett craze, Walt Disney not only rebroadcast all three TV episodes (in April and May), but also combined the episodes into a feature-length film, Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, released in late May.
Then — after the Disneyland theme park opened in July, and The Mickey Mouse Club premiered in October — Walt revived Davy (who had technically been killed at the Alamo in episode three) and created a pair of prequel episodes: “Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race” (which aired in November) and “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates” (December). These were likewise turned into a movie, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, released in July of 1956.
Crockett-obsessed American families ended up spending more than $300 million on Davy Crockett merchandise during the mid-1950s. (That’s about $3.4 billion in 2023 dollars.)
While dozens of these families chose to name their baby boys Davy — which is why the name increased in usage more than sixfold in 1955 — very few, if any, went for Crockett, which remained absent from the baby name data throughout the 1950s.
What are your thoughts on the name Davy? Would you use it? (How about Crockett?)
P.S. If you’re wondering about Fess Parker’s first name, it was passed down from his father, who’d been named in honor of Ohio politician Simeon D. Fess.