Baby name story: Thomas Lipton

Thomas Lipton's yacht "Shamrock"
The original Shamrock

In 1899, Scottish businessman Thomas Lipton, founder of the Lipton Tea company, sailed his racing yacht Shamrock overseas to challenge the Columbia (owned by J. P. Morgan) in the America’s Cup.

Lipton lost. And his next four America’s Cup boats — the Shamrock II, the Shamrock III, the Shamrock IV, and the Shamrock V — also lost (in 1901, 1903, 1920, and 1930, respectively).

He became the loveable [sic] loser; a man whose good-natured approach to the obstacles stacked against him turned him into a folk hero and promoted his business interests in America as well.

Scottish businessman Thomas Lipton (1848-1931)
Thomas Lipton

His repeated attempts to win the Cup also inspired one New York family to name a baby after him.

Adolph and Catherine Bergner of Tompkinsville, Staten Island, had three “shamrock babies” (as the newspapers called them).

Their first child, a boy, was born in 1899 — around the time the original Shamrock “dropped anchor off Tompkinsville after a passage across the ocean.” He was named James Adolph.

Their second child, a girl, was born in 1901 — just as Shamrock II entered American waters. She was named Helen Elizabeth.

Their third child, a boy, was born in 1903 — “on June 14, just as the steamer on which Sir Thomas came across the Atlantic arrived at Quarantine.” The Bergners decided to acknowledge the ongoing coincidences by naming this one Thomas Lipton Bergner.

They promptly wrote a letter to Thomas Lipton, to tell him about his new namesake. With his reply, Lipton “sent to each of the children a gold stickpin with a Shamrock on the face.”

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Baby born to American activists, named “america”

Abbie Hoffman, Anita Kushner, and baby america Hoffman (early 1970s)
The Hoffman family

Media-savvy political activist Abbott “Abbie” Hoffman (1936-1989) and his second wife, Anita Kushner, welcomed a baby boy in mid-1971.

Abbie’s first two children (Andrew and Amy) didn’t have politicized names, but his third got the name america — deliberately spelled with a small a in order “to distinguish the child’s name from a jingoistic sentiment.”

[T]he birth of his and Anita’s son, “america,” was treated as a political statement, as an affirmation of their optimism about the future and their roots in American culture.

Anita added (years later) that they’d gone with a lower-case a “because [they] didn’t want to be pretentious.”

Another name they’d considered for their son? Tupac.

In the Hoffmans’ book To America with Love, one of the letters Anita wrote (in July of 1974) began:

I met Affeni [sic] Shakur today. What an up. She is vibrant, beautiful, wise with experience. We talked about our children a lot and the heavy history behind each. Did you know she named her son Tupac Amaru, after the last Inca prince who rebelled against the Spaniards? We had considered naming america that. Tupac’s the same age.

(Tupac’s mother’s name was actually spelled Afeni.)

Abbie Hoffman went underground in 1974 (in order to evade arrest). He remained in hiding, using the alias “Barry Freed,” for six years. During that period, Anita and america were under constant FBI surveillance. So Anita and Abbie began to call their son “Alan” as an added layer of protection.

Alan reverted back to his real name at the start of high school (in the mid-1980s), hoping that “america” would impress a “cute punk rock girl” in his class.

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Image: Adapted from Anita Hoffman with son by Leah Kushner under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Baby born into Lear family, named Shanda

chandelier

Self-taught inventor and businessman William P. “Bill” Lear (1902-1978) is best remembered as the founder of Learjet, the first company to manufacture compact business jets.

In the world of baby names, though, he has an entirely different claim to fame: He named a daughter Shanda to create the pun-name Shanda Lear (read: chandelier).

So, what’s the story?

Bill met his fourth wife, Moya Olsen, in the mid-1930s. They met through Moya’s father, vaudeville comedian John “Ole” Olsen.

They had their first date (drinks at the Stork Club) in 1938, and tied the knot in early 1942.

Bill, who already had three children (Mary Louise, William, and Patti) from previous marriages, went on to have four more children with Moya.

Their first was a boy named John, born in December of 1942.

Their second, born in 1944, was a girl — and she was indeed named Shanda. Years later, Moya recounted:

My father said if you have a girl, her name has to be Shanda. S-H-A-N-D-A. Shanda Lear. And if it’s a boy, you name it Gonda and if you’re not sure, it’s Lava.

Their last two children were named David (b. 1948) and Tina (b. 1954).

During an interview in 2007, Shanda Lear mentioned her name while describing her father, who she said was a “quixotic, outspoken and charismatic man who had a great sense of humor. He thought it was quite funny naming me Shanda Lear.”

What are your thoughts on this name?

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Image by Fabio Tura from Unsplash

Twins born to University of Iowa alums, named Kinnick & Carver

Kinnick Stadium, University of Iowa
Kinnick Stadium

In September of 2004, identical twin boys were born to Iowa City couple Brian and Amy Boelk, who met while attending the University of Iowa.

The boys’ names?

Kinnick and Carver — after the school’s Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Kinnick Stadium was named after Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, while Carver-Hawkeye Arena was named (in part) after Iowa philanthropist Roy J. Carver.

The name Kinnick first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 2004 — the year the twins were born, curiously. (Did news of their names have an influence on other expectant parents…?)

Unsurprisingly, most of the usage so far has been in the state of Iowa:

Boys named Kinnick, U.S.Boys named Kinnick, Iowa
20211611 (69%)
20202314 (61%)
20192214 (64%)
20181810 (56%)
20172919 (66%)
20163725 (68%)
20153428 (82%)
20143625 (69%)
20132316 (70%)
20123528 (80%)
20114939 (80%)
20104036 (90%)
20092924 (83%)
20082217 (77%)
20072725 (93%)
20062116 (76%)
2005107 (70%)
20048*7* (88%)
*Debut

Which of the two names, Kinnick or Carver, do you like more?

Source: “Twins Named after Hawkeye Buildings.” Telegraph-Herald 17 Sep. 2004: 2A.
Image by Leonardo Marchini from Pixabay

Toledo brothers named One & Two

Headstone of Two Stickney (1810-1862)
Two Stickney’s headstone

In the mid-1830s, the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan fought over a 468-square-mile strip of land containing Toledo. Their border dispute became known as the Toledo War.

During that period, tensions between the two regions ran high. At one point, for instance, the sheriff of Michigan’s Monroe County took to arresting “anyone in the Ohio strip who was promoting Toledo going to Ohio.”

Map of the disputed strip of land between Michigan and Ohio.
The disputed strip of land between Michigan and Ohio

His arrests included “one of Toledo’s founding fathers,” Benjamin Franklin Stickney. Originally from New England — and named after his mother’s uncle, the actual Benjamin Franklin — Stickney had moved his family westward in 1812 after being appointed as an Indian Agent at Fort Wayne.

By the time he arrived in Fort Wayne, Mr. Stickney already had fostered a reputation as an odd personality and independent thinker. The eccentric rap came largely from Mr. Stickney’s decision to name his sons One and Two.

His apparent reasoning, according to legend, was that the boys could name themselves when they grew older, but they never did. Mr. Stickney had wanted to name his three daughters after states, but his wife forbid it for the first two. He won out after the birth of his last child, born at Fort Wayne in 1817. He called her Indiana.

(One Stickney was born in 1803. Two Stickney was born in 1810. Between them were two daughters named Louisa and Mary. The fifth baby was indeed named after the state of Indiana, but her name was spelled “Indianna.”)

Stickney’s arrest angered his son Two, who ended up stabbing the Monroe County sheriff in the side with a pen knife in July of 1835. This non-fatal injury was the only casualty in the nearly-bloodless Toledo War.

The conflict finally ended in mid-1836, when the U.S. Congress proposed a compromise. Ohio would be given the disputed strip of land (and the city of Toledo), while Michigan would be given statehood and the remainder of the Upper Peninsula.

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Image (2nd one): Adapted from Disputed Toledo Strip by Drdpw under CC BY-SA 3.0.

P.S. Other families with number-names include the Rosado family of Brazil and Ten & Decillian Million of Washington state.