The name Generra began appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1980s:
1989: 6 baby girls named Generra
1988: 8 baby girls named Generra
1987: 10 baby girls named Generra [peak]
1986: 6 baby girls named Generra [debut]
Because of the clothing brand Generra.
Generra Sportswear Co. was founded in Seattle in 1980 (by former Brittania employees). Originally, it focused on men’s sportswear exclusively.
In 1986, “the company added children’s wear and women’s wear items to their portfolio.” This expansion, plus all the associated advertising, is likely the reason Generra debuted as a girl name in 1986 specifically.
The name was last in the data in 1991 — ironically, the very same year the company introduced its trendy Hypercolor clothing (which changed color according to the temperature).
Generra ended up putting “too much money into the Hypercolor fad,” though, and this, along with other factors, forced the company to file for bankruptcy protection in mid-1992.
The interesting name Tondra first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1946:
1948: 9 baby girls named Tondra
1946: 9 baby girls named Tondra [debut]
I don’t know why it dropped out of the data and then returned in 1948 with the same (relatively high) number of babies — that’s not a typical pattern — but I can explain the initial appearance.
In February and March of 1946, the kidnapping of 4-year-old Terry Taylor of Charlotte, North Carolina, was front-page news across the nation for several days straight.
Terry, her 5-year-old sister Tondra Taylor, and their 19-year-old nursemaid Rosemary Johnson were at a park in Charlotte one Tuesday when Rosemary decided to take Terry on a bus ride out of state. (They left Tondra behind at the park.)
The pair remained missing until Thursday night, when they were discovered in Annapolis, Maryland. Rosemary had managed to find a position as a maid. She had told the homeowners that she was the child’s widowed mother, but the homeowners became suspicious (in part because the child called herself Terry even though Rosemary insisted the name was Jerry) and called the police.
Terry’s parents drove to Annapolis on Friday to retrieve her, and nursemaid Rosemary was arrested. (Turns out her real name was Loretta Brozek. She was found guilty in July and sentenced to seven years in federal prison, but in October she was transferred to a mental institution.)
Though older sister Tondra was never the focus of the story, her name was mentioned repeatedly in the news that week.
And, ironically, Tondra’s name wasn’t really Tondra — it was Tonda (according to the North Carolina birth records, the 1940 U.S. census, and at least one early news report). In fact, she seems to be the same Tonda Taylor who founded the LGBTQ group Time Out Youth in Charlotte in 1991.
The name Terry — already on the rise for both genders at that time — also saw a jump in usage in 1946.
Sportswear brand Brittania (pronounced brih-TAN-yah) was launched in Seattle in 1973 by businessman Walter Schoenfeld.
He was inspired to start selling “washed” blue jeans to Americans after spotting “a pair of faded blue denim slacks in the window of a London shop.” (Brittania jeans were “fashionable alternatives to the dark denim Levi’s that were so prevalent at that time.”)
Sales of Britannia jeans increased throughout the 1970s:
In less than 10 years, Brittania Sportswear was selling 30 million pairs a year and Brittania — Schoenfeld spelled it that way to distinguish his brand from the Royal Yacht Britannia — had a team of 40 to 50 designers and about 400 employees in Seattle.
Then, in 1980, Schoenfeld made a “decision which ran against his better judgment: Brittania embarked on the first full-scale advertising campaign in its history.”
That year, the company spend about $9 million on advertising. The result was the “My home is __ but I live in Brittania” marketing campaign.
The campaign was very successful; brand recognition increased from 48% in 1978 to 96% in 1980.
But it also created a new problem: too much demand for the product. By the spring of 1980, the company “had a 50 percent increase in orders over the previous year, but lacked production capacity to fill them.”
This situation, along with several other issues, led the company to file for bankruptcy protection in 1983. Several years after that, it was purchased by Levi Strauss.
Brittania may not be around anymore, but, as the very first designer jeans company in the U.S., it paved the way for brands like Jordache, Murjani, and Chardon.
It also helped kick the baby name Brittany into high gear circa 1980:
1983: 4,377 baby girls named Brittany [64th]
1982: 3,102 baby girls named Brittany [94th]
1981: 1,714 baby girls named Brittany [165th]
1980: 1,406 baby girls named Brittany [190th]
1979: 792 baby girls named Brittany [300th]
1978: 630 baby girls named Brittany [345th]
1977: 488 baby girls named Brittany [419th]
What are your thoughts on the baby name Brittania? (Do you like it more or less than Brittany?)
P.S. Did you know that Seattle’s apparel industry was born in the wake of the Klondike gold rush? Many prospectors bought provisions in Seattle before heading north to Alaska. Apparel companies founded in Seattle include Filson (1897), Nordstrom (1901), and Eddie Bauer (1920).
In 1970, the rare name Doral saw peak usage, according to the U.S. baby name data:
1972: 6 baby girls and 6 baby boys named Doral
1971: 7 baby girls and 12 baby boys named Doral
1970: 12 baby girls [peak] and 17 baby boys named Doral [peak, both genders]
1969: 11 baby girls and 7 baby boys named Doral
The same year, the even rarer name Embra made its first and only appearance:
1970: 6 baby girls named Embra [debut]
What influenced these names?
Believe it or not, the answer is cigarettes. Two different brands of cigarettes.
Doral cigarettes and Embra cigarettes were both put on the market by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in mid-1969. Doral was launched nationally in June, and Embra was introduced in test markets in August.
Doral (pronounced doh-RAL; rhymes with “corral” and “morale”) was marketed as a flavorful low-tar cigarette. The tagline was: “Taste me!”
Embra was “designed to appeal to women” — just like Virginia Slims, which had been launched a year earlier. The tagline was: “Embra. For my woman.”
This advertising approach did not appeal to the market. The industry found that women typically do not smoke cigarettes to please men.
As a result, Embra was pulled out of test markets in mid-1970.
Doral, on the other hand, is still available to this day.
Putting aside the strong association with smoking for a moment…which of these brand names do you think makes a better baby name?
Crawford, Elizabeth Crisp. Tobacco Goes to College: Cigarette Advertising in Student Media, 1920-1980. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014.