The name Kennan popped up in the U.S. baby name data for the first time 1952:
- 1954: 11 baby boys named Kennan
- 1953: 6 baby boys named Kennan
- 1952: 8 baby boys named Kennan [debut]
- 1951: unlisted
- 1950: unlisted
If there’s a reason — and typically there’s a reason — my guess is George F. Kennan, the Russian-speaking diplomat nominated by President Truman in February of 1952 to be the U.S. Ambassador to the USSR.
He started the job in May, but didn’t last long.
Why? Because, in mid-September, while addressing the press in Berlin, Kennan “compared life in the Moscow Embassy with his internment by the Nazis at Bad Nauheim.”
Stalin wasn’t pleased.
In early October, the USSR accused Kennan of making “slanderous attacks hostile to the Soviet Union in a rude violation of generally recognized norms of international law.” He was declared a persona non grata and refused re-admittance into the country.
George Kennan making headlines throughout the year — not to mention the similarity of his surname to the then-trendy baby names Kenneth and Kevin — is likely what influenced a handful of expectant parents to name their sons Kennan in 1952.
What are your thoughts on Kennan as a first name?
P.S. Keenan’s father had a cool name: Kossuth Kent Kennan. He was born in Milwaukee in 1851, the year Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth visited the city during a tour of the United States. (Lajos is the Hungarian form of Louis.)
P.P.S. In March of 1967, George Kennan was asked “to go to Switzerland on a secret mission to establish the bona fides of a woman who had defected from the Soviet Union and claimed to be the daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.” The next month, news broke of Svetlana’s defection to the U.S.…
- Isaacson, Walter and Evan Thomas. The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
- Louis Kossuth: Commemorating the 1848 Hungarian Revolution and War of Liberation
- Menand, Louis. “Getting Real: George F. Kennan’s Cold War.” New Yorker 14 Nov. 2011.
- The Papers of George Catlett Marshall: “The Man of the Age,” October 1, 1949-October 16, 1959. Ed. Mark A. Stoler and Daniel D. Holt. Vol. 7. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.
- Warnecke, Grace Kennan. “My secret summer with Stalin’s daughter.” Politico 1 May 2018.
Image: George F. Kennan (LOC)