Babies named for Theodosia Burr

American socialite Theodosia Burr (1783-1813)
Theodosia Burr

We’ve all heard of early American politician Aaron Burr, but not as many of us know about his daughter, Theodosia — a well-educated socialite whose mysterious disappearance in early 1813 kept Americans intrigued for decades.

On the last day of 1812, 29-year-old Theodosia set sail from South Carolina (where she lived with her husband, Joseph Alston, the newly elected governor) to New York, to visit her father.

She was never seen again.

Presumably her ship was wrecked in a storm off Cape Hatteras, and all aboard were lost at sea.

No one knew for sure, though, and this left room for a number of alternative theories (many of which involved pirates).

These theories were printed and re-printed in the newspapers and other publications for decades to come. For instance, the following illustration of Theodosia being forced to walk the plank (by pirates, of course) was published in a California newspaper in 1906 — almost a century after her disappearance.

Theodosia walking the plank

Thanks to these recurring stories, dozens (possibly hundreds?) of baby girls were named “Theodosia Burr” during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some examples…

Her most famous namesake was Theodosia Burr Goodman, born in Ohio in 1885, who went on to become silent film actress Theda Bara.


Babies named for Aaron Burr

U.S. politician Aaron Burr (1756-1836)
Aaron Burr

Killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July of 1804 may have effectively ended Aaron Burr’s political career, but it didn’t dissuade American parents from continuing to name their baby boys “Aaron Burr.” (Which sounds best when said with a mouth full of peanut butter, of course.)

Of the dozens of Burr namesakes I spotted in the records, a handful were born as early as the 1790s, while Burr was representing the state of New York in the U.S. Senate. But most came along in the 1800s, either while Burr was serving as U.S. Vice President (1801-1805) under Thomas Jefferson or in the years that followed.

Some examples:

Incidentally, I didn’t spot any namesakes from 1804 specifically…

Sources: Aaron Burr – Wikipedia, Find a Grave, FamilySearch, A Chinese Slave in Alexandria? – Immigration in the U.S. South

What gave the baby name Valentina a boost in 1963?

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova

According to the U.S. baby name data, the name Valentina saw an uptick in usage in 1963:

  • 1965: 87 baby girls named Valentina
  • 1964: 86 baby girls named Valentina
  • 1963: 95 baby girls named Valentina
  • 1962: 63 baby girls named Valentina
  • 1961: 62 baby girls named Valentina

That was the year 26-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to travel into space.

In 1963, from June 16 to 19, Tereshkova spent more than 70 hours in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times in her Vostok 6 capsule before returning.

Her successful flight made headlines worldwide. U.S. newspapers described Valentina Tereshkova as “a tomboyish blonde with a winning smile,” and dubbed her a “cosmonette.”

The Vostok program (1960-1963) was the USSR’s answer to the Mercury program (1958-1963) in that both programs were created to put humans in space. Russia’s first cosmonaut was Yuri Gagarin; America’s first astronaut was Alan Shepard.

The U.S. didn’t send a woman into space until June of 1983, when Sally Ride flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. (This event may have given a slight boost to the baby name Sally, though it’s hard to tell.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Valentina?


Babies named for Robert La Follette

Politician Robert La Follette (1855-1925)
Robert La Follette

Politician Robert Marion La Follette (1855-1925) served as Governor of Wisconsin (from 1901 to 1906) and as U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (from 1906 to 1925).

In 1924, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. President as a third-party candidate. He wasn’t able to overcome Coolidge, but he did win 16.6% of the popular vote (and he carried the state of Wisconsin, of course).

Dozens of baby boys — most born in the state of Wisconsin, unsurprisingly — were named in La Follette’s honor during the early decades of the 1900s. Some examples…

The fourth namesake on this list went on to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1966. (He was the second Native American to hold the position.) He was sworn in by Lyndon B. Johnson, who said:

This morning Mr. Robert La Follette Bennett — who bears this great name of an American who fought all of his life for the rights of his fellow citizens, named for a man who is revered from one end of the country to the other, and now his namesake — comes here to assume a position in which he will be able to carry on that proud tradition.

Dozens of other babies were given the first name La Follette. For instance, La Follette Marion Allen was born in Wisconsin in 1902. (His father was named DeWitt Clinton Allen, interestingly.)

Several months after Robert M. La Follette passed away in 1925, his son Robert M. La Follette, Jr., was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy. La Follette, Jr., served in the Senate for more than 21 years before he was finally ousted in the mid-1940s by none other than Joseph McCarthy.