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Category: historic namesakes

july4a

This year once more, and again with apologies to our dear Britberries,  we honor some of the (more interestingly named) heroes in the struggle of the US to gain its independence from the mother country, as well as some of the more unusually named Signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Here, some early patriotic baby names:

Women

BETSY (Elizabeth) Ross—even though she may not have actually made the first American flag

DEBORAH Sampson — first known female to impersonate a man in order to join the army and take part in combat

LYDIA Darragh – Quaker woman who (probably) warned Washington of an impending attack

MERCY Otis Warren –a political writer and propagandist who authored plays and poems advocating independence

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Born on the Fourth of July

4thb

It’s the birthday of America, but this year, instead of celebrating Revolutionary heroes and the like, I thought we’d salute some of the notable people born on the Fourth of July—and of course those with the more interesting names.  (By the way, George M. Cohan, the ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ who famously claimed he was ‘born on the fourth of July’ was actually born on July 3rd.  Similarly, PR people put the story out that Louis Armstrong was born on Independence Day: his real date of birth was August 4th.)

Here they are, with the years of their births.

Abigail Van Buren (born Pauline), 1918, “Dear Abby,” along with competing advice-giving twin sister Ann Landers (born Esther)

Eva Marie Saint, 1924, actress, On the Waterfront

Gertrude Lawrence, 1898, British singer and actress

Gina Lollobrigida, 1927, Italian movie star

Gloria Stuart, 1910, whose long movie career climaxed with Titanic

Henrietta Swan Levitt, 1868, American astronomer and inventor

Isabelli Fontana, 1983, Brazilian model (an interesting take on Isabella)

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aviatrixb

Everyone knows the name of Amelia Earhart, but how many others do we know of the equally daring female pilots—then called aviatrixes– who made their mark during the early days of flying?

In the wild and wooly barnstorming, daredevil days of aviation from its beginnings to World War II, there were few occupations outside the home open to women other than teaching, nursing and secretarying.  That’s when a group of adventurous females—some of them girls still in their teens– took to the skies, risking their lives flying flimsy wooden aircraft in open cockpits.  Often disparaged and mocked by the male pilots, there was both  camaraderie and competitiveness among these flygirls as records for speed, distance and altitude were swiftly set and broken, and there was a constant succession of ‘firsts’.

Here are their names, some common and some unusual, any of which would make an admirable namesake. (btw, some of these ‘first’ claims might appear to be contradictory).

ADRIENNE Bolland, a Frenchwoman who was the first to fly across the treacherous Andes mountains.

ALYS McKey Bryant,  the first woman to fly in Canada.

AMELIA Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, making the fastest crossing on record in 1932 (for the rest, see the movie).

AMELIE (called Melli) Hedwig Boutard-Bess was an early German female aviator.

AMY Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

ANESIA Pinkeiro Machado was Brazil’s first female pilot.

ANNE Morrow Lindbergh, the first woman to earn a glider pilot license, in 1930, accompanied husband Charles on many flights.

BERYL Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

BESSICA Medlar Raiche constructed a biplane in her living room and made her first solo flight in 1910.

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cornelia-street-cafe

In the course of leading a basically bicoastal life, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time walking and driving the streets of both New York and L.A.  And I have to say, as rhythmic and melodious as so many of the California names are– e.g. Alameda, Amanita, Mariposa, Morella– for native New Yorker me there’s nothing like the solid, straight-forward, usable street names of downtown Manhattan, from Greenwich Village to the Wall Street area, names resonant with references to early American history.

The names of these meandering streets, lanes and alleys were subject to shifting trends.  Many British names were changed after the Revolutionary War, for example, and for a time fashion dictated that streets named for local property owners would carry the first names only.  Leaders in the War of 1812 provided a goodly share of names, as did figures connected to Trinity Church.

Here are Lower Manhattan street names with their historical roots–any of which would make a possible namesake.

ALLENafter War of 1812 hero Captain William Henry Allen

ANNnamed for either a member of the Beekman clan or the wife of Captain William Henry Allen

ASTOR –named for John Jacob Astor, “the richest man in America

BARCLAYReverend Henry Barclay was the second rector of Trinity Church

BARROW–  artist Thomas Barrow was known for his portraits of Trinity Church

BAXTERoriginally called Orange Street, renamed for Mexican War hero Colonel Charles Baxter

BAYARDNicholas Bayard was mayor of NY in 1686

BENSONEgbert Benson was New York’s first Attorney General

BETHUNE—named for philanthropist Johanna Graham Bethune

BLEECKER—the street ran through the farm of Anthony L. Bleecker

CARMINEfor  Trinity Church vestryman Nicolas Carman (sic)

CATHERINE the wife of land owner Henry Rutgers

CHARLES ––named for landowner Charles Christopher Amos

CHARLTONDr. John Charlton, an English-born surgeon, became president of the N.Y. Medical Society

CHRISTOPHERalso named for Charles Christopher Amos, a local landowner

CHRYSTIE – named for Lt.-Col. John Christie (sic), killed in the War of 1812

CLARKSON – Revolutionary War hero Matthew Clarkson

CLINTONGeorge Clinton, was a Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of New York State

CORNELIA a beloved granddaughter of landowner Robert Herring

CROSBYnamed for William Bedlow Crosby, who inherited much of the Lower East Side

DELANCEYnamed after James De Lancey, Sr, whose farm was located in what is now the LES

DUANEJames Duane was an early mayor of the city

ELDRIDGEnamed for a Lieutenant killed in the War of 1812

ELIZABETHunknown

ESSEXnamed for the English county (as were nearby Norfolk and Suffolk Streets)

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tr and son

We’re all pretty familiar with the names of  the presidents whose surnames have beeen commonly used for children–Jackson, Jefferson, Taylor, Tyler, Lincoln, Truman, Madison, Wilson, Kennedy et al– and we’re equally  familiar with the names of most of their wives as well.

But less well known are the ones they chose for their children, so I thought this was an appropriate occasion to take a look at them. Putting aside the common Johns and Marys, James and Elizabeths (except if they had a noteworthy nickname), and the number of sons who were named Junior for their famous fathers, here are some of the more interesting choices:

GIRLS

ABIGAIL (nn Nabby) Adams (John)

ALICE (nn Princess) Roosevelt (Theodore)

AMY Carter

ANNA  Harrison, Roosevelt (Franklin)

CAROLINE Kennedy

CHELSEA Clinton

DOROTHY (nn Doro) Bush (George H. W.)

ELEANOR (nn Nelly)  Wilson

ELIZA (nn Trot) Garfield, Monroe

ELLEN (nn Nellie) Grant

ESTHER Cleveland

ETHEL Roosevelt (Theodore)

FANNY Hayes

HARRIET Buchanan

HELEN Taft

IDA McKinley

JANE  Jefferson

JENNA Bush (George W.)

JESSIE  Wilson

JULIA Tyler

KATHERINE (nn Katie) McKinley

LETITIA (nn Letty) Tyler

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