Category: historic namesakes
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:
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.
Gina Lollobrigida, 1927, Italian movie star
Henrietta Swan Levitt, 1868, American astronomer and inventor
Isabelli Fontana, 1983, Brazilian model (an interesting take on Isabella)
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.
ANESIA Pinkeiro Machado was Brazil’s first female pilot.
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.
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.
BLEECKER—the street ran through the farm of Anthony L. Bleecker
CLARKSON – Revolutionary War hero Matthew Clarkson
ELDRIDGE –named for a Lieutenant killed in the War of 1812
ELIZABETH — unknown
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: