Category: Hundred-Year Rule
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Once a year, we like to stop and turn the calendar back a hundred years to see what parents were naming their babes a century ago and whether we might find some undiscovered treasures that, following the hundred-year rule, might be ready to be revived.
What was the world like in 1913? Trouble was fomenting abroad in the year preceding World War I, but in the US it was a time of new beginnings, with the election of Woodrow Wilson, the births of future Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, women marching to gain the vote– and, for better or worse, it was the year that saw the introduction of the Federal income tax, the first cigarette pack, stainless steel and the zipper.
Things were quiet at the top end of the baby name popularity list as well, headed by the expected classics for boys: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank and Thomas (not dissimilar to the royal baby list), while for the girls there were period favorites Mary (36,000+ of them), Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Mildred, Anna, Elizabeth, Frances and Marie. Of these Top 10 boys and girls, only William and Elizabeth survive on the current Top 10, with James and Joseph still in the Top 20.
Another new year, another opportunity to test out the 100-Year Rule, a chance to look at the pop lists of 1912 to see if we can find some undiscovered gems to excavate and polish up.
Looking first at the boys’ 1912 Top 10, we see that it consisted completely of gold-standard classics: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank and Thomas—with William being the only one surviving on today’s Top 10. But since boys (names) will be boys (names), and more consistent in general (at least until recently, anyway), most of those names are still very much in play.
For the girls, the list was a little more idiosyncratic and time-linked, encompassing classics and semi-classics that have moved in and out of fashion over time: none of the Top 10 then– Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Mildred, Anna, Elizabeth, Frances and Marie is in the Top 10 today, with only Elizabeth ranking as high as Number 12. But Helen, Dorothy, Ruth and Frances, in particular, are trying to obey the 100-Year Rule by coming into wider use.
Here are some names from the 1912 Top 500 that have abided by the Rule to appear stylish once more: