1913 Baby Names: Does the hundred-year rule still 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.
Many of the girls names in the 1913 Top 25, though, are already on their path to revival: Frances, Alice, Evelyn, Florence, Rose, Lillian, Ruby and Josephine. For boys, Henry is the one that’s made the clearest comeback. Others, like, say, Flora, are also increasingly up for discussion.
One peculiarity: There are a surprising number of what we think of now as exclusively girls’ names in the boy column (Cleo, Laverne, Fay, Pearl, Alma), and vice versa, with females named Frank, Henry, Charles, Vernon, George, Louis and Paul. And, curiously, Foy, Coy and Loy were all on the boys’ list, and Willie was a Top 25 boy name.
Here are some names in the 1913 Top 1000 but not on the latest SS list, that might be ready to return. Some have been off for decades, others have dropped off more recently.
Familiar but Forgotten
Clyde (Top 70 name then)
Morris (Top 90 name then)
Woodrow (Top 60 name then, obviously influenced by the president)
Long-lost Nickname Names
Yes, there were the usual Annies and Jessies and Bessies and Nellies, but there were some others less expected:
More Unusual Names
Any names here you’d like to see come back?
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on August 8th, 2013 at 12:17 am
From the lists above, I like – Flora, Petra and Thora for the girls and Baxter, Chester and Llewellyn for the boys.
on August 8th, 2013 at 12:39 am
Corinne (I know two, both my own age)
Kitty (as a nn for Katherine)
Lelia (I can see this making a comeback with lilting L-names names in vogue)
Nola (can definitely see this gaining popularity)
Judson (NMS, but it has that trendy retro-modern sound)
Ned (such a great underused nn for Edward)
Reginald (stiff and a little pompous, but Reggie is fab)
I notice that a lot of names from this era that we now consider dated have what I can only call a “heavy” sound, with emphasis on harsh consonants like “G” and “R”. We also don’t see many popular names now for girls that begin with O, with the obvious exception of Olivia. It seems to be a good argument for *sounds* going in and out of vogue rather than the names themselves.
on August 8th, 2013 at 12:55 am
Mamie – a name I adore right now!
on August 8th, 2013 at 1:59 am
Like: Carmel, Corinne, Lavinia, Lucretia, Lula, Geneva, Magdalena, Marjorie, Merle, Myrtle, Nola, Olympia and Viola.
on August 8th, 2013 at 2:24 am
I actually have a few of these names on my list already and some I like but have taken off my list for other reasons.
on August 8th, 2013 at 3:03 am
Ooo i like Jones and Inez nice finds
on August 8th, 2013 at 6:36 am
I can’t believe all the great names on the list that have fallen off the Top 1000. Lots of Nameberry favorites — I could happily name a big family from this list!
on August 8th, 2013 at 7:17 am
Fantastic blog, thank you so much; I love everything: the adorable photo, the names and nicknames…I agree with you, Pam, I would be glad to name not only a family but perhaps a full town from the list.
These are names that happen to be my so much beloved ones I just couldn’t not write them down again:
-Carmel, Garnet, Justine, Kitty, Lavinia, Laetitia, Odessa, Prudence, Viola. Myrtle and Olympia are beyond best! Gertie, Hattie/Hettie, Lovie, Minnie and Flossie would be a dream set of sisters or friends, I feel inspiration to write a lovely story about little girls from tiny flowery town. Lace, ribbons, black-and-white photos and postcards, big garden with wisterias and crimson roses, gentleness and grace.
-Amos, Bartholomew, Chester, Clovis, Cosmo, Florian, Harris, Leander, Ned and Perry. Tennie and Royal are fluffy and pinky-cute but, unfortunately, they would seem kind of cheesy nowadays. But these boys are brave knights and heroes, with wooden self-made armor, with funny mottoes and nicknames, liking to learn something interesting or to turn housework into gripping game.
I’d add Cornelia, Eulalie and Sybil for girls(despite the last being revived via Downtown Abbey); Ambrose, Edmund and Leopold for boys.
on August 8th, 2013 at 8:18 am
I’d like to see these come back:
And I adore Hettie.
on August 8th, 2013 at 8:20 am
Oh how weird…I JUST added Marvel to my list yesterday! I love this blog. Great list!
on August 8th, 2013 at 8:56 am
My favorites of the girls names are:
Anna, Mamie, Nola, Opal, and Viola
My favorites of the boys names are:
Amos, Doyle, Ephraim, Lyle, William
on August 8th, 2013 at 9:11 am
Omg, I think I love Zella. It reminds me of Zilla, a name I’ve loved forever, but without the Godzilla/rhymes with “gorilla” problems. It has a lovely meaning as a standalone Bobangi name, and behindthename says it can also be used as a nickname for Marcella…one of my family names. 🙂 Thanks for the find!
All in all, it’s a great list. I could easily name dozens of children using just the names here and never be sorry. Abner, Inez, and Lavinia, in particular, are three of my newest obsessions.
on August 8th, 2013 at 9:47 am
I have often wondered how many of those girls with boys names and vice versa were simply clerical errors in a time of writing everything by hand.
I like: Geneva, Marjorie (but spelled Margery), and Minnie for girls and Linus for boys.
on August 8th, 2013 at 1:29 pm
Flossie is one of my guilty pleasures. I’ll probably have a cat named Flossie one day.
Judson was on our boy name list when I was pregnant with our girls.
I like Lavinia, Thora and several others as well.
on August 8th, 2013 at 1:33 pm
I read Llewelyn as Lou-Ellen… The sound of that name is very appealing to me.
on August 8th, 2013 at 2:11 pm
I quite like Bethel, Garnet, Zelma, and Noble (although I could only see Noble as a middle).
Flossie is a nick name many parents/grandparents call their daughters/granddaughters (no matter what their real names are) where I’m from (Southern US state).
I know a Dock!
on August 8th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
I know both a Nola and an Odessa, both 13. They are twin girls that live in my neighborhood and they live up to their name very well.
on August 8th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
Wow! So surprised that a lot of my favorites are on this list despite the fact that 1913 is after my beloved Victorian era.
Corinne was on my middle name list for a while (she may make a comeback) – she certainly is one of the most usable on this list. I personally know of a Corinne (mid-40’s) from England.
Eudora is a newer crush of mine, as is Philomena, but Lavinia and Marcellus both have been long-time love affairs for me. I personally know a Geneva and Zelma (grandma-aged), went to school with a Chester III, nn Chet (late 20’s) and know a pastor named Clyde (60-ish). Clyde and Llewelyn are nothing more (or less!) than fascinations for me – they are waaaay too cool to ignore!
I’ve often loved Effie as she is just so sweet –and was so thrilled to meet a puppy named Effie about a year ago— but somehow, I feel it isn’t usable with so much profanity in present-day America. Say it aloud and you’ll get my drift. I feel that a child with this name would inevitably get the wrong end of the stick. I think the same of Fanny nn Fan. I believe Judson nn Judd and Kirby (Brave Little Toaster, anyone??) fall into a cute category as well, but I could never really consider them seriously.
@ lkmurrayok- I just spoke with a Mamie today at work!! and also a Mildrena, what a great variation of Mildred! NB – I think you need to add this name to your database 😉
on August 8th, 2013 at 9:03 pm
@labelo – That’s what I say about all those historical lists with boys named Mary, girls named John, etc. In the pre-computer days it was more common to have errors like the wrong gender label, and with the most common names enough errors would accumulate to bring it into the “Top 1,000” for the opposite gender. Now such errors are less common, but if you look at the extended SSA list (down to 5 uses per gender) you’ll still see boys named Isabella, girls named Jacob, etc. albeit in smaller proportions than in the old days.
on August 9th, 2013 at 12:52 pm
There are many wonderful names on this blog. I love vintage names so the following names appeal to me.
Inez (I do prefer the Ines spelling)
I like these nicknames but only as nicknames.
Dovie – nn for Dorothy/Dorothea
Effie – nn for Euphemia or Hephzibah
Florrie – nn for Florence or Flora
Gertie – nn for Gertrude
Hettie – nn for Henrietta
Mamie – nn for Mary or Margaret
Minnie – nn for Wilhelmina, Minerva or even Jessamine
I like these More Unusual Names
on August 9th, 2013 at 1:10 pm
So many wonderful names!
From the girl’s names I love…
From the boys names I love…
From the nicknames I love…
From the unusual names I love…
on August 9th, 2013 at 4:49 pm
LOVE Marjorie, Lelia, and Lula! I also really like Marvel.
Of the boys, Dorsey and Jones are the only ones I am fond of, although, I would probably use Lyle as a girl’s middle, and I would be more likely to use Dorsey on a girl, honestly…
I know a little Jones and I ADORE him and his name…so fitting! My mother is a Geneva!
on August 12th, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Royal is my husband’s maternal grandfather’s name. The name is a fine name, but I think it could wait another generation to be used again, maybe one of my future kids will like the name.
Zella is the name of my Grandmother’s friend. So I do like the name.
Most of these names are names that I would love to hear other’s be called, but am not so fond of using myself.
on December 10th, 2013 at 4:27 pm
I know that it’s been awhile but I don’t care… I had to comment on this article because I love so many of these names. Surprisingly, most of my favorites are boys names, which is weird to me since my taste in boys’ names tends to be a bit more reserved. Give me James over Maddox any day of the week. But Asa, Linus (which is more Larrabee than Peanuts in my eyes), Lyle, Perry, Jethro (which was on my cousin’s short list of baby names before she miscarried), Judson and Rufus are definitely becoming favorites. Elmo was a teasing nickname we used for my brother (Emilio) when he was in preschool after his teacher mispronounced his name, but beyond that, an association that other people wouldn’t have, I really don’t think Elmo can get away from its strong Sesame Street connection.
As for the girls’ names… Agnes, Justine and Prudence made their way into my favorite names book awhile ago. My grandmother’s name is Petra, and a cousin that was named after this particular grandmother. Neither of them like the name much. My grandma goes by the Spanish diminutive Petrita, my cousin goes by Pety…
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