Last week we looked at some neglected girls’ namesake names, now it’s the boys’ turn as we seek some equally distinctive names from American history and culture, names that could provide unique-ish options with interesting back-stories. What’s especially evident here is how many of the unusual boys’ names are mothers’ maiden names that started out in the middle but were switched by their sons into first place.
AdlaiStevenson—There were three noted generational bearers of this name– their combined accomplishments: one vice president, two senators, one governor, a two-time presidential nominee, and an ambassador to the UN.
AlpheusHyatt was the founder of the Marine Biological Lab at Woods Hole; his namesake AlpheusHyattVerrill invented the autochrome natural color photography process, and there have been two Alpheuses in the U.S. Senate.
BurrTillstrom was the creator/ puppeteer of one of the earliest and most popular kids’ TV shows, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, from 1947 to 1957. Once again, a middle name user: he was born FranklinBurr, Burr being his mother’s maiden name.
Button Gwinnett was the second signer of the Declaration of Independence. Button was his mother’s unusual maiden name.
CalderWillingham was a twentieth century novelist and screenwriter of such classic films as The Graduate. He inherited his name from his dad. (This could also be a tribute to sculptor AlexanderCalder.)
CanadaLee, an eminent twentieth century African -American actor and Civil Rights activist, was born LeonardLionelCornelius Canegata, but when his surname was mispronounced as CanadaLee, he grabbed onto it.
CottonMather, named for his paternal grandfather JohnCotton, was an influential Puritan preacher who was instrumental in setting the austere tone of the colonies.
CrispusAttucks, a slave and later a merchant seaman, is considered the first casualty in the American Revolutionary War during the Boston Massacre.
Deems Taylor was a twentieth century composer and music critic known as “the dean of American music.” A crony of everyone from Gershwin to Fitzgerald to AynRand, he appeared as the Master of Ceremonies in Fantasia.
FiorelloLaGuardia—one of the great American mayors, serving NewYork for three terms which encompassed World War II. Known as “the little flower,” he once said that the “most hopeful accomplishment” of his mayoralty was the creation of The Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art (which just happens to be my alma mater).
Fontaine TalbotFox, Jr, created the syndicated comic strip “Toonerville Folks,” which ran from 1913 to 1955 and was one of the most popular comics of the World War I era.
Greenleaf Whittier Picard was a pioneer of radio communications, inventing, among other things, the crystal detector; he was named after his great-uncle, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
HermesPan—(born Hermes Panagiotopoulos) was one of the major forces in dance choreography of twentieth century musicals. Closely associated with Fred Astaire, they worked together on 17 films. Sister’s name: Vasso.
IshamJones was an early twentieth century bandleader and composer of such standards as “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Down by the Old Mill Stream.”
JabezGorham was the master silversmith who founded the Gorham Silver Company in1831.
JubalEarly—nn “Old Jubilee–was a Civil War Confederate general, the commander of several key battles.