40+ Neglected Namesake Names–Boys’ edition
By Linda Rosenkrantz
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.
Adlai Stevenson—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.
Alpheus Hyatt was the founder of the Marine Biological Lab at Woods Hole; his namesake Alpheus Hyatt Verrill invented the autochrome natural color photography process, and there have been two Alpheuses in the U.S. Senate.
Atlee Burpee (full name Washington Atlee but always called by his middle) was creator the world’s largest mail-order seed house. Birch Bayh was a long-term Democratic senator from Indiana, a one-time presidential candidate and the only non-Founding Father to author two amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Booth Tarkington, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author who, with Faulkner and Updike, is one of only three novelists to win the Pulitzer for fiction more than once. Born Newton Booth Tarkington, he was named for his uncle Newton Booth, then governor of California.
Branch Rickey was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who broke the color barrier in baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson. Another notable who went by his middle name, he was christened Wesley Branch.
Burr Tillstrom 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 Franklin Burr, 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.
Calder Willingham 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 Alexander Calder.)
Canada Lee, an eminent twentieth century African -American actor and Civil Rights activist, was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata, but when his surname was mispronounced as Canada Lee, he grabbed onto it.
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 Ayn Rand, he appeared as the Master of Ceremonies in Fantasia.
Eleazar Wheelock was a Congregationalist minister who was involved in education for Native Americans, and was later the founder of Dartmouth College.
Fiorello LaGuardia—one of the great American mayors, serving New York 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).
Hermes Pan—(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.
Philo Farnsworth—Through his many electronic inventions, he is given credit as the inventor of electronic television.
Romare Beardon was a well known twentieth century artist working in oil and collage, and was also an author and songwriter.
Thorne Smith— James Thorne Smith, Jr. was a writer of humorous fantasy fiction, best known for his two comic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topper(novelseries) "Topper (novel series)") novels, which became hit movies.
Find any of these usable?