by Linda Rosenkrantz
It’s become a Nameberry tradition to commemorate Independence Day with a salute to notables past and present who were born on the Fourth of July. In this year’s update, we single out those with the most noteworthy names. (BTW, George M. Cohan, the ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ who famously claimed he was ‘born on the fourth of July’, was actually born on the third. Just as PR people promoted the story that jazzman Louis Armstrong was born on Independence Day when his real birthdate was August 4th.)
Calvin Coolidge—(John) Calvin Coolidge Jr was the 30th President of the United States and the only one born on Independence Day. Known as ‘Silent Cal’, he was an early proponent of racial equality. Despite its not-so-great meaning of ‘bald’, Calvin—originally used to honor Protestant reformer John Calvin—is a cozy name with a Calvin Klein fashion edge. It peaked during the Coolidge presidency, and is now at #143.
Edmonia Lewis—(Mary) Edmonia Lewis was an 18th century sculptor—the first African-American/Native American woman to gain international fame as a sculptor. As a child she went by her Native American name of Wildfire. Despite her accomplishments, we don’t see much hope for her name; Edwina is the one female Ed we see as promising.
Emerson Boozer—Born in1943, Boozer was a powerful football star who played for the champion New York Jets. The name Emerson, with its literary cred, is currently popular for both boys (#281) and girls (143).
Esther Pauline Lederer aka Ann Landers, aka “Eppie” was the writer of the popular ‘Ask Ann Landers’ syndicated advice column. Her twin sister Pauline Esther, aka Abigail Van Buren aka “PoPo,” wrote the competing ‘Dear Abby’ column. The biblical name Esther is definitely on the rise again, now at #153. It was chosen by actor Ewan McGregor and singer Sophie B. Hawkins for their daughters.
Eva Marie Saint—Marlon Brando’s Oscar-winning co-star in On the Waterfront celebrates her 95th birthday on the 4th, still as lovely as ever at the last Academy Awards. Evas are very much in evidence these days, with actresses Eva Green, Eva Mendes and Eva Longoria all on the scene. It’s a Top 75 name in the US, much higher than Eve.
Green Clay Smith was a Union Civil War officer and congressman named for his maternal grandfather, with siblings named Curran Cassius and Junius Brutus. Green would make a much more distinctive middle than Rose or Blue—it’s actually Ethan Hawke’s middle.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt—Born July 4, 1868, Leavitt was an American astronomer who made groundbreaking discoveries that led to the modern understanding of the universe. Henrietta has not made a comeback equal to such similar names as Josephine and Theodora but it still could happen, with such charming vintage nicknames as Etta, Hetty and Hattie.
Lionel Trilling—Lionel Mordecai Trilling was a leading 20th century literary critic and Columbia professor whose students included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Lionel lags behind leonine cousins Leo and Leonardo, but that only makes it a more distinctive choice. In addition to Trilling, other notable namesakes include a Knight of the Round Table and musicians Hampton and Richie. It currently ranks at #634.
Luigina Lollobrigida, always known as Gina, was a high-profile Italian/international actress/sex symbol in the 50s and 60s. While Luigi has been heard in the US, Luigina is vitually unknown. Nickname Gina, on the other hand, caught on in the Lollobrigida era, reaching as high as #54
Nathaniel Hawthorne—A leading figure in the American literary canon, author of the classic The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne was a Junior, the son of a sea captain. He named his first child Una, a reference to The Faerie Queene. Nathaniel, meaning “gift of God,” like the more streamlined Nathan, is consistently popular: it’s now ranked 116, with many of its bearers going by Nat or Nate. A few parents have begun using the nature surname Hawthorne as well.
Reuben (Rube) Goldberg—Always known as Rube, Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was a cartoonist famous for creating complicated, convoluted contraptions in his work. He won a Pulitzer for political cartooning in 1948 and is the namesake of the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year. Reuben is a rich, resonant and definitely underused Old Testament name (#927).