By Andrew Osterdahl
While modern celebrity couples like Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Kanye and Kim have given us unusually named offspring (North West, anyone?), strangely named public figure are nothing new, as my site, The Strangest Names in American Political History illustrates. For the past fourteen years I’ve been collecting and categorizing instances of curiously named American political figures, and I established this blog in July of 2011.
You may be wondering “Can there really be that many instances of strangely named politicians?” As I’ve stumbled upon upwards of 3,500 names in the past decade (as well as the 400+ profiles on the site that I’ve written in the past three years), the answer is an unequivocal yes!
With all of these oddly named public officials being elected to office in years past, some may wonder as to the origins of some of their names. For the purpose of this article I’ve constructed a few categories as to particular names’ points of origin, the first of which are those from the Bible or ancient mythology.
While these biblical based first names (Zerubabbel Snow, Uzziel Putnam, Anaximander Warner) now seem quite strange, ancient historical figures like Demosthenes, Epaminondas, Xenophon and Publius Virgilius (Virgil) also have modern political namesakes. Examples of these include Demosthenes Franklin Goss, Epaminondas Ludwell Grigsby, Publius Virgilius Lawson and several men named Xenophon!
Others, such as Congressmen Adoniram Judson Holmes and Adoniram Judson Warner, have names that were bestowed upon them in honor of notable figures in American history, in their case Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), a once prominent American clergyman. Then there are men like Roujet Delisle Marshall (a Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice) and Reaumur Coleman Stearns (Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction), both of whom were named in honor of notable 18th century Frenchmen.
In addition to the above, there are some persons I have profiled who have received their names through other novel means, and some of them are quite original to say the least. One such example is Olnton Dickman Miller, an Arizona State Senator whose first name “Olnton” was coined by his father, who took the last three letters of Abraham Lincoln‘s and George Washington‘s names to form “Olnton”. Another is Missouri State Treasurer Mount Etna Morris (1900-1988), who, in all likelihood is the only political figure named in honor of a volcano, in this case Mount Etna in Sicily. Or how about one Cherebusco Newton, a one-term U.S. Representative from Louisiana who served in Congress in the late 1880s. Mr. Newton’s father Daniel named his son in remembrance of the Battle of Cherubusco during the Mexican-American War (one can only guess what Newton himself thought of his peculiar name!).
Also profiled on the site are ample examples of humorous names, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. Some in this category include Iowa State Representative Armour Boot (armored footware anyone?), Supply Belcher (a Massachusetts State Representative), Brick Stonewall Miller (a Georgia State Senator), Clapp Spooner (Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut), Civilion Fones (a noted dentist and another former Mayor of Bridgeport), Walter Freshwater Pool (a U.S. Congressman), and last but not least, New York State Presidential Elector Preserved Fish (1766-1846).
And then there are names that I’ve deemed “unclassifiable,” due to their sheer strangeness and peculiarity. These are some of the most unusual that I’ve been able to locate, and include Texas State Representative Copenitus Bannister Maynard), the exotic Olymphious Sigurinius Thompson , Utah State Representative Nephi United States Centennial Jensen (a truly patriotic name), Omicron Pi Lockhart (his Greek-letter based name having been given to him by his father) and……New Jersey state assemblyman Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson (1842-1879), who has rightly earned the title of “Strangest Name in American Political History” due to the length of his colorfully plentiful name!!
While oddly named male political figures make up 99% of the profiles I’ve done, there are also a few politically inclined women who’ve lucked into receiving a peculiar name. First among these is New Hampshire physician Zatae Leola Longsdorff Straw (1866-1955), who gained distinction in multiple fields, including being the first female graduate of Dickinson College, as well as one of the first women elected to the New Hampshire legislature. Mrs. Straw is followed by Sunday Cardall Anderson and Vernettie Oscar Ivy (State Representatives from Utah and Arizona) who both carved prominent careers in public life in their respective states.
Andrew Osterdahl is the creator of the webpage/blog “The Strangest Names in American Political History,” online since July 2011. For further information and updates on these intriguingly named folks, you can follow and “like” his Facebook page.