Popular Baby Names From A Century Ago

Mary Pickford Today, parents often give their newborns a name that was inspired by popular culture. This is not a new phenomena. If you take a close look at the baby names that were popular about one hundred years ago, you will find that your ancestors were also inspired by popular culture when they named their babies. Perhaps one of your ancestors was named after someone who was famous in 1910.

In many ways, day to day life is very different now, than it was around one hundred years ago. Your ancestors didn’t have cell phones, access to the internet, or big screen television sets in their homes. Even so, your ancestors paid attention to the modern movies of their time, and the actors and actresses who starred in them.

They also read a lot of books, which many of us still do today. The difference, of course, is that your ancestors read actual books, made out of paper, while people today are reading eBooks, instead. In other words, they were connected to the popular culture of their day, just in ways that are somewhat different than how we do it today.

The most popular name for baby girls in 1910 was Mary. In 1909, an actress named Mary Pickford became incredibly popular, after appearing in 51 films that year. She was called “America’s Sweetheart”, “Little Mary”, and “The girl with the curls” (a reference to her very curly hair). If your ancestors were religious, they may have named a baby Mary in reference to one of the Marys who are in the bible.

The second most popular name for girls was Helen. President William Howard Taft was President of the United States in 1910, and his wife was first lady Helen “Nellie” Taft. Number three on the list was Margaret. My best guess is that this name was inspired by a 1910 film called “The Beautiful Margaret”

Fourth on the list was the name Dorothy. The book “The Wonderful Wizard of OZ”, by L. Frank Baum, was published in 1900, and became a popular stage play in 1902. It may sound like a lot of years between 1900 and 1910, but keep in mind that trends in popular culture lasted longer back then. Information travels a lot faster today. Number five on the list was Ruth, which is a biblical name.

The most popular name for boys in 1910 was John, a name that has always been popular. Number two is James, another name that continues to be popular. Number three is William, perhaps reflecting the first name of President William Taft. The fourth most popular name for boys was Robert, which I cannot find a corresponding cultural reference for. Fifth on the list was George, which could be a link to George V who became King of the United Kingdom in 1910.

Image by Classic Film Scans on Flickr