by Brenna Lorenz
A lot of babies are named after United States presidents, especially today, where we see girls called Madison, McKinley, Kennedy, Taylor and Tyler. So we thought we'd go through the whole list of presidential names, and see how (and if) they are used as baby names. We started in April with Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, and continued in May with Presidents Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, and Harrison.
Our tenth president was the Whig party's John Tyler. He became president when William Henry Harrison passed away after only one month in office. He immediately alienated himself from his own party by refusing to support Whig principles, and was altogether unpopular, earning the nickname "His Accidency." He didn't bother running for a second term, and in his last days became a member of the Confederate government. His surname is a Middle English occupational name meaning, "someone who makes or works with tiles." The earliest examples I have seen of the use of Tyler as a first name come from the early 19th Century, a boy born in Kentucky in 1812, and a boy born in Massachusetts in 1826. Tyler didn't assume the presidency until 1841, so neither of these children was named after him. A boy named Tylor, born in Arkansas in 1844, may have been named after the president. But the next usage of Tyler comes from the 20th Century, a boy born in Washington, DC in 1932. The name began to become popular in the 1980s, and is used for both boys and girls, although remains more popular for boys. It is doubtful that these modern Tylers were named after the president.
Next we have President James K. Polk, a Democrat, and our eleventh president. He was the original dark-horse candidate, a relative unknown when he ran for president. He is remembered primarily for obtaining most of the western United States as a result of the Mexican-American War. His surname is an American form of the Scots surname Pollack, and means, "from the pool or pit." He became president in 1845, and I have found two boys named Polk born during his presidency, one from Tennessee, and one from Missouri. Another Polk was born in Arkansas in 1880. I have found only one instance of Polk used as a given name in the 20th Century. It would appear that the name has mostly been used in honor of the president. I have not found any girls named Polk.
Our twelfth president was the last elected Whig president, Zachary Taylor. General Taylor was a military hero who distinguished himself to such a great extent during the Mexican-American war that he was swept into the presidency almost against his will, since he was a completely apolitical creature. He had never even voted for president before becoming president himself, and he had to be persuaded to join a party in order to become a candidate. Once elected, he abandoned the unlucky Whigs. He died after slightly more than a year in office. His surname is English and means, "tailor." The earliest examples I have found of the use of Taylor as a given name are from 1848, the year he ran for president. Several boys were named Taylor during and shortly after his presidency. After that, the name shows up sporadically until the late 1970s, when it explodes into popularity for both boys and girls. Again, modern usage of the name is probably not related to the president.
Our thirteenth president was Millard
Fillmore, who assumed the presidency upon the death of General Taylor.
His attempts to appease both the North and the South on the issue of slavery
in the western territories made him unpopular with everyone, but succeeded
in delaying the Civil War for a few more years. The Whigs declined to nominate
him for another term. His surname originated from a Germanic given name,
Filimor, meaning, "very famous." A slave born in Alabama in 1850 is the
only contemporary person that I have found named after this president.
All other examples I have found of persons named Fillmore were born during
the 20th Century. It has never been a popular name, and modern usage may
well arise from the original personal name from which the surname is derived.
I have found no girls named Fillmore.
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Lorenz, Malachi Pulte. All Rights Reserved.
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