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, continued in May with Presidents Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, and Harrison, in June with Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore, and in October with Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln and Johnson.
With the United States in the throes of a bitter post-war Reconstruction, the country turned in 1868 to the war hero, General Ulysses S. Grant, to run the country. Grant's administration is considered to have been one of the worst and most corrupt this country has ever experienced, yet he served two terms and tried for a third. His surname is Norman French, and means "large, tall." Two boys born in Missouri in 1865 were named Grant, almost certainly to commemorate General Grant's ultimate victory in the Civil War. I have found no examples of children named Grant born during his presidency, although the name shows up as fairly popular in the early part of the 20th Century. It was used little in the middle part of the century, and started reviving in the 1980s. Probably recent usage is independent of the president, but the early 20th C boys might have been named for President Grant.
Disgusted by eight years of corruption and punitive Reconstruction, Americans elected Democrat Samuel Tilden to be their next president. But political fiddling with the electoral college votes by a corrupt election commission handed the presidency to Rutherford Hayes, much to the surprise of Hayes, who expected to lose. Tilden averted violence by accepting the result and getting his supporters to accept it as well, and Hayes promised to end Reconstruction in the South. The surname Hayes can come from more than one origin; according to A Dictionary of Surnames by Hanks and Hodges, the name can come from a Middle English root meaning "from the enclosures," or an Old English word meaning "brushwood" or from an Anglo-Irish surname meaning "son of fire." The earliest child named Hayes in my records is a boy born in Virginia in 1874. At this time, Rutherford Hayes was practicing law in Ohio after having served a couple of terms as governor of Ohio. It is unlikely that the Virginia boy was named after Hayes. The name has enjoyed a modest usage during the 20th C, where it probably represents transferal of this fairly common surname rather than commemoration of President Hayes.
Hayes had promised to serve only one term, so the field was wide open again in 1880. James Garfield was nominated as a compromise candidate by the Republicans. (Ulysses Grant was one of the men vying for the nomination in this election.) Garfield was the second president to be assassinated. Shot by Charles Giteau only four months after his inauguration, Garfield died a month and a half later. The surname Garfield is derived from Old English roots meaning "from the triangular field." I found one boy named Garfield born in Massachusetts in 1846, obviously too early to have been named after the president. Modest usage in the 20th Century is probably not in commemoration of the unfortunate president, who didn't have time to establish a record.
When Garfield died, Chester Arthur
became president. He served out the rest of Garfield's term, and did not
run for election in 1884. His surname, of course, is derived from the given
name. The origin of the name Arthur is uncertain; many interpret it to
be a name of Welsh origin meaning "bear." The given name has been used
throughout United States history, and there is no sudden surge in its usage
around the time of Arthur's presidency.
Go back to October's names:
Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson.
Proceed to December's names: Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft.
Return to Heptune's Journal of Lore and Levity!
Return to Heptune's Baby Names Central.
Check out Names from the Ocean!
Read about A Tragedy Told in Names.
Check out Names in Early Jazz and Blues.
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Lorenz, Malachi Pulte. All Rights Reserved.
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