Friday, March 30, 2012

Auto-Industry Pioneers: a Rich Source of Century Names?

As I discussed last month, prospective parents are crazy for "century names" — monikers such as Evelyn and Violet that were last popular at least a hundred years ago. After finding a bunch of good candidates in "Downton Abbey," I think I have a new source of century names: the early auto industry.

Ford Model T

I was reading about the origins of Motor City and came across quite a few possibilities. There's Henry Ford, of course. "Henry" peaked in the 1800s and is currently staging a comeback. (There's also Henry Leland, who founded Cadillac and Lincoln. Leland can work as a first name as well.)

Ransom Olds
But let's dig a little deeper. How about Ransom Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile? "Ransom" has to be one of the coolest names ever, and yet it's no longer in the top 1,000.

Is it because parents are nervous about naming their child something closely associated with kidnapping? Keep in mind that the word can also mean "redemption," folks.

Ransom = Bad. Ass.

Hugh Chalmers founded Chalmers Motor Car Co., which ultimately became part of Chrylser.

Joseph Hudson and Roy Chapin, meanwhile, started the Hudson Motor Car Co. — a precursor to American Motors. Between them, there are four potential names there. (But Chapin's middle name was Dikeman, which I wouldn't advise for a boy or girl.)

Charles Nash was a president of GM, who went on to found Nash Motors. Again, both first and last names are solid, though "Nash Bridges" may have tainted that name. Horace Elgin and John Francis Dodge were then men behind the Dodge Brothers Co. "Elgin" had a brief spike in the 1910s as a first name, before fading back into obscurity.

David Dunbar Buick incorporated the Buick Motor Co. in 1903, and later allied himself with future GM founder William DurantWalter Chrysler started that company in 1925 when the Maxwell Motor Co. was reorganized. (Jonathan Dixon Maxwell founded the precursor firm.)

Finally, Alanson Partridge Brush founded the Brush Motor Car Co. and later formed the United States Motor Co. with brothers Benjamin and Frank Briscoe.

Here's a list of the names, along with when they peaked in popularity.
Henry (1800s)
Leland (1920s)
Ransom (1800s)
Hugh (1800s)
Joseph (1910s)
Roy (1890s)
Chapin (never ranked in the top 1,000)
Hudson (peaking now)
Charles (1800s-1910s)
Nash (peaking now)
Horace (1890s)
Elgin (1910s)
John (1800s-1910s)
Francis (1910s)
David (1960s)
William (1800s-1910s)
Walter (1910s)
Dixon (never ranked)
Maxwell (peaking now)
Alanson (never ranked; Alan peaked in the '50s)
Benjamin (peaking now)
Frank (1800s)

Happy naming.