One of the features of Name-alytics that I loved putting together is the Decades List. This is a list of every Top 100 name listed according to the decade in which they were the most popular (by percentage). It turns out to be a fascinating glimpse of the history of our top names. I thought it would be fun to go through each decade to see if anything special jumps out!
I am going to skip the 1880s because there is no way to tell if the names included in it were actually the most popular in that decade or decades prior. Now, I realize that there is no certainty of any of these lists being perfect since we don't have the data before 1880 and the data is questionable at times. But given what we have, it is even more uncertain for the 1880s names, so I will start this series with the 1890s.
As a reminder, these names made the list for the 1890s decade because the average percentage of use for these names in that ten year period was the highest out of all of the decades. Meaning, this is the decade in which these names were used the most since 1880.
BoysArchie - Archie's highest rank was only at #79 in 1890-91 and after falling out of the Top 100, it kept falling to hardly any use currently. It is one of those names that is highly popular in England/Wales, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand, but just can't find a footing in the United States anymore.
Clarence - Clarence had a very strong run for quite a while in the 1890s and early 1900s, reaching #17 in several of those years. It is still more popular than Archie, but it is very slowly falling away.
Dewey - As I write in the book, Dewey seems to have capitalized on the success of Admiral George Dewey in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was only in the Top 100 for the 3 years after the battle, but jumped to #19 in 1898 from the previous year's #111. Interestingly, 1898 was also a standout year for girls named Dewey... 104 girls were given the name that year, compared to 13 the previous year and nothing even close to that since then.
Earl - This royal title name went as high as #20 in 1894 and was in the Top 100 until 1954. It is still being used today, but gradually decreasing in use with each passing year.
Elmer - While Elmer remained in the Top 100 until the early 1930s, its strong years were definitely in the 1890s when it reached its highest rank of #32. Over 100 boys are still given the name each year.
Ernest - Ernest reached its highest rank in 1885 at #21, however it had the most percentage of use in 1895 and in the 1890s. We know of one specific Ernest born in the 1890s... Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899.
Homer - Homer has almost completely disappeared from use despite the famous Greek poet with the same name. It reached its highest rank of #64 in 1893.
Lee - Lee has been regularly used for both genders, but continues to be more popular on boys (girls are more often given the Leigh spelling). It actually peaked in 1900 for percentage of use and rank at #39, but its percentage of use for decades place it in the 1890s.
Mack - Like Lee, Mack peaked in 1900 but had its highest percentage of use in the 1890s. In fact, Mack was only in the Top 100 for the year 1900, when it ranked #96. It is currently involved in an upswing, as the number of boys given the name has increased over the past several years.
Percy - Percy is another name that was barely in the Top 100. It reached #98 in the years 1893 and 1897, and has not been ranked at all since the 1980s. Any influence the popular Percy Jackson series had is minuscule.
Ray - Ray is a steady name that reached its peak before its even more popular counterpart Raymond, which reached #14 in 1919. Ray's highest rank was #49 in 1891. An ever-present name in the Top 1000, Ray continues to shine.
Roy - I can't help but compare the names because they are separated by one letter, but personally, I prefer Ray to Roy. While they both peaked at the same time, Roy has consistently been the more popular of the two and reached its height #18 for six years in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
Walter - Walter may be labeled as an old-guy name at times, but it continues to be a consistent name in the Top 500. The old-guy connotation could come from the fact that while it peaked at #10 in 1914, it was at the lowest #13 from 1880 through 1920, meaning there were a lot of Walters born in that span of 40 years. Walter's highest percentage of use was in the 1890s, when almost 16 of every 1,000 boys were given the name.
GirlsAgnes - Peaking at #37 in 1899, Agnes is a name that is fairly considered an old-lady name. But, possibly with the help of Despicable Me and her charming costars Margo and Edith, it seems to be making a slight upturn in recent years.
Alma - Alma is a name that stuck around for quite a bit in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but never got any higher than #51 as it did for three years in the 1890s. It is also the Spanish word for "soul", which could be the reason it is still given to more than 300 girls each year.
Edna - Edna is an old powerhouse, ranking as high as #11 in 1899. It was given to about 1 in every 100 girls born in the 1890s. That number has definitely shrunk over the years, however.
Elsie - As one of the many nicknames for Elizabeth, Elsie achieved its highest ranking in 1896 and 1897 at #31. While it fell away for quite a while, it re-entered the Top 1000 in 2005 and is only getting stronger.
Ethel - If Edna can be considered a powerhouse back in the day, then Ethel was nuclear. While it is currently less popular than Edna, at its height Ethel was #6 in 1896 and was in the Top 10 from 1888 through 1903.
Eva - Eva is another "old" E name that is on the rise, coming back into the Top 100 in 2009 after over 70 years of absence. It peaked at #31 back in 1889.
Florence - Florence was right along side Ethel as another strong name from around the turn of the century, and probably even more substantial. It soared as high as #6 for five years during the 1890s and was in the Top 10 from 1887 through 1904.
Gertrude - Oh, Trudy. One of the classic names that people consider a little too rough around the edges for today's standards. At its height, however, Gertrude was #22 in 1906 and had its best percentage of use in 1896.
Hazel - Whatever Gertrude currently lacks, Hazel has it in spades. Hazel may very well reach its 1897 ranking of #18 in another decade or so.
Mabel - "Mothers Always Bring Extra Love." That is the reasoning behind the Buchman's naming their daughter Mabel on the hit show Mad About You in 1997. While the show didn't have a direct impact on the name's popularity, it has caught some steam in the past several years. Not sure it will reach its 1891 ranking of #15 again, however.
Mae - Somewhat related to Mabel is the simple Mae. Mae never achieved the heights that Mabel did, as it only got to #52 in 1892 and 1895, but it is currently given to more girls and is still on the rise.
Marguerite - This French form of Margaret got as high as #78 for several years in the 1890s and 1910s. Its dominant decade was the 1890s though and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere but down from there.
Myrtle - Myrtle is one of the two names (Nannie is the other) that have been in the Top 100 but are currently not being used at all (by more than 4 in a given year). Definitely not the reason any name wants to stand out, but we can remember Myrtle for the #27 rank it had in 1894 and its steady presence in the Top 100 from 1880 through 1925.
Pearl - After peaking at #24 in 1889, 1890, and 1900, Pearl eventually fell out of the Top 1000 in the 1980s only to return in 2007. It has jumped several hundred spots since then and continues to increase in use.
Would you use any of the names that peaked in the 1890s? I would love to see more Archie and Mae!