The Most Popular Baby Names of the 1800s

June 21, 2017 by Cheyenne Buckingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons
If you had to guess what the most popular names were in the late 1800s, you’d probably dream up out-of-date names such as Virgil and Elmer, or Eula and Blanche. While each of those were definitely among the 200 most popular names in the late 19th century, they’re actually not anywhere near the top of the list.

In fact, most of the top five names for both boys and girls are ones that remain quite popular today. Surprised? So were we here at 24/7 Wall St.

Outside of the top five, many male names that were popular in the late 1800s remain common today while many of the female names are long gone. While nearly all of the boys’ names popular in the 19th century continue to be widely prevalent today, over half the 17 of most popular girl names — Florence, etc — were nearly extinct by the 1960s.

The diversity among boys’ names is much lower than it is for girls’ names. The 15 most popular names for boys during the last two decades of the 19th century account for nearly half of all boys born at that time, while the 15 most popular girls’ names represent just over one quarter of all girls born then. William, for example — the second most popular boy name — was given to 157,125 baby boys in the 1880s and 1890s, whereas the second most popular girl name, Anna, was only given to 93,420 baby girls.

Click here to see the most popular male baby names.
Click here to see the most popular female baby names.
Click here to see our methodology.

Male Baby Names: 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

16. Albert
> Babies named 1880-1899: 28,128

Did you know that in the year 1880 alone, 1,493 baby boys were given the name Albert?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. Fred
> Babies named 1880-1899: 29,872

During the end of the 19th century, the name Fred was most popular in 1888 with 1,665 boys claiming the name. The name Fred would become considerably more popular during the mid 1900s, before dropping into obscurity by the 1980s.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

14. Arthur
> Babies named 1880-1899: 32,529

Between the years 1880 and 1899, the name Arthur was most prevalent in 1896. More than 1,800 newborn boys were given the name that year.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

13. Walter
> Babies named 1880-1899: 37,680

A total of 1,755 boys were named Walter in the year 1880. It was one of the top 20 boys’ names through 1932, but by 1973 was not even among the top 100.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

12. Harry
> Babies named 1880-1899: 43,979

Harry earned its badge of popularity in the year 1888, when 2,759 boys were given the name. By comparison, in 1880, 2,152 baby boys were given the name Harry.

Source: Flickr

11. Thomas
> Babies named 1880-1899: 44,865

The year 1882 was a good year for the name Thomas, with 2,610 boys claiming the name. Its peak in history, however, came much later. It was the eighth most popular name for a baby boy every year from 1940 to 1955.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

10. Edward
> Babies named 1880-1899: 45,166

During the late 1800s, Edward was most popular in the year 1882 with 2,477 boys having been given the name that year.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. Henry
> Babies named 1880-1899: 45,803

Given the popularity of the novel Walden in the late 1800s, classic essayist Henry David Thoreau may have paved the way for the popularity of the name Henry, after his death in 1862. The name’s 19th century peak in popularity occurred in 1888 with 2,596 boys given the name.

Source: Wikipedia

8. Robert
> Babies named 1880-1899: 50,221

The name Robert was a hit between the years 1924 and 1939 and again in the year 1953 when it was the most popular name to give a baby boy. The name’s most popular year in the late 19th century was, specifically, 1898 when a total of 2,932 Roberts were born. Over the course of history, Robert would remain in the top 10 most popular male names every year from 1900 through 1989.

Source: Wikimeida Commons

7. Joseph
> Babies named 1880-1899: 55,292

As the seventh most popular name in the late 19th century, Joseph hit its peak in 1898 with 3,171 boys being given the name, the sixth most popular boys’ name that year.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Frank
> Babies named 1880-1899: 59,685

Nearing the top five most popular names, Frank finished 1888 with 3,459 boys given the name, the most of any year that decade.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. Charles
> Babies named 1880-1899: 83,504

Unlike many of the most popular names from the 19th century, the name Charles had its peak at the beginning of the decade, with 5,348 boys given the name in 1880.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. George
> Babies named 1880-1899: 91,009

The name George hit its late-19th-century peak in 1882 with 5,193 baby boys given the name. It was the fourth most popular boys’ name that year. Today, it ranks 125th.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. James
> Babies named 1880-1899: 104,779

At last, we’ve reached the top three most popular male names from 1880-1899. James was most popular in 1880 with 5,927 baby boys given the name.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. William
> Babies named 1880-1899: 157,125

The second most popular name in the late 19th century, William hit its peak in 1880 with a total of 9,532 baby boys. William has never fallen outside of the top 20 boys’ names.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. John
> Babies named 1880-1899: 170,615

Finally, the most popular name during the late 1800s, John hit its peak in 1880 with 9,655 baby boys given the name that year. It remained one of the top 10 boys’ names for a century, and ranked 28th in 2016.

Female Baby Names:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Ruth
> Babies named 1880-1899: 38,165

Ruth reached its 19th century peak in the year 1898. It ranked as the fifth most popular name that year. Ruth only remained within the top 10 most popular names until the year 1930. Today it barely ranks among the top 300 girls’ names.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

16. Grace
> Babies named 1880-1899: 39,031

In the 19th century, Grace was most popular in 1898, when it ranked 15th. Parents largely forgot about the name beginning in the 1930’s, but it was revived in the 90’s. In the years 2003 and 2004, Grace ranked as the 13th most popular baby girl’s name.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. Ida
> Babies named 1880-1899: 39,495

The girl’s name Ida had its most popular year in the late 19th century in 1892, when 2,259 baby girls were given the name. Unfortunately, Ida’s popularity decreased after the year 1918. In fact, by 1986, Ida had fallen into total obscurity, and wasn’t even one of 1,000 most popular names that year, or any year since.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

14. Bessie
> Babies named 1880-1899: 39,790

Perhaps Bessie is a name more strongly associated with the mental image we have of the 1800s. Bessie was most popular in 1898, when it ranked 16th. That peak, however, was short-lived. The name began to decrease in popularity by the early 20th century and became virtually non-existent by the 1970’s.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

13. Annie
> Babies named 1880-1899: 40,149

Annie was the fifth most popular girls’ name in the year 1881. The name became even more widespread later in the century. In the year 1898, a total of 2,470 baby girls were given the name Annie, over 1,000 more than in 1881.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

12. Alice
> Babies named 1880-1899: 41,557

Alice experienced the most popularity in 1898 with 2,846 baby girls given the name. The name had staying power — Alice was in the top 100 most popular names all the way up until 1956. It did not regain that kind of popularity again until the year 2014, when it was the 98th most popular name. By 2016, it was 76th overall.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Clara
> Babies named 1880-1899: 43,190

This name Clara was hip in the year 1898 with a total of 2,731 baby girls given the name that year, ranking 14th. Interestingly, Clara was bumped out of the top 100 most popular names by 1939 but had a resurgence in the 2000’s, and was back in the top 100 by 2015.

10. Bertha
> Babies named 1880-1899: 43,388

While this name may have a negative connotation about weight thanks to the Big Bertha comic book character introduced in the 1980s or– even worse– the “Big Bertha” siege gun used by German soldiers in WWI, its original meaning is what caught the eyes of parents in the late 1800s. Bertha has Germanic origin, and stems from a word meaning “bright one.” After all, what parent wouldn’t want to name their daughter after intelligence?

Source: flickr.com

9. Ethel
> Babies named 1880-1899: 46,319

Ethel fell within the top 10 most trendy names for a baby girl up until the year 1903. But the name’s popularity was short-lived. By 1976, its popularity had truly expired when it failed to even make the top 1,000 most popular names.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Minnie
> Babies named 1880-1899: 46,339

The name Minnie was in vogue at the end of the 19th century. In in the year 1886, it was the fifth most popular girls’ name. It fell off the map completely by the early 1970’s.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Florence
> Babies named 1880-1899: 49,043

Florence is another name that you may correctly assume is circa the 1800s or early 1900s. The popularity of the name may have have been inspired by world-renowned nurse Florence Nightingale — she was alive during this time, and died in 1910.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Helen
> Babies named 1880-1899: 49,298

While it may seem old-fashioned today, the name Helen was chic in the late 1800’s. From 1895 through 1924, it was in the top three names given to newborn girls in the U.S. While the name was already widely used, it’s possible that parents were inspired by the legendary Helen Keller, after the young woman who triumphed above tremendous adversity.

 
Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. Emma
> Babies named 1880-1899: 54,056

The name Emma follows an irregular path. After being wildly popular in the late 1800’s, it almost completely vanished. Rather than remaining in obscurity forever, it reappeared in the top 20 most popular names in the late 1990s. In 2008, it was the most popular girls’ name in America. It reclaimed that title in 2014 and hasn’t let go yet.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Elizabeth
> Babies named 1880-1899: 58,885

Elizabeth is a name that has yet to go out of style — it actually never fell outside the top 30 most popular names since at least 1880. In 2016, Elizabeth ranked as the 13th most popular girls’ name.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. Margaret
> Babies named 1880-1899: 59,738

As the third most popular name in the late 1880’s, Margaret ranked as high as third in both 1891 and 1894. Margaret’s popularity persisted for years, having remained in the top 10 most popular names until the year 1939.

Source: flickr.com

2. Anna
> Babies named 1880-1899: 93,420

Since the SSA began tracking data in 1880, the name Anna has never been less popular than 106th, in 1971. Its height of prominence occurred in the late 19th century. It ranked second among girls throughout the 1880s and 1890s. It fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 1921.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Mary
> Babies named 1880-1899: 222,805

Nearly six percent of all baby girls born during the 1880s and 1890s decades were named Mary, making it the most popular female name in the late 19th century. A whopping 14,406 baby girls were given the name in the year 1898 alone. By comparison, there were only 5,773 baby girls given the second most popular name, Anna, that year.

Methodology

To identify the most popular names from the late 1800s, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 200 most popular girl and boy names from The Social Security Administration (SSA), which tracks the most popular names in each year beginning in 1880. The government recorded 3,752,926 female births, and 2,408,476 male births between 1880-1899. In order to secure a spot on this list, the following names had to fall within the top 16 most popular names for boys and the top 17 for girls, based off of how many times the name occurred.