Mary is the top given name for girls born in the United States up until 1961* according to social security records and census information. During the baby boom 1946 – 1964, we piled on lots of Mary’s. A Mary bubble so to speak. But, in 1962, Mary begin a slow descent to its current rank of 126 in 2018 (124 in 2020).
It wasn’t just Mary, but all popular names began falling in numbers. Except for a few trendy names that would surge then fall after a few years, statistics began showing that people valued more unique names celebrating the individual. In 1950, only 5% of parents chose a name for their baby that was not in the top 1,000 names. In 2018, that figure was up to 27%.
So why are Mary, and other popular names disappearing?
In 1945, there were probably fewer than 10,000 TV sets in the country. But TV sets soared to about 6 million in 1950, and to almost 60 million by 1960. TV entered every household and created a national common experience. And TV programming was made affordable by advertising sponsors who capitalized on this mass media to tell us who we were and what we needed to realize our dreams.
Madison Avenue took consumerism to the next level. We had to have a Westinghouse appliance, and “See the USA in our Chevrolet“. Its no wonder that we started searching for something that distinguished our identities beyond the products we bought and our need to have what everyone else had. A new age of individualism began. And not just in America, but worldwide. A way to create our own individual brand with our name.
So Mary ranked the 126th most popular girl’s name in 2018. Emma was number one. Emma was number 3 back in the early 1880s then spiraled down to number 463 in 1976 before making her comeback. But for Mary, it may be awhile. There are still a lot of Mary’s around. Albeit, older Mary’s. After all, It’s a Grand Old Name.
- Library of Congress – Mary’s A Grand Old Name
* In 1947 Mary fell to number 2 behind the name Linda for 6 years. Why? Talk about trendy names…Because of a song named Linda which hit number one in the charts in early 1947. A very interesting thing about that song that Jack Lawrence wrote, is that he took the name of his friend and attorney’s daughter for the song. His attorney was Lee Eastman. If Linda Eastman sounds familiar, it is because she was a famous rock star photographer, vegetarian advocate and wife to Beatle, Paul McCartney.