The 1950s saw the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the end of polio, the opening of the Disneyland theme park and a boom in births as World War II vets came home and started families. Babies born during the 1950s had names inspired by tradition and the blossoming entertainment industry.
Most Popular Names
James and Mary were the most popular names for boys and girls in the 1950s, accounting for 842,772 of the 20,499,390 boys named during that decade and 625,359 of the 19,727,205 girls named during the 1950s, according to the Social Security Administration. Michael, Robert, John and David rounded out the top five boys’ names of the 50s. The top five girls’ names included Linda, Patricia, Susan and Deborah. William, Richard, Thomas, Mark and Charles finished out the list of top 10 boys’ names, and Barbara, Debra, Karen, Nancy and Donna finished the list of top 10 names for girls.
Boys’ names in the 1950s continued to echo traditional names. John, Robert and James were among the top five boys’ names every year since 1910, according to the Social Security Administration. Two of the names — James, meaning “supplanter” and Robert, meaning “famous brilliance,” come from English tradition, while John is a traditional Hebrew name meaning “God is good.” Mary, the number-one girls’ name in the 1950s, had strong roots in tradition. Except for a brief period from 1947 to 1952 when it was supplanted by the Spanish name Linda, meaning “pretty,” Mary was the number-one girls’ name in the U.S. from 1910 to 1961. This traditional Hebrew name means “bitter.”
The growing popularity of movies and television and the 50s pop culture scene also inspired baby names. Girls’ names especially were inspired by Hollywood: Marilyn, Doris, Rita and Deborah were already well-known girls’ names that got a boost in popularity from actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Rita Moreno and Deborah Kerr in the 1950s. The boys’ names Harry and Dwight — inspired by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower — broke into the top 200 boys’ names.