The 20 All-Time-Best Philly Names

The singer named Birdsong, the doctor named Physick, and 18 other amazingly appropriate monikers for people from these parts.

Clockwise from top left: Catto, Anderson, Crumb (By Christian Lessenich - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,, Birdsong, Coltrane (By Gelderen, Hugo van / Anefo - [1] Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANeFo), 1945-1989, Nummer toegang Bestanddeelnummer 915-6748, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, and Clark. Photos public domain except where noted.

Clockwise from top left: Catto, Anderson, Crumb (Christian Lessenich, CC BY-SA 3.0), Birdsong, Coltrane (Gelderen, Hugo van / Anefo, Dutch National Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl) and Clark. Photos public domain except where noted.

We were thinking the other day about E. Digby Baltzell, the Penn sociology prof who coined the term “Wasp,” for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” It would take a guy named E. Digby Baltzell to come up with something like that. Really, could there be a more Wasp-y name? And that got us thinking about other great Philly names — ones that suit their bearers’ careers or personalities so well, or are so onomatopoeically perfect, that those people really couldn’t have been called anything else. In their honor, we created this, the first-ever list of Great Philly Names.

Marian Anderson, contralto singer. The ultimate double dactyl. Don’t you want to sing along?

Sidney Biddle Barrows, the “Mayflower Madam.” The gender-neutral first name, the time-honored Philly-family middle name, the hint-of-the-tomb last name: perfection.

Cecilia Beaux, turn-of-the-century society portrait painter. A first name that means “blind,” a last name that means “beauty.” Bingo!

Cindy Birdsong, member of the Supremes. Such a happy coincidence.

Octavius Catto, educator and civil rights activist. It has gravitas and historical resonance, and the last name means “wise.”

Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand. The classic mid-century modern American name.

John Coltrane, jazz saxophonist and composer. The ultimate in cool.

Robert Crumb, cartoonist. Simultaneously proper and disreputable.

Richardson Dilworth, mayor. Please stand for Hizzoner.

Lola Falana, dancer, singer and actress. Don’t you want to dance along?

A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., federal judge. A most Honorable-sounding name.

Agnes Irwin, girls’ school principal. Ladies! Ladies, please!

Mario Lanza, tenor singer and actor. Let it roll off your tongue.

J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP. August and upstanding.

Teddy Pendergrass, singer of sexy ballads. First half cuddly, second half mysterious.

Boies Penrose, turn-of-the-century political boss. Pure bluster.

Philip Syng Physick, “the father of American surgery.” It’s almost too much!

Beasley Reece, NFL defensive back, sports analyst. Say it the way Howard Cosell would.

Horace Trumbauer, Gilded Age architect. A name as sublimely balanced as a parabolic arch.

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