10 things you might not know about Stanleys

The Chicago Blackhawks are competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, named for Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada who instituted the trophy. Another Stanley -- Morgan Stanley, the financial services firm -- is reportedly targeted in a federal investigation. Given this news, it's time to Stan and deliver:

1. The popularity of Stanley as a boy's name in the United States peaked from 1915 to 1917, when it was the 34th most popular name three years running, as tracked by the Social Security Administration. It has been downhill ever since. Last year, it was No. 676.2. President Barack Obama's grandfather was Stanley Dunham, and -- far more unusually -- Obama's mother was named Stanley too. A childhood friend recalled Stanley Ann Dunham explaining that "my dad wanted a boy and he got me. And the name Stanley made him feel better, I guess." After high school, Obama's mother stopped introducing herself as Stanley and switched to Ann.

3. "Stanley" is Chicago slang for a Pole or Polish-American.

4. Actor Marlon Brando beat out John Garfield and Burt Lancaster to play the brutish Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire." Brando won the part by visiting Williams' home in Provincetown, Mass., in 1947 and performing three virtuoso acts: reading the script well, repairing Williams' overflowing toilet and fixing a blown fuse that had forced the playwright to read by candlelight.

5. A young Welshman named John Rowlands immigrated to New Orleans, where he was befriended by merchant Henry Morton Stanley and adopted the man's name as his own. The new Stanley joined Confederate forces, was captured at Shiloh and was imprisoned in Chicago. At war's end, things got even more interesting. Stanley became a newspaper correspondent in Spain, Crete, Ethiopia and what is now Tanzania, where he found missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone and uttered the famous line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." Though they were in what Stanley called "darkest Africa," they drank champagne in silver goblets to celebrate the meeting.

6. Among the secret Stanleys in show business are Bobby Vinton (Stanley Robert Vinton Jr.) and M.C. Hammer (Stanley Kirk Burrell). But KISS co-founder Paul Stanley merely moved the "Stanley" in his name. At birth, he was Stanley Eisen.

7. The Stanley Steamer was the most famous of the steam-powered cars, which had their heyday in the early 1900s. As crazy as it sounds, driving around on top of a boiler was surprisingly safe. That said, the internal-combustion engine eventually won the day. But some Stanley enthusiasts wouldn't let it go. So in 1951, the Museum of Science and Industry and Popular Mechanics magazine staged a race from Chicago to New York between a 1913 Stanley Steamer and a 1911 gas-powered Stoddard-Dayton to settle which car was better. The Stanley won.

8. For decades, Flat Stanley was just a 2-D character from Jeff Brown's 1964 book and series. But in 1995, Canadian third-grade teacher Dale Hubert gave him a whole new dimension when he used him as part of a letter-writing project. It went viral, to say the least. Today, the Flat Stanley Project is worldwide. Its Web site features photos of Flat Stanley with, among others, President Obama and Clint Eastwood.

9. According to, there are no active NHL players named Stanley, Stan -- or Stanislaus for that matter, but Stanleys have had some success playing hockey. Allan Stanley played on a powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs team that won four of Lord Stanley's cups in the 1960s. But for Chicagoans, you need look no further than Stan Mikita, who helped the Blackhawks win it all in 1961, for the most famous hockey-playing Stan.

10. A low point for the Stanley Cup came in 1924. The triumphant Montreal Canadiens put the trophy in their car trunk to drive to the victory party. But their car got a flat, and they took the trophy out and perched it on a snowbank so they could take out the spare tire. After changing the tire, they arrived at the party, only to realize they had misplaced the Stanley Cup. They found it where they had left it: on the snowbank.