What was the source of Ayn Rand’s professional name? The story in Barbara Branden’s much-inaccurate biography of Ayn Rand, “The Passion of Ayn Rand,” is disproven by facts (see later). One associate of Ayn Rand, interviewed on behalf of the Ayn Rand Institute, reported that Ayn Rand during the 1950s was still working with a typewriter so old that it could have been brought with her from Russia; photographs of it show it clearly to not be a Remington-Rand. However, it’s the when that disproves the account in “The Passion.” A further question faced on this subject is: was there more than mere observation of a brand name that caught Miss Rand’s eye? Michael Berliner and Richard Ralston, working for the Ayn Rand Institute and with access to Miss Rand’s records, have hypothesized a deeper explanation (depicted on this web site by this animation):
Ayn Rand’s surname at birth (1905) was Rosenbaum, which in the Cyrillic alphabet used then as now in Russia is spelled:
The illustration at the top of this page represents how the name appears on Ayn Rand’s university diploma and transcript. With the flourishes on the characters, the equivalent of the Cyrillic “m” looks more like a Latin “n” than it otherwise would. The equivalent of the Cyrillic “b” looks more like a Latin “d” than it would otherwise.
Biographers at the Ayn Rand Institute knew that Ayn Rand had told The New York Evening Post in 1936 that “Rand is an abbreviation of my Russian surname.” (A profile of Miss Rand in the Saturday Evening Post of November 11, 1961, would state that Rand was an Americanization of Rand’s original surname.) However, because the pronunciations of the two names were so unlike one another, the scholars at ARI were perplexed. By covering alphabetic letters, Michael Berliner saw that “ayn” was spelled in the last three characters. Richard Ralston saw that by combining the first letter of the Cyrillic with the last three, there was a phonetic approximation of “Rand” (“Rayn”).
(The animation above, in dropping the “d” to and omitting the “y” from the surname “Rand,” diverges from Ralston’s explanation as published in the Ayn Rand Institute newsletter. I cannot validate that my conjecture is any better than Mr. Ralston’s explanation, and offer the extended conjecture above partly because the animation makes presentation simple. Below: an animation based on what struck Ralston in examining the relevant documents:)
This information and the nine diploma-style Cyrillic characters come from the Ayn Rand Institute newsletter Impact of May 1997. Much information about Miss Rand’s life first appears in print in their newsletters, and this is a good reason why fans of hers should subscribe to the newsletter. (Of course, by subscribing to the newsletters, one also supports the work of the Institute.) To join the Institute, subscribe to the newsletters, or get additional information, visit the web site of The Ayn Rand Institute.
Regarding the version of this story offered by Mrs. Branden:
Barbara Branden’s 1986 biography of Ayn Rand has Alice Rosenbaum choosing the name “Ayn Rand” while in Chicago in 1926 and never telling her family in Russia about the new name. (pg. 71) However, letters from Rand’s family in Russia refer to the new name. Further, one such letter had been mailed from Russia before the family had yet received any mail from Ayn. Obviously, she had chosen the name before leaving and had told them what it would be. A 1926 letter by Ayn’s sister Nora with Nora’s hand-drawn illustration of the name “Ayn Rand” in theatrical lights, is reprinted in Michael Paxton’s companion book to his film Ayn Rand: a Sense of Life (pg. 71, remarkably the same page number as the counterpart passage in the Branden book).
Furthermore, although the Remington and Rand companies had merged in time for the combined new company to have manufactured a typewriter before Miss Rand chose that surname, the name “Rand” would not appear on a faceplate of any of the company’s typewriters for several years. Of the two companies which merged, only the Remington company manufactured typewriters prior to the merger; the Rand company had not done so. The name “Rand” became part of the company name at the time of the merger, but the Rand name was not added until years later to the part of the typewriter product that the user would see while looking at it. These facts disprove the story given by Mrs. Branden. Several researchers have found company brochures and other literature which attests to this. One visited the company archives and learned from the source itself that their typewriters did not have the name “Rand” on the faceplate at any time during the 1920s. My own research into this (conducted 2010) confirms this, and is presented at my heavily-illustrated page on the Remington Rand merger and the slow change in the typewriter names.
If you reached this web page without having read my article Biography “The Passion of Ayn Rand” is an Inaccurate Chronicle, click here to go there now.
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