National Clay Day is celebrated on July 25 each year. Clay is a male English name originating from “clay workers.” In England, it was common to name sons after their father’s professions, passing the title to later generations. Clay is a common surname in the U.K., as seen with Sir Edward Clay, a British diplomat, and Sir John Clay, a soldier knighted by King Edward IV during the War of the Roses. It also serves as a given name in the U.S. and is sometimes used as the short form of Clayton.
History of National Clay Day
Clay is one of those names with an interesting background to it. In old English society, it was common for men to adopt titles related to their craft and for sons to inherit them. It referred to “clay workers,” such as potters, sculptors, and builders. Clay is also the diminutive of the given name Clayton. The name came to America with the first settlers, who carried on the tradition of their forefathers.
Cassius Marcellus Clay is one such notable example. Born on October 19, 1810, the Lion of Whitehall was one of the Republican party’s founding members, a diplomat, and a fiery abolitionist. Despite growing up as the son of a wealthy Kentucky planter, Clay, a graduate of Yale College, opposed slavery and gradually introduced legal changes to combat the practice. His stance cost him support in the South and earned him many violent enemies, but Clay never wavered from his beliefs until he died in 1903. Clay’s family home White Hall is a Kentucky State Historic Shrine.
American musician Clayton Holmes Grissom, known by his stage name Clay Aiken, was introduced to the world when he appeared as a contestant on “American Idol” in 2003. Aiken, a North Carolina native, finished in second place on the show and released his first album “Measure of a Man” five months later. The album went multi-platinum and cemented his place in pop music. In 2004 he wrote “Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life,” which debuted at number two on the “New York Times” Bestseller list. Aside from a successful music career, Aiken has guest-starred on T.V. shows like “The Celebrity Apprentice.” In recent years he’s gotten into politics, announcing a run for North Carolina’s fourth congressional district on a democratic ticket.
National Clay Day timeline
Henry Clay founds the Whig Party in response to President Jackson’s refusal to fund the second National Bank.
Politician Cassius Clay narrowly survives an assassination attempt.
Lucius D. Clay becomes the youngest Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.
Singer Clay Aiken wins the Democratic primary for North Carolina’s second congressional district.
National Clay Day FAQs
Is Clay a boy or girl name?
Clay is a male first and last name.
When was Clay a popular name?
It was popular in England during the Victorian era.
Is Clay a good name?
Clay is an excellent choice for boys, as it’s rare in the present day.
National Clay Day Activities
Read about Cassius Clay
Clay led a fascinating life. From serving as a captain in the Mexican-American war, working as an ambassador to Russia, and publishing the anti-slavery newspaper “True American.” Explore his life and achievements on National Clay Day.
Watch “American Idol”
Take a trip back to 2003, when “American Idol” was one of the biggest shows worldwide. Watch the journey of Aiken as he goes from an underdog, to a fan favorite, to the accomplished musician we know today.
Take a pottery class
Celebrate the unique history of this name by paying homage to its roots. Take a pottery class and learn how to mold clay. If getting your hands dirty isn’t an option, consider buying clay pottery, paperweights, or engraved carvings.
5 Interesting Facts About Famous Clays
A close shave
Cassius Clay survived an assassination attempt during a political debate in 1843.
It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
Clay Aiken worked at the Y.M.C.A. in 1995.
Treasury to symphony
British composer Frederic Emes Clay worked as a civil servant in the treasury department before becoming a full-time composer.
The sergeant major
Rugby referee Eric Clay was nicknamed Sergeant Major because of his imposing physique and no-nonsense style of enforcing the rules.
Two heads are better than one
Henry Clay, another Southern politician (and no relation to Cassius Clay), also strongly supported the slavery abolitionist movement.
Why We Love National Clay Day
It has history
The custom of naming sons after their father’s professions might have died out, but its heritage remains. Every Clay carries a bit of history with them.
Clay is an old name, so it's not as common today. There are only about 50,000 people named Clay in the U.S.
It works both ways
Clay serves as a first and last name. It works as a nickname for Clayton as well.
National Clay Day dates