What was going on with the 19th Century to early 20th Century [American] trend of people being known by their initials? For example, were I a cafe owner in 1919, I would hang out my shingle as “R. D. Osborne, Omeletologist”.
I see this all the time when I come across old newspaper articles. The article will be going on about some big event, or about somebody’s business, and it seems as if all of the references to individuals use the initial-initial-surname format:
“The new warehouse on the corner of First Avenue and Main Street was built by the general contracting firm of A. B. Collins & Sons. The building was commissioned by X. Y. Zeigler, due to the recent increase in business his feather duster business has seen since the Great Northern railroad established a new route through the business district. Said X. Y., 'With this new warehouse, I have space for all the feather dusters I’ve ordered in anticipation of increased demand.” A minority share of the feather duster business is held by P. D. Quigley."
Why did they do this, and why did it go out of fashion?