The plot for this effect came from Paul Marcus, who reports having come up with it in 1949; see Magicana, Vol. 30 No. 175, May-Jun. 1982, pp. 66-7. Marcus is precise on the date he first performed the trick: Oct. 15, 1949. He later contributed “A Card Named Bill” to Al Forgione and Bill Madsen's Hex!, 1969, p. 38. Madsen produced a freely thought-of card with “Bill” written on its face from his breast pocket, using a pocket index and switch. The following year, Fred Lowe and Paul Marcus marketed a similar idea with a different method, calling it “Christened Reverse” (first advertised in Abra, Vol. 49 No. 1257, Feb. 1970, p. 142). This uses a roughed deck and is a variant of Brainwave. The named card showed up reversed. Only two names were used, the name on the chosen card and another name on all the others.
Ali Bongo came up with a two-deck method (both roughed) for “Christened Reverse” that allowed different names to be shown on every card. This was apparently shortly after “Christened Reverse” was released. Bongo doesn't give a date. He called it “A Card Named Fred,” referencing Fred Lowe. See his recounting in Abra, Vol. 65 No. 1683, Apr. 29, 1978, p. 532; and Vol. 73 No. 1874, Dec. 26, 1981, p. 83.
Dave Campbell came up with a two-deck method around 1971 that got away from roughing. He called it “Fred,” again acknowledging Lowe's contribution, and contributed it to The Thistle, Vol. 21 No. 2, Dec. 1976, p. 11, put out by the Scottish Conjuror's Association. It was republished in Profile, No. 14, June 1993, p. 4.
In the March 25, 1978, issue of Abracadabra (Vol. 65 No. 1678, pp. 424-5), England's Joe Riding ran a two-page ad for a trick called “The Golden Key”, which was a redressing of the Fred Trick, with a significantly different method using only one deck. Riding explained in his ad that his starting point was “Fido”, a variant of Lowe's “Christened Reverse” by Don Alan, marketed by Ken Brooke in Oct. 1975. Shortly before releasing “The Golden Key”, with a deck that produced a golden key printed on the named card, Riding marketed his method dressed in the Marcus effect, calling it “Named”. As in previous versions, “Named” used the name “Fred” on the named selection.
The gag of obtusely “naming” a card came from a quip made by Alexander Woollcott, cited by Milbourne Christopher in the The Linking Ring, Vol. 22 No. 2, Apr. 1942, p. 24.