This is one of the most commonly asked questions, why is New York City called the big apple? Well, NY has been called so many things-“Gotham”, “The Great American Melting Pot”, “The City that Never Sleeps”-but its most famous nickname know to millions, without any doubt, is “The Big Apple”.
But how did this ubiquitous moniker come from? While there’s many apples tress around the city, but they’re not in a notable quantity. In fact, there are more pigeons than apples in New York, but still we don’t call it the “Big Pigeon”. As with anything New York, there are many contradictions and opinions.
So, why is New York City called the big apple? Let’s have a close look at few reasons…….
There are so many different ideas on why this city came to be known as “The Big Apple”. Many believe it comes from some well-to-do families that sold apples on the city’s streets to make ends meet during the Great Depression. According to another account, this particular term comes from Eve, the famous brothel madam of nineteenth century whose girls were usually referred by many as her “Big Apples”. According to some sources, this nickname comes from a catchphrase used by John. J. Fitz Gerald, a sports writer with New York Morning Telegraph in the early 1920’s in his famous horse racing column “Around the Big Apple”.
At that time, the trainers and jockeys of smaller horses wanted to make a “Big Apple”, the name for big money prizes for big races in and around the city. In fact, Fitz Gerald first heard this term on New York’s racetracks during a conversation between two African-American stable hands at famous New Orleans Fair Grounds and nabbed the colloquialism for his column, where it took off!
Once this term entered the vocabularies of society up north, its popularity soared and started spreading outside of the horseracing context, and soon everything from hit songs and dances and nightclubs in Harlem were named after “The Big Apple.” Most notably, New York jazz musicians in the 1920s, whose habits of using the nickname to reference their hometown in their songs, made the name “The Big Apple” spread outside the northeast.
“The Big Apple” remained the nickname for New York City throughout the mid-20’th century until it was officially adopted by the city in the 1970s. The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau was of the view that using this moniker would definitely brighten the image of a crime-ridden and economically downtrodden city in decline and would help revive the tourist economy of the city.
A popular 1971 campaign to increase tourist inflow to New York City adopted the Big Apple as an officially recognized reference to city. This campaign featured red apples in an effort to lure more visitors to NYC. At that time it was hoped that red apples would serve as a cheery and bright image of the New York City, in contrast to its earlier image as a dangerous and dark city. Since those days, the New York City is officially known as The Big Apple.
In 1997, Mayor Rudy Giuliani decided to give Fitz Gerald his due, and signed a legislation naming the corner where he and his family lived at the West 54’th Street and Broadway as the “Big Apple Corner”.
The article is written by professional photographer Houmaan Photography.