A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 05, 2004
1920s Non-Horseracing “Big Apple” Citations
There are "Big Apple" citations in the 1920s that have nothing to do with horseracing. These are after 1925. If you consider the horseracing uses to mean "Big Apple = New York racetracks," the first citation of "Big Apple = New York City" is aguably here.

The New York Morning Telegraph specialized in horse racing and entertainment. Walter Winchell, Roy McCardell, film men and mobsters all cited below all would have been familiar with John J. Fitz Gerald's "big apples" in the Morning Telegraph.

1927—BROADWAY

This citation was found by New Yorker Merwin Dembling. From The Bookman, December 1927, "The Real Broadway" by Walter Winchell:

Broadway is the Big Apple, the Main Stem, the goal of all ambition, the pot of gold at the end of a drab and somewhat colorless rainbow.

Winchell's words are echoed by the popular syndicated columnist O. O. McIntyre, on December 19, 1928, Nevada State Journal, "Once Overs" by O. O. McIntyre, pg. 4, col. 2:

NEW YORK, Dec. 18. - No other human beings are quite so self-centered as the denizens of Broadway. It lives, moves and has its headaches between Columbus Circle and Herald Square. To its fortunate wayfarers it is the Main Stem of the Universe - the Big Apple and the goal of earthly travels.

1928—SLANG

This citation was found by Yale researcher Fred Shapiro.

Also from The Bookman, February 1928, "Mr. Wogglbaum Cooks an Opera" by Roy L. McCardell:

Pg. 638: But as I dope it, if the head Cheese has been nicked into buying it by them literary yes men on The Big Apple, it could be made the picture panic of the world.
Pg. 639 (GLOSSARY): On the Big Apple + In New York City.

1928—MOVIES

This citation was found by Yale researcher Fred Shapiro and publsihed in American Speech, July 1991. It also appears in the Oxford English Dictionary.

From The New York Times, "Slang of Film Men," March 11, 1928, section VIII, pg. 6:

The big apple, New York City.

1928—MOBSTERS

I found this citation in an article about racketeer slang. From the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, October 5, 1928, page 40:

"I know! I know! I'm sending yuh a couple of trailers, with tin shirts—gorillas from th' Big Apple. We shoot tonight—or somebody gets taken for a ride!"
(...)

..."the Big Apple," New York City...
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1920s: John J. Fitz Gerald and the N.Y. Morning Telegraph • Monday, July 05, 2004 • Permalink