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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Millionaire’s Building or Power Building/Tower of Power (740 Park Avenue) (4/15)
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Entry from July 12, 2004
Big Apple Whore Hoax (1800s)
The "Big Apple" whore hoax was invented by Peter Salwen's web site in 1995. A president of Salwen's group, the Society for New York City History (SNYCH), has admitted to me that it's all a joke. It is a disgrace that this is on the web, even more a disgrace that it comes up first in search engines.

Nothing on the site checks out. New York was not "the Big Apple," "the real apple," "Eve's apple," or any other apple in the nineteenth century. Peter Salwen doesn't respond to queries about his site (at least not from me or my colleagues). There is not a single historical citation that connects "the Big Apple" with prostitution. Not one.

At one point or other, the New York Public Library, Museum of the City of New York, New-York Historical Society, and Gotham Center all had links to, or mentions of, this Big Apple Whore Hoax web site. Even after The Encyclopedia of New York City (1995) was published and after Big Apple Corner (1997) was approved!

Those interested in the history of prostitution in New York City should read Timothy J. Gilfoyle's wonderfully researched City of Eros (new edition 1994). There is nothing in that book about "Big Apple."

If you or anyone you know should visit the Big Apple Whore Hoax web site, please re-visit this web site ten times. The disgrace of that site must not be encouraged by your page views.

2006 UPDATE:
This website has changed. The horseracing evidence is now credited as authoritative. Only the slightest mention is made of the old website and its disgraceful contents.

http://salwen.com/apple.html
Various accounts have traced the "Big Apple" expression to
Depression-Era sidewalk apple vendors, a Harlem night
club, and a popular 1930s dance known as the "Big Apple."
One fanciful version even links the name with a notorious
19th-century procuress!
(...)
The older generation of jazzmen specifically credit Fletcher
Henderson, one of the greatest of the early Big Band leaders
and arrangers, with popularizing it, but such things are probably
impossible to document. Be that as it may, the ultimate source
actually was not the jazz world, but the racetrack.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1970s-present: False Etymologies • Monday, July 12, 2004 • Permalink