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 18, 2004
Tenderloin
The once-seedy heart of New York City was once called the "Tenderloin." Police Captain Alexander Williams allegedly coined the term in the late 1870s, but the earliest citations that I have are from the 1880s.


15 August 1887, New Orleans Daily Picayune, "Gotham Gossip," pg. 8:
Physically and in other respects (Alexander S. -- ed.) Williams is an ideal police officer. He has been in command of what is known as the "tenderloin" precinct since 1876, except during the four years that he had charge of the street cleaning department, and has kept it in good order, on the surface at any rate.

30 March 1889, Washington (D.C.) Star, pg. 8, col. 3:
Police Captain Thomas Reilly, of the notorious nineteenth or "Tenderloin" precinct, is one of the most interesting characters in this town.

15 October 1889, New York Times, pg. 8:
A noteworthy characteristic of life on Sunday nights in what Inspector Williams was once pleased to term the "tenderloin district" is not the longlines of persons going to church or to the houses of their friends, but the groups of men and women with pinched expressions on their faces and anxious energy in their steps making rapid time toward the nearest restaurants.

25 October 1890, Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California), pg. 3?, col.3:
THE BROADWAY PARADE.
A Few Lines About the Shopping District
and the Shoppers.

The Broadway of the promenaders is divided into three parts.

The first part, the shopping district, reaches from Eighth street north to Twenty-first, the second part stretches from Twenty-first to Thirty-third, and is the widely known "Tenderloin or Hoffman House district," and from Thirty-third to Forty-second stretches the "soubrettes' parade."

There is no other walk in this country to compare with Broadway on a sunny day. (...)
--New York Evening Sun.

9 October 1898, New York Herald, fifth section, pg. 8, col. 1:
NEW YORK'S "TENDERLOIN" - THE PRIMROSE PATH OF FRAIL AND FRIVOLOUS YOUTH

"There is no doubt that a majority of the criminals of our prisons are recruited from the Tenderloin district of the city. This is really an association of cause with effect. It is a well known fact in criminology that drinking, gambling and other forms of exhausting dissipation, while they may be enticements for the novice, are necessities for the blackleg and thief." - Dr. George F. Shrady.
"THE PACE THAT KILLS."
IT LEAD THROUGH THE "TENDERLOIN."
Dr. George F. Shrady Analyzes Its Fascinating
Wickedness and Direful Consequences - "A Great
Hotbed of Vice Roaring and Bubbling in the
Heart of the City."
(...)
When Alexander Williams was captain, the Tenderloin covered that part of the city lying between Fourth and Seventh avenues, extending up and down Broadway from Fourteenth to Forty-second street.

Now the new Tenderloin reaches from Fourteenth to Sixty-fifth street, embracing all but the respectable residence and business blocks between Second and Tenth avenues on the east and west side.

Where Crime Sits Enthroned.
In this area are the principal hotels, clubs, theatres, roof gardens, music halls, restaurants, the go as you please, over decorated apartment houses, the wine rooms, gambling parlors, and all those menacing boudoirs of pleasure so peculiar to a great city. Here is the seat of New York's political power. Wine, women and gamblers are made to pay crime's taxes to the Boss of the modern Babylon.

When Captain Williams was made King of the Tenderloin not one in fifty citizens dreamed of the part it was made to play in swelling the blackmailing fund necessary to maintain control of the political machinery of the town.

It was not until 1894, when Dr. Parkhurst and the Lexow investigation began forcing revelations, that the great system for extorting money from lawbreakers was adequately realized by the general public.

Of course, Captain Williams, the inventor of the name "Tenderloin," denied that this great hotbed of vice, roaring and bubbling in the heart of the city, was a source of politcal revenue through blackmail to the corrupt bosses.

Here are some of Captain Williams' famous answers to Councellor Goff when the screws were applied o his memory before the Lexow committee: --

By Mr. Goff -- By the way, Inspector, how did the name Tenderloin originate? A. Well, it came about in this way. When I was transferred from the Fourth precinct to the Nineteenth I told a newspaper reporter that I had been eating rump steak down in the Fourth precinct and that I would have a chance now to eat some of the tenderloin.

By Mr. Goff -- What do you mean by eating rump steak? And why should you have better living up in the Tenderloin? A. Well, there are better hotels and restaurants up there; that is all.

By Mr. Goff -- Don't you know that the reason you used the term tenderloin was that you knew that you could make more money in the Nineteenth than in the Fourth district? A. No; I know no such thing.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (1) Comments • Sunday, July 18, 2004 • Permalink


Tenderloin from French “tendre” + Old French “loing” from spoken Latin “*lumbea”, from classic Latin “lumbus” the back. Confusion with Latin “longa” long. More in my website under “lonja”.

Posted by Geuljans, Robert A.  on  10/26  at  04:49 AM

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