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 12, 2004
Depression Apple Sellers (1930s)
It is sometimes claimed that "Big Apple" comes from New York City's street apple stands during the Great Depression in the 1930s. This is incorrect.

New York (NY) Morning Telegraph track writer John J. Fitz Gerald (1893-1963) had been calling the New York racetracks (and New York City, by extension) the "Big Apple" in his newspaper columns since 1921. A nightclub called "Big Apple" opened in Harlem in 1934, at the northwest corner of West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard). The nightclub, opposite the popular Smalls Paradise, spread the "Big Apple" term to Harlem in the 1930s.

New York City (and other cities) did have apple sellers called "Apple Marys" and "Apple Annies." American newspaperman and short story writer Damon Runyon (1880-1946) wrote the short story "Madame La Gimp" (1929), and this featured a character called "Apple Annie." The story was filmed by American director Frank Capra and renamed Lady for a Day (1933). Neither Runyon's 1929 story nor Capra's 1933 film mentions "Big Apple" as a nickname for New York City.


Wikipedia: Lady for a Day
Lady for a Day is a 1933 American pre-Code comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra. The screenplay by Robert Riskin is based on the short story "Madame La Gimp" by Damon Runyon. It was the first film for which Capra received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and the first Columbia Pictures release to be nominated for Best Picture.

Plot
The story focuses on Apple Annie (May Robson), an aging and wretched fruit seller in New York City, whose daughter Louise (Jean Parker) has been raised in a Spanish convent since she was an infant. Louise has been led to believe her mother is a society matron named Mrs. E. Worthington Manville who lives at the Hotel Marberry. Annie discovers her charade is in danger of being uncovered when she learns Louise is sailing to New York with her fiancé Carlos (Barry Norton) and his father, Count Romero (Walter Connolly).

Among Annie's patrons are Dave the Dude (Warren William), a gambling gangster who believes her apples bring him good luck, and his henchman Happy McGuire (Ned Sparks).

9 August 1988, Ottawa (ON) Citizen, "Imaginative readers search for the seed of New York City's Big Apple nickname" (Dear Abby column), pg. A16:
DEAR ABBY: New York City was named the Big Apple because during the Depression of 1929-1930, all the banks closed and many people were suddenly unemployed so they stood on the street corners and sold apples for a nickel apiece. There were so many apple stands in New York City, they called it the Big Apple.
MRS. LEONARD COOKSON,
PARADISE VALLEY, ARIZ.

Twitter
Christian Jae
@ChristianJaeNYC
NY is called the big apple because during the great depression bankers and brokers took the streets in their suits to sell apples.
1:17 AM - 1 Sep 2009

Twitter
Nicole Keppel
@Nickykep
Did you know New York is called the big apple because during the great depression people would sell apples on the streets? @eva21food
9:15 PM - 6 Jan 2015
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1970s-present: False Etymologies • Monday, July 12, 2004 • Permalink