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. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 05, 2004
“Why is New York City called the Big Apple?”



Above, the header from the 1924 newspaper column of John J. Fitz Gerald. Click to see a portion of the column which includes his use of “Big Apple.” Part of a 1926 column is also available.



SHORT SUMMARY:

“The Big Apple” (now the popular nickname of New York City) was the catchphrase of New York Morning Telegraph track writer John J. Fitz Gerald (1892-1963) in the 1920s. He explained “Big Apple” twice and it was the name of three of his columns. He picked up the term from African-American ("dusky," he called them) stable hands at the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans, probably on January 14, 1920. 

Fitz Gerald’s first New York Morning Telegraph “Around the Big Apple” column, on February 18, 1924, proudly declared:

“The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.”

The “Big Apple” racing circuit had meant “the big time,” the place where the big money was to be won. Horses love apples, and apples were widely regarded as the mythical king of fruit. In contrast, the smaller, poorer tracks were called the “leaky roof circuit” or “bull ring” tracks. The five original New York tracks of the “Big Apple circuit” were Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Empire City Race Track (now Yonkers Raceway), Jamaica Race Course (closed in 1959) and Saratoga Race Course.

“The Big Apple” became the name of a club in Harlem in 1934, and Harlem itself was referred to as “the Apple” at this time. A night club in Columbia, South Carolina also took the “Big Apple” name, and it was here that 1937’s short-lived national “Big Apple” dance craze began.

“The Big Apple” was revived in the 1970s by Charles Gillett, president of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau (now NYC & Company).

The origins of “the Big Apple” were solved in the 1990s by Gerald Cohen and Barry Popik.  A “Big Apple Corner” street sign was dedicated in 1997 at West 54th Street and Broadway, where Fitz Gerald last lived.


“THE BIG APPLE” WEBSITE INTRODUCTION (July 2004):

The African-American stablehand who first called New York City “the Big Apple” at the Fair Grounds Race Track in New Orleans has never been honored. Not by New York City. Not by New Orleans. This information is not even on the Fair Grounds web site. The stablehand doesn’t even have a name, mostly because almost no one has helped look for him.

The New York track writer who popularized “the Big Apple” in the 1920s is buried in an unmarked grave in Menands, New York. The “Big Apple” plaque that I put on the building at Broadway and West 54th Street in 1996 was quickly removed during renovations and has never been replaced. The historic “Big Apple” columns are nowhere on the web.

If you search the web looking for an answer about New York City’s nickname, you’ll probably be told that “the Big Apple” comes from whores.

It is now the summer of 2004. “Big Apple” sculptures are about to be placed in front of NYC buildings. The Republicans will soon have their convention here. Thanks for reading this. If you want the stablehands honored at last, please write to the mayor. I doubt that he has any knowledge of the information on this site.


“BIG APPLE” ARTICLES:

PRE-1920s
Apples and Horses
Bet a Big Apple
Big Apples Are Top of the Barrel
Big Time and Big Town
Lands of the Big Red Apple

1920s: JOHN J. FITZ GERALD AND THE NEW YORK MORNING TELEGRAPH
1920s Vaudeville/Ragtime “Big Apple” Citations
1920s Non-Horseracing “Big Apple” Citations
Numerous 1920s ‘Big Apple” Citations in the New York Morning Telegraph
“Big Apple” date?: January 15, 1920
First “Big Apple” citation: May 3, 1921
First “Big Apple” explanation: February 18, 1924
Big Red Apple (sculpture in Cornelia, Georgia, 1926-present)
Second “Big Apple explanation: December 1, 1926
Saratoga: Big Apple (New York racing circuit including the Saratoga Race Course)
1925-1929: “Big Apple” in The Inter-State Tattler
1928: “On the Big Apple” column
1931: “Around the Big Apple” column
1963: J. J. Fitz Gerald obituaries
Witness (1998): Washington Post writer Shirley Povich
Witness (2006): Joe Zito

1930s: JAZZING THE BIG APPLE
“Big Apple” in the 1930s (Two clubs, plus song and dance)
“Big Apple—the major tracks of the country” (1933)
Big Apple (Harlem bar/restaurant, 1934)
Big Apple kiosk (Mumbles, Swansea Bay, Wales, 1930s-present)
Big Apple dance craze (1937)
Big Apple cap or Big Apple hat (named after the dance, 1937-present)
“Big Apple” (song by Bob Emmerich and Buddy Bernier, 1937)
La Grosse Pomme (Paris nightclub, 1937-1938)
“I feel like doin’ a Big Apple” (Mae West on a 1937 radio show)
Big Apple (drinks using applejack, 1938)
“Apple" defined in Cab Calloway’s “Hepster’s Dictionary” (1938, 1944)
Big Apple Supermarket (Georgia supermarket chain, 1939-1980)
Big Apple Inn (Jackson, MS restaurant, 1939-present)

1940s-1950s: ASSORTED BIG APPLE CITATIONS
“Big Apple” in the 1940s-1950s
Big Apple (Fort Worth, TX barbecue restaurant, 1941-1968)
Big Apple Shine Parlor (Harlem, 1942)
“Big Apple” (Dan Burley’s Original Handbook of Harlem Jive, 1944)
Big Apple Grocery Store (Harlem, 1945-1949)
Big Apple (Yeaju-Dake Escarpment, Battle of Okinawa, 1945)
Big Apple (USS Appalachian, 1946)
Big Apple Concession (City Park in New Orleans, 1947-1949)
“The Boys on the Big Apple” (Harper’s Bazaar article, May 1947)
“Big Apple” (spoken by Frank Sinatra, 1950)
Big Apple Bar & Restaurant (New Orleans, 1952-1960s?)
“New York is the Big Apple” (Stephen Longstreet’s The Real Jazz: Old and New, 1956)
Bill Johnson’s Big Apple (Arizona restaurants, 1956-2015)
Big Apple Cafe (Puryear, TN and Murray, KY, 1950s-present)
“Big Apple” nightclub (The Three Faces of Eve film, 1957)
“Big Apple” (Perry Mason, “The Case of the Jilted Jockey” episode, 1958)
Big A (Aqueduct Racetrack nickname, 1959)
“To the musicians playing it, New York is ‘The Big Apple‘” (New York Is book, 1959)

1960s: FUN CITY
“Big Apple” (Robert S. Gold’s A Jazz Lexicon, 1964)
“New York, the ‘Big Apple,’ the jazz mecca” (Hart’s Guide to New York City, 1964)
“I had heard so much raving about ‘The Big Apple,’ as it was called” (Malcolm X, 1964)
“Fun City” nickname (1966)
“New York has been the Big Apple for several decades (in jazz)” (New York Times, 1967)
“Big Apple” in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
“Rapping about how the Big Apple is outta sight” (The Last Poets, 1969-1970)
“New York, New York, the Big Apple” (The Last Poets, 1969-1970)
“Big Apple” in East Village Other (1969-1971)

1970s: BIG APPLE REVIVAL
Big Apple 1970s Revival: Charlie Gillett and Lew Rudin
“Back in the Big Apple” (Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? play, 1971)
Red Apple Supermarket (supermarket chain, 1971-present)
“Penguin at the Big Apple” (instrumental song by The Trammps, 1972)
“The Big Apple” (instrumental song by Hugh Masekela, 1972)
The Big Apple Band (1972-1977); Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band (1976)
“Big Apple Dreamin‘“ (song by Alice Cooper, 1973)
Big Apple Ball (charity ball, May 1973)
Big Apple (Robinette’s Apple Haus, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973-present)
Big Apple Mini Storage (1974-present)
Big Apple (convenience stores in Maine and New Hampshire, 1974-present)
Big Apple (tourist information booth, Meaford, Ontario, Canada, 1974-present)
“Big Apple” T-shirts from the Daily News (1975)
Big Apple Comix (1975)
“Save Grand Central. No more bites out of the Big Apple!” (1975)
“Big Apple” lyric in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “I’m a Country Boy” (1975)
“Talking Big Apple ‘75” (song by Loudon Wainwright III, 1976)
“I’m crazy about the Big Apple” (1976 ad campaign)
Big Apple (official drink of the Belmont Stakes, 1976)
Big Appling (to visit New York City, 1976)
“Big Apple” lyric in the Joni Mitchell song “Song for Sharon” (1976)
Apple Polisher & Polish the Apple (I Love a Clean New York campaign, 1976-1980)
Big Apple Circus (1977-present)
Big Apple (roller coaster at Astroland, Brooklyn, 1977-2008)
“Big Apple Blues” (song by Slade, 1977)
“The Minnesota Night Hawks. I’m coaching. The Big Apple!” (Slap Shot film, 1977)
“Big Apple” float (NY Daily News in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1977-2017)
“B.A., Buenos Aires, Big Apple” (Evita musical, 1978)
“Big Apple” lyric in The Rolling Stones song “Shattered” (1978)
“Everybody bites on the Big Apple” lyric in the Cat Stevens song “New York Times” (1978)
“Big Apple” (song by Molly Hatchet, 1978)
Big Apple (roadside attraction in Thulimbah, Queensland, Australia, 1978-present)
The Big Apple Bash (Jay McShann album, 1979)
“Big Apple Waltz” (song by Sweet, 1979)
“Big Apple Rock” (disco song by Black Ivory, 1979)
Dracula Bites the Big Apple (short film, 1979)
Big Apple Copy Center (1979-present)
Big Apple Moving & Storage (1979-present)
Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (marching band, 1979-present)
2005: Statement from a co-worker of Charles Gillett
Off Topic: Charles Gillett on Conventions

1970s-PRESENT: FALSE ETYMOLOGIES
Governor Stuyvesant’s Tree (pear, not apple)
New Orange (not Big Orange; 1673-1674)
Big Apple Whore Hoax (1800s; proposed 1995-2006)
Chelsea Apple Orchard (1820s)
Slave Codes (1850s)
“New York is a sucked orange” (not Big Apple; Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1860)
Edward Martin metaphor (1909)
Damon Runyon (who never used “Big Apple,” 1920s-1930s)
Big Apple of Wathena, Kansas (1928-1940)
Depression Apple Sellers (1930s)
Harlem’s Jazz Musicians (1930s)
Fletcher Henderson popularization of “the Big Apple” in the 1930s
Big Apple dance craze (1937)
La Grosse Pomme (Paris nightclub, 1937-1938)
Cab Calloway’s “Hepster’s Dictionary” (1938, 1944)
Big A (Aqueduct Racetrack nickname, 1959)
Manzana Principal (suggested in 1966)
New York City is shaped like an apple (1970s)
There are many apples on the tree, but when you pick NYC, you pick the Big Apple (1975)
Tightening of Adam’s Apple (suggested in 1978)
Big Apple on New Year’s Eve Ball at One Times Square (1981-1988)
New York State grows many apples (suggested in 1988)
Five Apple Seeds, Five Boroughs (1990s?)
Apple Store (2000s)
An apple tree on every street (2013 movie explanation)
“Why is New York City called ‘The Big Apple?’ Wrong answers only” (2021)

1980s-PRESENT: BIG APPLE WORK BY GERALD COHEN, BARRY POPIK
“Big Apple Rappin’” (rap by Spyder-D, 1980)
Home Run Apple (Shea Stadium & Citi Field, 1980-present)
Big Apple Pancake House (Chicago Heights and Joliet, IL, 1980-present)
Big Apple Minute (WNEW-TV Channel 5, 1980-1987)
Big Apple Movie (WNEW-TV Channel 5, 1981-1986)
Big Apple logo for New York Urban League (1981-present)
Big Apple City (Strawberry Shortcake animation, 1981)
Big Apple on New Year’s Eve Ball at One Times Square (1981-1988)
“Apple” lyric in the Michael Jackson song “Human Nature” (1982)
Apple Bank (renamed from Harlem Savings Bank, 1983-present)
“Big Apple” (song by Kajagoogoo, 1983)
Big Apple Car, Inc. (1983-present)
N.Y.C. The Big Apple (Atari video game, 1984)
“The Big Apple” (Gimme a Break! episode, 1984)
“Nueva York! New York City! The big apple!” (Against All Odds film, 1984)
Big Apple Bagels (Illinois bagel chain, 1985-present)
Big Apple Pizza (Israeli pizza chain, 1986-present)
“50K don’t get you to first base in the Big Apple” (Wall Street film, 1987)
Big Apple (roadside attraction in Colborne, Ontario, Canada, 1987-present)
Big Apple bet (1988, 2003) between mayors of New York City and Columbia, South Carolina
“Big Apple Blues” (The Facts of Life episode, 1988)
Big Apple Awards (Public Relations Society of America-NY Chapter, 1988-present)
“Big Apple” and Donald Trump (Fortune magazine photo, 1989)
Big Apple book by Gerald Cohen, Barry Popik (1991. 2011)
“Bite the Big Apple” (Murder, She Wrote episode, 1991)
Big Apple Florist (1991-present)
“Big Apple, 3 AM” (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time video game, 1992)
Big Apple Greeter (1992-present)
Big Apple Meat Market (1992-present)
Big Apple Corner (1992-1997)
Big Apple Hostel (1994-2014)
Big Apple Cafe & Event Centre (Waitomo, New Zealand, 1995-present)
“Big Bugs in the Big Apple” (James and the Giant Peach film, 1996)
“The Big Apple Can Bite Me” (Cybill episode, 1996)
Big Apple plaque (1996)
Big Apple Comic Con (1996-present)
Big Apple Corner (1997 Law & Today)
Big Apple Corner (New York Morning Telegraph site)
Big Apple Jazz Tours (1997-present)
Big Apple Coaster (New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, 1997-present)
Big Apple Pizza & Pasta (Florida pizza chain, 1997-present)
Big Apple Stars Awards Program (Hotel Association of New York City, 1997-present)
“Bite the Big Apple” (The Devil’s Advocate film, 1997)
“It’s the dream, the Big Apple” (Howard Stern’s Private Parts film, 1997)
Big Apple (roller coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, Norfolk, UK, 1998-present)
Big Apple (sculpture in Medina, New York, 2000-present)
Big Apple Martini or Big Apple-tini (cocktail, 2000)
Big Apple (crime drama television series, 2001)
Big Apple Anime Fest (2001-2003)
Iso Omena (Finland’s “Big Apple” shopping center, 2001-present)
“Bad Seed in the Big Apple” (Beyblade episode, 2003)
Big Apple logo for Made in NYC (2003-present)
The Apple (sculpture in Hudson River Park, 2004)
Big Apple Film Festival (2004-present)
Big Apple Fest (2004)
Big Apple Fest (2005)
Bacardi Big Apple (apple-flavored rum, 2005)
Big Apple Mojito (cocktail, 2005)
“It’s another fabulous morning in the Big Apple!” (Madagascar film, 2005)
Harlem Big Apple Club plaque removed (2006)
Big Apple (sculpture by Romero Britto, LaGuardia Airport, 2006-present)
Big Apple Elevator Service and Consulting (2006-present)
Big Apple Donuts & Coffee (Malaysia chain, 2007-present)
Infinity Apple (GreeNYC symbol, 2007)
Apple—New York State Symbol (2007)
Mr. Met And His Journey Through The Big Apple (children’s book by Aimee Aryal, 2008)
Oxford English Dictionary “Big Apple” definition (2008)
“New York. The Big Apple” (The Hurt Locker film, 2008)
Big Apple (sculpture at Yamanashi Prefectural Museum, Japan, 2008-present)
“Big Apple” answer on “Final Jeopardy!” (2009)
New York City’s Official Apple Proposal—Newtown Pippin (2009)
“Big Apple” explained in a movie (Barney’s Version film, 2010)
“The Big Apple” (Kate Plus 8 episode, 2010)
Rising Apple (New York Mets blog, 2011-present)
Big Apple (sculpture by Romero Britto, JFK Airport, 2011-present)
Stephan Weiss Apple Awards (2011-2018)
The Other Big Apple (Meaford, Ontario nickname, 2011-2014)
Big Apple Fashioned (cocktail, 2012)
Big Apple (cocktail with sake, 2013)
Big Apple Awards (New York City public school teachers, 2013-present)
The Big Apple Shopping Bazaar (Delray Beach, FL, 2013-present)
Big Apple Blizzard (Dairy Queen dessert, 2014)
La Mela Reintegrata or The Apple Made Whole Again (Central Station, Milan, Italy, 2015-present)
Apple Awards (Guides Association of New York City, 2015-present)
The Kid from the Big Apple (two films, 2015 and 2017)
“Big Apple or Die Tryin‘“ (Pee-wee’s Big Holiday film, 2016)
“The Girl Who Went To The Big Apple” (Asia’s Next Top Model episode, 2016)
“Wow! BoJack and Todd in the Big Apple!” (BoJack Horseman episode, 2016)
“The Big Apple” (Strut episode, 2016)
Big Apple Ball (Donald Trump Presidential Inauguration, 2017)
Big Apple Mall (Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines, 2018-present)
“The Big Apple Bites” (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode, 2018)
Big Apple of New England (Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center, Lancaster, MA, 2019-present)
“Big Apple” on NPR’s “Ask Me Another” (2020)
Big Apple cannabis (2020)
Big Apple Doughnut (Krispy Kreme donut, 2020)
“Back in the Big Apple” (The Real Housewives of New York City episode, 2021)
“What’s a Met Gala?"/"A type of apple found in New York. Also why it’s called the Big Apple” (2021)
Google censorship of BarryPopik.com, “The Big Apple”
“Big Apple” Cohen-Popik Work on Television (?)
“Big Apple” Fame and Fortune (?)
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple • Monday, July 05, 2004 • Permalink