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 Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 03, 2009
Apple Annie & Apple Mary

“Apple Annie” and “Apple Mary” are names given to women who sell apples. The names are often associated with the 1930s Depression-era apple sellers, but both names were established at much earlier dates.
“Apple Mary” was the most common name and dates to at least the 1870s. There were “Apple Marys” in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis and many other cities. Some “Apple Marys” became quite wealthy, while others died penniless. One Apple Mary on Wall Street in New York City, and another Apple Mary outside the Board of Trade in Chicago, received illegal stock tips from some customers to gain extra money. A newspaper comic called Apple Mary was published from 1934-1939.
“Apple Annie” was used after ‘Apple Mary,” but has become the more popular name. An 1898 newspaper account described the death of an “Apple Annie” who worked at the Cheyenne (WY) railway for 25 years. A 1923 film starred actress Zasu Pitts as “Apple Annie.” Damon Runyon’s short story featuring “Apple Annie,” titled “Madame La Gimp,” was published in the October 1929 Cosmopolitan magazine. The story was filmed in 1933 by Frank Capra as Lady for a Day and was made into the 1961 musical Pocketful of Miracles.
The Free Dictionary
Apple Annie
nickname for women who sold apples on street corners during the Depression. [Am. Culture: Flexner, 11]
Apple Annie
apple seller on street corners during Depression. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 11]
Wikipedia: Damon Runyon
Damon Runyon (October 4, 1880 – December 10, 1946) was a newspaperman and writer.
He was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. To New Yorkers of his generation, a “Damon Runyon character” evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demi-monde. The adjective “Runyonesque” refers to this type of character as well as to the type of situations and dialog that Runyon depicted. He spun humorous tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by “square” names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as “Nathan Detroit,” “Big Jule,” “Harry the Horse,” “Good Time Charley,” “Dave the Dude,” or “The Seldom Seen Kid.” Runyon wrote these stories in a distinctive vernacular style: a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and always devoid of contractions.
Numerous Damon Runyon stories were adapted for the stage and the screen. Some of the best of these include:
. Lady for a Day (1933)—Adapted by Robert Riskin, who suggested the name change from Runyon’s title “Madame La Gimp,” the film garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actress (May Robson), and Best Adaptation for the Screen (Riskin). It was remade as Pocketful of Miracles in 1961, with Bette Davis in the Apple Annie role; Frank Sinatra recorded the upbeat title song (his rendition is not used in the film). The film received Oscar nominations for composers Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and for co-star Peter Falk (Best Supporting Actor). In 1989, Jackie Chan adapted the story yet again for the Hong Kong action film Miracles, adding several of his trademark stunt sequences.
21 September 1877, Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), pg. 3:
“Apple Mary” was a depositor in Sydney Myers’ bank.
26 March 1888, Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), “Mary McGurn’s Mysterious Death,’ pg. 1:
There are juries higher than that summoned by a coroner and courts that are of last resort—these are the press and the people, and both these tribunals feel that the sad death of Apple Mary, involving as it does the reputation and the honor, as well as the life of a woman, should be investigated until the fact is established whether she was murdered or committed suicide.
3 June 1893, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 4:
But “Apple Mary,” who has had an apple-stand in the Court of General Sessions Building, in New York, for twenty years, has just invested her savings in two big tenement houses, which she bought cheap under foreclosure.
29 June 1895, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 4:
“Apple Mary’s” Daughter Graduates.
From the Chicago Chronicle.
Jennie M. Cuneo, youngest daughter of Mrs. Mary Cuneo, has graduated from the seminary of Our Lady of the Angels at Clinton, la., where she was chosen valedictorian of the class of ‘95. She will make her home in Chicago with her mother, who is familiarly known to occupants of downtown office buildings near the city hall as “Apple Mary” and who has for twenty years amade daily visits to tenants with her basket of fruit. The mother is justly proud of her daughter’s achievements.
28 July 1895, Springfield (MA) Republican, pg. 12:
It Has Earned Her a Good Home and Edicated Her Daughter.
The season of graduating classes has just closed, says the Chicago Tribune, but among all the thousands of fond parents and sweet girl graduates perhaps not a happier woman can be found than “Apple Mary.” Every newspaper man in Chicago knows her. For 25 years “Apple Mary” (her name is Mary Cuneo) has braved the weather and climbed long flights of stairs carrying her basket, containing from 60 to 75 pounds of fruit. Graduation week brought to her the realization of what she had patiently labored for for years. Her daughter was graduated from Our Lady of Angels’ seminary at North Clinton, Ia., and she was valedictorian of her class. “Apple Mary,” though Italian by descent, was born in Memphis, Tenn. She has been in Chicago for many years, and was there during the great fire.
28 December 1897, Columbus (OH) Daily Enquirer, “Apple Mary to the Bar,” pg. 6:
Peter the cop was patrolling that part of the Criminal Court building known as “the beach” yesterday afternoon when Mary the apple woman came along with her basket on her arm.
“Apples, sir? Apples?” said Mary.
(...)—New York Sun.
10 November 1898, Idaho Falls (ID) Times, pg. 3:
Mrs. Celia Barratt, aged 92, died at Cheyenne last week. For twenty-five years Mrs. Barratt sold apples at the Cheyenne railway depot to transcontinetal passengers and was known to thousands of western people as “Apple Annie.” She had accumulated a competency in the pioneer period, but lost it all in later years.
29 January 1899, New York (NY) Times, pg. 18:
One of the numerous “Apple Marys” who help to make New York picturesque nearly had a dire experience in one of them. She was not the real, only, and original Apple Mary.
22 September 1899, Fort Worth (TX) Morning Register, “One Thousand Dollars for an Apple,” pg. 7:
St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 17.—If one of the thousand Apple Marys scattered all over the big cities of this land should be told that she could get $1000 for an apple she would probably drop her basket with delight. But it is true—if Mary has the right apple. Minnesota wants that apple and wants it badly. The Horticultural Society of the Flour State will pay a premium of $1000 for an apple which will grow in that clime.
5 May 1900, Pawtucket (RI) Times, pg. 8:
New York, May 6.—Mary Ward, the original “Apple Mary” of this city, has been arrested as a public nuisance. She will not end her days in the almshouse, because she is not a pauper. A bag of money weighing 23 pounds and containing several hundred dollars and a memorandum showing she had thousands of dollars in banks were found on her at the city lodging house. “Apple Mary” will probably be held at the lodging house for a few days until her relatives arrange to take charge of her.
Mary and Kate Ward were girls of 20 and 19 years when they landed in New York nearly a half century ago. They came from Monaghan, Ireland, with recommendations to friends. Mary made a specialty of apples on the advice of “Razor Strop” Smith, who had a stand on the opposite corner where he sold razors and strops, and of Jay Gould and Russell Sage, whose offices were directly across from the stand. Brokers and bankers named the bright faced little Irish woman “Apple Mary.” She made a fortune out of the money she received for her apples. In the panic of ‘73 she lost $40,000. She became a miser, after that kept on speculating on a small scale, and deposited her money in banks. From a tidy good looking woman she degenerated until she became a hag in rags.
23 November 1900, Boston (MA) Journal, Pg. 6:
LEFT $20,000.
New York, Nov. 22—The will of Mary Kiernan, known as “Apple Mary,” was filed for probate today. In the will she calls herself Mrs. Levi P. Morton. The will disposes of about $20,000, all of which goes to Miss Celia Haffner of Brooklyn, a daughter of an old friend of Mary Kiernan.
5 February 1905, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, first section, pg. 7:
Well Known Character Found Destitute With Cat as Companion
Mary Bradley, better known as “Apple Mary,” who was a well known character about town, was yesterday sent to the Almshouse. For years the little old woman—she is 87 years old now—sold fruit and sweetmeats at Tenth and Cherry streets. She was known to everybody in the neighborhood, and pennies were showered upon her with a lavish hand. But adversity has come to her in her declining days.
She was found destitute yesterday by Special Policeman Redding, of the Fifth and Race streets station, in a garret at 117 Cuthbert street. her only companion was a Maltese cat. “Apple Mary” was born in Ireland, but she came to this country nearly half a century ago. During nearly all of that time she has sold fruit and candies on the street in this city.
Google Books
August 1905, Munsey’s Magazine, pg. 546, col. 1:
It had come from Apple Annie, the monopolist whose exclusive privilege it was to sell apples, bananas, and strange confections in cocoanut, peppermint, and sugar throughout the Clarion Building.
1 August 1905, Belleville (IL) News Democrat, pg. 6:
Mary Rossi, “Apple Mary,” as she was familiarly known to members of the St. Louis Merchants’ exchange for the last 30 years, is dead.
20 November 1905, Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times, pg. 1:
YOUNGSTOWN, O., Nov. 20.—After a longcontest Mrs. Mary Morgan, of this city, daughter of “Apple Mary,” who died in Brooklyn leaving $28,000, will get the estate.
The old woman for years had occupied a corner near the Brooklyn bridge and sold apples. No one dreamed she was rich, until after she died. THen an attorney came forward wit ha will bequeathing the money to his daughter. It was found to be spurious. Mrs. Morgan will have to prove that a brother, the only other heir was drowned at Pittsburg several years ago, which she says she will be able to do.
“Apple Mary’s” name was Mrs. Mary Green and she came from Ireland years ago.
Internet Movie Database
Poor Men’s Wives (1923)
Zasu Pitts ...  Apple Annie
Wikipedia: Lady for a Day
Lady for a Day is a 1933 film which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was written by Robert Riskin, based on the Damon Runyon story Madame la Gimp. The film was directed by Frank Capra.
The movie was remade (again directed by Frank Capra) as Pocketful of Miracles in 1961, starring Bette Davis and Glenn Ford.
Apple Annie (May Robson) is a street peddler who had sent away her daughter as a young child to be raised in Europe, letting her believe that Annie was a member of New York high society. Now her grown-up daughter Louise (Jean Parker) is engaged to marry Carlos Romero (Barry Norton), a Spanish aristocrat. They are coming for a visit and Annie must somehow maintain the masquerade or the fiancé‘s father, the Count (Walter Connolly), will not give his blessing to the marriage. Dave the Dude (Warren William), a superstitious gambler who considers her his good luck charm, is talked into providing a luxury apartment, clothes and a husband, ‘Judge’ Henry Blake (Guy Kibbee) (a pool hall hustler), to deceive her guests.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, March 03, 2009 • Permalink

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