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Why New York is called

the Big Apple

New York City has been called many things—“The Great American Melting Pot,” “Gotham,” “The City that Never Sleeps”—but its most famous nickname is “The Big Apple.” But where did this moniker come from?

There have been many ideas about how New York came to be called “The Big Apple.”

But the nickname actually springs from a catchphrase used in the 1920s by New York

Morning Telegraph sports writer John J. Fitz Gerald. He heard it used by

African-American stable hands at the racetrack in New Orleans. They referred to

New York as “the big apple that all horsemen aspired to race at.” At the time, the jockeys and trainers of smaller horses were said to want to make a “Big Apple," their name for the big money prizes at larger races in and around New York City. 

Fitz Gerald liked the phrase so much he titled his racing column

"Around the Big Apple." In the introduction to his column from

the February 18, 1924 issue Fitz Gerald writes: “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.”


In fact, it was the jazz musicians of the late 1920s and early 1930s

who put the phrase into more or less general circulation.

Again “The Big Apple” was used as a metaphor for achieving success. An old saying in show business was "There are many apples on the tree, but only one Big Apple." If a jazzman told you he had a gig in the “Big Apple,” you knew he had an engagement to play in the most coveted venue of all, Manhattan, where the audience was the biggest, hippest, and most appreciative in the country.
A 1971 campaign to attract tourists to the city adopted the


Big Apple as an officially recognized reference to New York City.

Using a red apple as their symbol, they promoted New York as

the Big Apple, and it is now an internationally known nickname.
The corner of West 54th Street and Broadway, where

Fitz Gerald had lived, was officially designated

“Big Apple Corner” in 1997.

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