The time of bobbing for them may be over but, aside from pumpkins, autumn is truly the domain of the apple. Among fruits, the apple has indeed achieved superstar fame (think Adam & Eve or Snow White), no doubt helped along by its long association with the sometimes tart, sometimes sweet city know as New York.
But just how did New York come to be known as The Big Apple?
The answer, appropriately enough, seems to be entangled with horses (who love apples, ya know?). Apparently, in the early 1920s, New York had at least four major horse racing tracks within its environs, making it a mecca for the sport and those who liked to wager on it. It also had three racing journals covering the sport and, at one of them (The New York Morning Telegraph), a writer named John J. Fitzgerald entitled his regular column, “Around The Big Apple.” He claims to have heard the term from stable boys working on the racing circuit who saw New York as being so juicy with opportunity that they called it The Big Apple.
The term stuck–at least for awhile–lending its name to a 1930s Harlem nightclub, a short 1938 film, and a jitterbug style dance. It was particularly embraced by jazz musicians, with Fletcher Henderson often getting most of the credit for spreading the term around–although in a late ‘30s book, Cab Calloway referred to New York as The Big Apple and it’s “main stem” as Harlem.
The term had pretty much faded from use by the 1970s until a man named Charles Gillett–the head of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau–decided to use the vibrant, colorful and healthy image of an apple to revive New York’s appeal in the eyes of tourists. Since then, the graphic of a big red fruit has meant a lot of green for the city!