It happened as a result of the search for the origins of the nickname for NYC as the Big Apple. According to the New York Historical Society the bulk of this research was undertaken by Gerald L. Cohen and Barry Popik and is documented in Gerald Leonard Cohen, Origin of New York City's Nickname 'The Big Apple'; "Update No. 1 on The Big Apple," in Studies in Slang, Part III,; "Update No. 2 on The Big Apple," in Studies in Slang, Part IV, Forum Anglicum, Bd. 19, 20, 21 (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1991, 1993, 1995). Popik's efforts resulted in the 1997 city ordinance designating the southwest corner of West 54th Street and Broadway as Big Apple Corner. It marks where John J. Fitz Gerald lived from 1934 to 1963.
Why John J. Pitz Gerald? Again, according to the New York Historical Society stable-hands working the horseracing tracks in New Orleans were overheard by New York racing writer John J. Fitz Gerald in January 1920 saying they were heading for "The Big Apple." Their reference was to the big New York tracks where big purses could be won. The term impressed Fitz Gerald enough that he used it repeatedly in his column in the New York Morning Telegraph, the premier racing forum of its day. "The Big Apple," he wrote in 1924, "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." Fitz Gerald would intermittently call his columns "Around The Big Apple" and "On The Big Apple.
The New York Historical Society is a wonderful resource for information on NYC, and a source of fascinating programs. Learn more about them at: NYHistory.org
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