Apples don't grow in New York City, so that's not why it is called the Big Apple. There are many legends about how the city that never sleeps got its name. One story says that a famous brothel owner named Eve gave the city its name. Another version of history claims the name has its roots in show business with performers calling New York the "Big Apple" since it was the best place to get noticed. There is one legend that says the city got its name because of the large number of unemployed selling apples on the streets of New York City during the Great Depression.
The term more likely has its roots in horse racing from the 1920's. Prizes were called "apples" and a newspaper reporter when writing about races often would call the big prize the big apple. In fact, the "big apple" soon was used to mean any big city. In the late 1920s through the 1940s, "The Big Apple" was not just a nickname for New York, it was also the name of a song, a dance, and a place to dance and sing. New York City was the heart of the jazz music scene in the 1930's and 1940s. In Harlem, uptown Manhattan, there was a club called "The Big Apple". There was also a 1938 short film of the same name featuring black jazz musicians and dancers.
In the 1970s, the city tourism agency began using the term the "Big Apple" on purpose. There is even a street corner in Manhattan called "Big Apple Corner". One New York City baseball team, the New York Mets, have a big red apple that pops out whenever the Mets hit a home run in their stadium Citifield. While the origins of the "Big Apple" nickname are unclear, it seems to be here to stay.