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.

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Entry from September 16, 2016
Aristocrat of Harlem (Cotton Club nickname)

The Cotton Club (located in Harlem at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue from 1923 to 1935, then midtown at Broadway and 48th Street from 1936 to 1940) was called the “Aristocrat of Harlem.” Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1901-1960) is usually credited for the nickname, but a 1932 newspaper cited a different quote:

“‘I shall tell all my friends in London that the Cotton Club is the finest cafe in New York’—Lady Mountbatten.”

“Reverting to Type” by Art Arthur in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on February 7, 1934 explained:

“It was (Lee—ed.) Posner who named the Cotton Club ‘the Aristocrat of Harlem,’ then credited it to Lady Mountbatten.”

Lee Posner helped popularize Harlem in the 1920s with his ‘Harlemania” nightlife column in the New York (NY) Morning Telegraph. “The aristocrat of all Harlem emporia is the Cotton Club (Lenox and 142d st.)” was cited in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on March 12, 1929, in a column that was assisted by Posner. It is likely that Lee Posner—not Lady Mountbatten—coined the “Aristocrat of Harlem” nickname for the Cotton Club.

Barney Gallant’s/Club Gallant in Greenwich Village was dubbed the “Aristocrat of the Village” during the same period.


Wikipedia: Cotton Club
The Cotton Club was a New York City night club located first in the Harlem neighborhood on 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue from 1923 to 1935 and then for a brief period from 1936 to 1940 in the midtown Theater District. The club operated most notably during America’s Prohibition Era.

The club was a whites-only establishment even though it featured many of the most popular black entertainers of the era, including musicians Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Fats Waller, vocalists Adelaide Hall, Ethel Waters, Avon Long, the Dandridge Sisters, the Will Vodery Choir, Berry Brothers, Nina Mae McKinney, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and dancers Bill Robinson, The Nicholas Brothers, Stepin Fetchit, and Earl Snakehips Tucker.

Wikipedia: Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma
Edwina Cynthia Annette Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, GBE, DCVO, GCStJ, CI (née Ashley; 28 November 1901 – 21 February 1960) was an English heiress, socialite, relief-worker, wife of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and last Vicereine of India.

12 March 1929, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Reverting to Type” by Rian James, pg. 14A, col. 1:
HARLEMANIA
With much gratitude and gobs and gobs of acknowledgement to Leon Posner, press agent who speaks seven languages; who is nicknamed the “Fred Beauvais” of Harlem; who knows his Roto Belt like Mr. Christopher Morley knows Hoboken; who is willing to take you places and show you things; who smokes cigars that only an employee of an incinerating plant could bear up under, and who once conducted a column called “Harlemania” for the Morning Telegraph before that paper had its face lifted.
(...)
The aristocrat of all Harlem emporia is the Cotton Club (Lenox and 142d st.).

28 January 1931, Variety, pg. 83 ad (full page):
DUKE ELLINGTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
(...)
CONCLUDING 3-YEAR ENGAGEMENT AT COTTON CLUB, NEW YORK, TO CONTINUOUS SENSATIONAL, NIGHTLY TURN-AWAY OF CROWDS AT THE “ARISTOCRAT OF HARLEM” NIGHT CLUBS

1 April 1931, Variety, pg. 32 ad (full page):
Cab Calloway Is Also Appearing Nightly at the
COTTON CLUB
(THE ARISTOCRAT OF HARLEM)

OCLC WorldCat record
The famous Cotton Club : the aristocrat of Harlem, 142nd Street & Lenox Ave ...
Author: Dan Healy; Harold Arlen; Ted Koehler; Elida Webb; Cotton Club.
Publisher: [New York] : [publisher not identified], [approximately April, 1932]
Edition/Format: Print book : English

26 November 1932, Pittsburgh (PA) Courier, “The Harlem Limited-Broadway Bound” by Floyd G. Snelson, pg. 11, col. 1:
New York’s Famous Cotton Club
(The Aristocrat of Nite Life)

(...)
“The most sophisticated club in New York”—Maurice Chevalier (...) “I shall tell all my friends in London that the Cotton Club is the finest cafe in New York”—Lady Mountbatten.

Online Library
Dining in New York
By Rian James
New York, NY: John Day Co.
1934 (first edition 1931)
Pg. 228:
THE COTTON CLUB . . . 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue
Veritably, the aristocrat of Harlem. Here, you’ll find an all-colored floor show (generally staged by Broadway’s Danny Healy) of positively Ziegfeldian proportions; an all-white clientele which generally includes some of the best-known names on Broadway, and extraordinarily good food. The Cotton
Pg. 229:
Club is open after 10 P. M. The first show goes on at 12.30 A. M. The second show, at 2 A. M. Cover charge nightly: $2.00. Saturdays and Sundays: $2.50.

7 February 1934, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Reverting to Type” by Art Arthur, pg. 25, cols. 1-2:
Meet Lee (Harlemania) Posner.
(...)
ANd Lee Posner is partly responsible. In fact, in 1929 he was elected honorary “Mayor of Harlem.”
(...)
It was Posner who named the Cotton Club “the Aristocrat of Harlem,” then credited it to Lady Mountbatten.

2 October 1936, Riverside (CA) Daily Press, “As Seen in New York” by George Ross, pg. 14, col. 6:
NEW YORK, Oct. 2.—This season Harlem is taking things into its own hands. Since Broadway won’t come up to the sepia be;t, Harlem is moving down. Already preceded in the downtown trek by a number of lesser late spots—Lenox avenue’s aristocrat, the Cotton club, is forsaking its familiar locale for that of Broadway and Forty-Eighth street.

Google Books
Of Minnie the Moocher & Me
By Cab Calloway and Bryant Rollins
New York, NY: Crowell
1976
Pg. 90:
Lady Mountbatten visited the Cotton Club one night and nicknamed it “The Aristocrat of Harlem,” a name that has stuck with it since.

Of course, ordinary folks in Harlem never did get to see the inside of the Cotton Club or the famous Cotton Club revues.

OCLC WorldCat record
A Cotton Club miscellany
Author: Steven Lasker
Publisher: [Venice, Calif.?] : [publisher not identified], ©2002.
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Other Titles: Famous Cotton Club, the aristocrat of Harlem

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Friday, September 16, 2016 • Permalink