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 January 30, 2008
“The New York Idea”

The New York Idea is the title of a 1906 play by Langdon Mitchell (1862-1935). The comedy about marriage included the line: “Marry for whim! That’s the New York idea of marriage.”

The term “the New York idea” has been used to mean something larger, the idea of New York City itself as a large world capital of ideas and energy. This form of the term pre-dates the 1906 play, and it’s also reflected in the title of former New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo’s book, The New York Idea: An Experiment in Democracy (1994). A 2008 editorial in the New York (NY) Sun further expounded on “the New York idea.”


Wikipedia: The New York Idea
The New York Idea is a 1906 play by American playwright Langdon Mitchell, dealing with the themes of marriage and divorce.

The title is taken from a line in the script, “Marry for whim! That’s the New York idea of marriage.”

12 October 1898, Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE), pg. 8, col. 3:
Finding It Out
[Denver Post.]
Six New Yorkers have started to walk around the world. They are no doubt imbued with the popular New York idea that there isn’t much world outside of New York.

27 August 1904, New York (NY) Times, pg. BR580:
In regard to the editor’s attitude toward new writers, I think there is one thing that counts which I haven’t seen mentioned yet. It is what I call the New York idea. American periodicals gravitate toward New York. Many of most successful originated there; others have moved there, some to shine with renewed lustre, others to be swallowed up. Now New York is a big place, a very big place, and many things are done there, and New Yorkers come to that there isn’t much done anywhere else I do not hesitate lo say that the editors look at literature from a New York point of view. Anything “provincial” makes them shudder. Nevertheless, it would be comforting if they would occasionally remember that there is just a little fringe of territory outside of New York.
(...)
JOHN MERVIN HULL.
Malden, Mass., Aug. 19, 1904.

Internet Broadway Database
The New York Idea
Play, Comedy
Description: A play in four acts
Setting: New York
Written by Langdon Mitchell.
# Opening & Closing Dates Type & Version Theatre
#1 Nov 19, 1906 - Jan 1907 Play / Original Lyric Theatre, NY, USA
#2 Sep 28, 1915 - Closing date unknown Play / Revival Playhouse Theatre, NY, USA
#3 Mar 22, 1933 - Mar 1933 Play / Revival Heckscher Theatre, NY, USA

(OCLC WorldCat record)
Title: The New York idea :
a comedy in four acts /
Author(s): Mitchell, Langdon Elwyn, 1862-1935. 
Publication: Boston : W.H. Baker & Co.,
Year: 1908
Description: xii, 175 p. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Standard No: LCCN: 08-28951
Note(s): Includes copy of the program of the first production in Lyric Theatre, under the direction of Harrison Grey Fiske (p. vii-viii)

Internet Movie Database
The New York Idea (1920)
Director: Herbert Blaché
Writers: Langdon Mitchell (play) Mary Murillo (writer)
Release Date: 27 November 1920 (USA) more
Genre: Comedy
Plot Keywords:
Divorce / Based On Play

(OCLC WorldCat record)
Title: The New York idea :
an experiment in democracy /
Author(s): Cuomo, Mario Matthew. 
Publication: New York : Crown Publishers,
Edition: 1st ed.
Year: 1994
Description: xvi, 286 p. : ill., col. map ; 24 cm.

New York (NY) Sun
The New York Idea
New York Sun Editorial
January 30, 2008
(...)
The New York idea is about dynamism, open-ness, and the logic of capitalism and freedom. It comprehends that immigration makes America better. New York is, after all, the city that hosts the Statue of Liberty, a city that welcomed immigrants for years through Ellis Island and welcomes them today at John F. Kennedy International airport. New Yorkers understand that the virtues of immigration don’t depend on the paperwork but the value of human capital. We don’t mind saying that we wish both Messrs. Romney and Giuliani had pressed that point; it would have helped them.

The idea of New York encompasses, or even prizes, the success of capitalism. Our city is the capital of the financial industry, home to Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, the New York Stock Exchange, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase, not to mention KKR and Blackstone and — well, the list goes on. The point to mark about it is that it is a list of engines of prosperity. It is not a list of the upper class, the rich versus the poor. New York stands for the idea that the poor can become rich and that if the rich don’t act wisely, they can become poor. New York is not immune to the nobler elements of the social idea, but it is an idea that human capital mixed with financial capital and freedom and the rule of law can create wealth.

It turns out that the New York idea includes the notion that partisan divides are not unconquerable. This is a city that while overwhelmingly Democratic in voter registration, has elected Republican mayors in the past four mayoral elections. It is a port city that understands trade. And it is a city of policy innovation, one that pioneered in reducing crime and welfare dependency, an example for American cities and for the country as a whole.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Wednesday, January 30, 2008 • Permalink