Called the Big Apple, New York City is the country’s largest city. New York harbor is one of the busiest harbors in the U.S. and the city is a center of finance, banking, and trade.
New York City has long been known as the gateway for immigrants, and is a melting pot of cultures and people. Beyond New York City, the northern part of the state is known for agriculture, industry, and education.
- Long before Europeans arrived, New York was home to the powerful Iroquois Indians. English explorer Henry Hudson visited the area in 1609 and the Hudson River is named after him.
- In 1624, the Dutch founded the New Netherland colony; England reclaimed the land in 1664, renaming it New York after England’s Duke of York.
- Sleepy Hollow, New York is a place that really exists. On Halloween, a headless horseman still rides through the town, reenacting the Washington Irving’s classic tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- Western New York is edged by Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Erie Canal, built in the 1920s, linked the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, making it easier to get to the Midwest.
- During the 1800s, millions of immigrants poured into New York City from Ireland, England, Italy, and other parts of Europe. These people often lived in cramped, unsanitary tenement buildings. After the Civil War, African Americans came to New York; During the 20th century, immigrants from Central and South America and many other parts of the world arrived.
- New York City is divided into boroughs—or smaller areas.
- Tourists flock to New York City every year to see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France and a symbol of freedom. Tourists enjoy visiting restaurants and the theater.
- New York City has 722 miles of subway tracks.
New York Quick Stats
State Capital: Albany (population 97,856)
Largest City: New York City (population 8,175,133)
Largest Metro: Greater New York
State Bird: eastern bluebird
State Flower: rose
Admission to Union: July 26, 1788
Questions and Answers
Question: Why is New York City called the Big Apple?
Answer: During the 1920s, horse racing was big business in New York and apples were one of the prizes. Sports writer John Fitz Gerald overheard jockeys calling the city, “The Big Apple.” He used the term in a newspaper article and it gained popularity for a while. It was recycled in a 1970s tourism ad campaign and stuck.
Watch a Smithsonian video about the history of New York.