“Big Stem” is a nickname of Broadway, in Manhattan’s theater district. It’s a combination of “main stem” and “big” (as in “Big Apple,” “big street” and “big time”). “Big Stem” was most popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but has been rarely used after the 1950s.
“Big main stem” was printed in the Daily Utah State Journal (Ogden, UT) on January 17, 1907. “Big Stem” was printed in the New-York (NY) Tribune on December 15, 1912. “Big Stem” was printed in Variety on July 15, 1921. “Big stem” was printed in the Daily News (New York, NY) on July 24, 1925. “Big Stem” was printed in the Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel on January 10, 1927. “WALTER WINCHELL’S BIG MUSICAL DRAMA OF THE BIG STEM ‘BROADWAY THRU A KEYHOLE’” was printed in the Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press on November 10, 1933.
Wikipedia: Broadway (Manhattan)
Broadway (/?br??dwe?/) is a road in the U.S. state of New York. Broadway runs from State Street at Bowling Green for 13 mi (21 km) through the borough of Manhattan and 2 mi (3.2 km) through the Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 18 mi (29 km) through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, and Tarrytown, and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.
Broadway in Manhattan is known widely as the heart of the American commercial theatrical industry, and is used as a metonym for it, as well as in the names of alternative theatrical ventures such as Off-Broadway and Off-off-Broadway.
17 January 1907, Daily Utah State Journal (Ogden, UT), “What Will Corbett Do?,” pg. 6, col. 2:
“What I want to do most now is to get a look at dear old Broadway, because if I go west it will be a long time before I get a chance to see the big main stem again.”
(Spoken by American boxer James Corbett.—ed.)
15 December 1912, New-York (NY) Tribune, pg. II, pg. 3, col. 1:
HOBO ARMY DESCENDS ON NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS BEGGING
James Forbes, Director of the Anti-Mendicancy Forces, Has
Extensive Plans for the Repelling and Reforming of
the Invaders—He Outlines Here Some of His
Schemes, Which May Not Please the
Panhandlers Now on Their Way
to the “Big Stem” by Way
of the “Poultice Belt.”
18 January 1921, The Daily Herald (Vicksburg, MS), pg. 6, col. 5:
The advance man said that the Marcus Show was being prepped for Broadway, that the lack of a home on the big stem prevented its being there now.
Lantern (Media History Digital Library)
15 July 1921, Variety (New York, NY), “Broadway Story,” pg. 19, col. 5:
“Up In The Clouds” looks good until Labor Day, when it is announced it will open on the “Big Stem.”
24 July 1925, Daily News (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 1:
BLIND GEORGE HAS
NEW JOB—WITH NO
STRAIN ON HIS EYES
Along Broadway they call him Blind George. (...) Most of his gains are dropped in a battered tin cup by sympathetic people unacquainted with the big stem.
10 January 1927, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, “Broken Threads,” pg. 4, col. 2:
“You see, I haven’t got a card yet in the Panhandlers’ union so they won’t let me work on the Big Stem.”
30 March 1930, Fresno (CA) Bee, pg. 3-A, col. 6:
Big Stem; Started
Many to Fame
NEW YORK, March 29.—(U.P.)—Burlesque has left Broadway!
The big stem, now more interested in talking pictures, aviation, musical comedies and household drama, will see the passing of the last stronghold of burlesque when the Columbia Theater, in Times Square, closes its doors after twenty years of refreshing the tired business man.
10 November 1933, Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, pg. 4, col. 5 ad:
BIG MUSICAL DRAMA OF THE BIG STEM
“BROADWAY THRU A KEYHOLE”
28 September 1934, Lincoln (NE) Star, pg. 12, col. 4:
PLENTY TO BET
Lively Business These
Days on New York’s
By PAT ROBINSON
29 May 1943, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “Around Town With Ivan Paul,” pg. 15, col. 5:
Resuming our narrative about Broadway, the Big Stem That Never Unwinds…the Roaring Forties…and the Great White Way…
6 November 1946, The Daily Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), pg. 3, col. 1:
The Big Stem
The Broadway Lights
5 April 1954, The Daily Reporter (Dover, OH), pg. 6, col. 6:
KILGALLEN’S VOICE OF BROADWAY
Big Stem Grapevine
22 December 1985, Sunday Herald-Times (Bedford, IN), “Financial, creative problems plague the future of theater on Broadway” (UPI), pg. C10, col. 3:
Susan L. Schulman, a longtime Broadway press agent forced out of the business by the shortage of theaters and shows, blames unions for many of the big stem’s problems.
August 29, 2016
Hughie glossary: (Referring to the slang in Eugene O’Neill’s play, Hughie.—ed.)
noun, American slang.
1. Broadway, New York City
“What’s new along the Big Stem?”
#hughie #imagotheatre #eugeneoneill #lifeisaconfidencegame