, pub-0418880821635173, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 World of Proverbs: The Great White Way ~ American Catchphrase [13016]

The Great White Way
~ American Catchphrase [13016]

A well-known commentator recently implied that "The Great White Way" referred to the fact that early Broadway theater productions consisted primarily of white actors and actresses. While it is true that very few minorities were ever cast in major American theater, the term "Great White Way" had to do with street lighting, not racial inequality.

Broadway, the theater district of Manhattan, was one of the first electrically lighted areas in the United States. They used arch lamps, which shone a bright startling white. The term, "Great White Way" was coined by Shep Friedman, columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph in 1901. The term caught on (thus becoming a catch phrase) as it implied both safety and sophistication. It glorified the image of the Manhattan theater district in a way that no advertising campaign ever could.

Later, the bright arc lamps were replaced by softer off-white lighting systems. Bright neon light signs filled the streets giving Broadway, and Times Square every color imaginable. Even with all the changes, the name "Great White Way" is clearly embedded in the American consciousness.

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