New York's the Big Apple, But Cleveland's a Plum: The Slogan to Take On NYC

Steve DiMatteo

 Cleveland's a Plum Shirt

We all know that New York City is the Big Apple, but did you know Cleveland has its own fruit-based nickname? 

That's right, Cleveland's a plum.

The Origins of the Infamous 'Cleveland's a Plum' Slogan

Back in 1981, the city of Cleveland was still dealing with a less-than-stellar national reputation. It wasn't too long ago that the Cuyahoga River was catching on fire with some regularity and the city was literally the car bomb capital of the world. Oh, and in 1978, Cleveland became the first city since the Great Depression to default on its financial obligations, as it couldn't pay the $15.5 million in short-term loans that was due from local banks.

In other words, the negative press was flowing fast out of Cleveland, and it seemed like the spigot would never shut off. 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer wanted to do something to try and soften the impression of the city around the country, so the phrase - "New York's the Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum" - was born. 

It was a creative attempt to show the city in a different, more positive and light-hearted tone, grabbing a little notoriety by piggybacking off NYC's own well-known slogan.

It depends on who you ask, but this ended up being either a delightful little way to promote the city, or it was just another embarrassing footnote in a period of the city's history that most people would simply care to forget.

However, the slogan did its job of trying to frame Cleveland as a more approachable city, catering the region to a wider audience. Mayor George Voinovich threw out a plum as a first pitch during an Indians-Yankees game to help launch the campaign, and the iconic shirt from this time even found its way to Hollywood in 1983's High School U.S.A.

High School USA Movie Plum Shirt

Cleveland as the Modern-Day Plum

During the city's "Cleveland's a Plum Week" back in 1981, there were T-shirts, 10,000 plum buttons, tote bags, posters, and bumper stickers passed out to residents in a way to help the new slogan catch on. While the shelf life at the time didn't last especially long, it lives on today with magnets, stickers, and more that adorn the refrigerators and walls of Clevelanders.

As Cleveland's reputation has continued to improve in the 21st century, many young Clevelanders have discovered this creative moment in the city's advertising history and embraced it.

The second life of Cleveland as a plum seems like it'll be ripe for quite a while.

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