The Empire State is a nickname for the U.S. state of New York, adopted in the 1800s. It has been incorporated into the names of several state buildings and events.
The source of the nickname is unknown and has puzzled many historians; as American writer Paul Eldridge put it, "Who was the merry wag who crowned the State ... [as the Empire State ]? New York would certainly raise a monument to his memory, but he made his grandiose gesture and vanished forever."
The source of the term "Empire State" has been attributed to the state's wealth and resources, but there is some doubt regarding that. The 1940 Guide to the Empire State states that "it would gratify the people of New York if they could discover who first dared that spacious adjective."
Historian Milton M. Klein proposed that the name may have accompanied the success of the Black Ball Line in 1818 "because of the signal advantage the regularity of shipping gave to New York's merchants over those in other coastal cities." He claims that, by 1820, it was clear that "Empire State" was in wide use, though he is doubtful that a clear origin of the term will ever be determined.
George Washington in a 1785 letter to James Duane, New York City Mayor, called New York "the Seat of the Empire". Washington is said to have used the phrase "Pathway to Empire" when referring to the state in conversation with George Clinton, the New York Governor in the 1790s.
Historian Alexander Flick claimed that the title was used as early as 1819, coinciding with New York surpassing Virginia in population and was "universally acknowledged and accepted" by 1825.