Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Great White Way n.

[SE great + white way, a street lit with electric lights. The first white way was a stretch of Broadway between 14th Street and 23rd Street, on which electric lights were introduced on 20 December 1880. As used with its qualifying adj., the term was coined by Oscar Gude, a New York advertising man who pioneered the use of electrical advertising, starting with a sign erected over Madison Square in 1892, and began erecting signs in Times Square (then Longacre Square) in 1900. His first use of the term came in 1901. Alternatively, and as claimed by etymologist Barry Popik, it derives f. the title of Albert Bigelow Paine’s novel, The Great White Way (1901), although this story, set in the Antarctic, referred not to light but to snow. The link supposedly came when a reporter, Shep Friedman, viewed mid-town Broadway under a blanket of snow]

(US) Broadway, New York City, esp. its theatrical district around Times Square.

[US]Eve. Telegram (N.Y.) 3 Feb. 6/3–4: [heading] FOUND ON THE GREAT WHITE WAY.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Sept. 43/1: Down the ‘Great White Way,’ which is the New York name for Broadway – though it isn’t as broad as Collins-street, Melbourne – I went, and found it not white, but colored.
[US]O.O. McIntyre Day By Day in New York 30 Mar. [synd. col.] The other day he was swinging along the ‘great white way’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day n.d. [synd. col.] Hailed as a ‘King of Jazz,’ he appears to be more of a silent mourner along the great White Way.
[US]S. Graham N.Y. Nights 13: Broadway is the mother of Broadways all over the world [...] The Great White Way is the greatest white way.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 72: It’s a souvenir of the Great White Way, sister.
[US]A. James America’s Homosexual Underground 113: I decided to hit the Great White Way and see what all the fun was about.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 58: The Great White Way, the most famous of the popular names for Broadway, dates from about 1900.