If you're thinking of planning a weekend getaway to Gotham City to tour the Wayne Enterprise facilitates, you're out of luck. Unfortunately, though Fox's new hit show Gotham wants us to believe otherwise, it's not a real place. It might live on in countless comics — and our imaginations — but you can't exactly find it on any map of the United States. However, this doesn't mean that there isn't an incredibly rich, detailed history for this imaginary place. By all means, it's actually the opposite. Honestly, I probably know more about the history of Gotham and what it's based on than I do my own city, Boston (sorry, all my US History teachers, grades 4-8).
In a 1995 New York Times article (about New Jersey, strangely enough), William Safire described Gotham City as, "New York -- particularly New York below 14th Street, from SoHo to Greenwich Village, the Bowery, Little Italy, Chinatown and the sinister areas around the base of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges."
Generally, that's the most widely accepted location for Gotham City. It's just New York, but a much darker, seedier New York. In The Steranko History of Comics, as quoted by The Huffington Post, writer Bill Finger said, "We didn't call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it." However, Buzzfeed pointed out that based on 1990's The Atlas of the DC Universe, Gotham City should be in New Jersey, though that is still debated. Over the years lots of different writers have written Batman comics, and sometimes they didn't coordinate their Gotham locations very well. So Gotham is everywhere, and nowhere at the same time. Plus, this summer San Francisco was turned into Gotham for Batkid, so really I think it's a city that comes whenever we need it, kinda like Batman himself.
An article from the New York Public Library breaks down the name Gotham, since it isn't original to Batman — surprising, right? For most of my life I've just assumed New York City took the name Gotham from the comics, so yes, I did learn something new today. In The Steranko History of Comics, Finger also said that he found the name "Gotham Jewelers" in a phone book, and liked it so much he used it. The New York Public Library's article says that the name Gotham dates back to 1807, when Washington Irving used it as a nickname for New York City (Irving is the guy you can thank for Sleepy Hollow). And before that, the term was used in England in the 1600s and means "goat town." Irving first used the term in a comical tone, but it has stuck ever since then.
Whatever it really means, and wherever the name actually came from, Batman's Gotham has always been controlled by the Waynes in one way or another. The Waynes first came to the city during the Revolutionary War. Darius Wayne (Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather of Bruce) fought so well for the Americans against the British, that he was awarded a plot of land, which is now where Wayne Manor sits. There's also Solomon Wayne (Great-great-great-grandfather of Bruce), who oversaw many of the initial architecture for early Gotham. Alan Wayne (Great-great grandfather of Bruce) first established Wayne Shipping and Wayne Chemical, the earlier parts of Wayne Enterprises.
Lots of heroes have actually called Gotham home, not just Batman. Green Lantern lived there for a while, so did Black Canary and the Huntress, who you might recognize from Arrow. Don't get too excited about any sort of Gotham/Starling (or, Star) City crossovers, though. While Gotham has always been around the New York/New Jersey area, Star City has been portrayed as near Salt Lake City, Boston, and currently, San Francisco. It makes it kind of hard to do crossovers between the series, if we can't even find their imaginary locations on a map.
Images: Jessica Miglio/Fox; Giphy