An orator claimed for it the signification of "a city among the hills" while a writer has declared that it was the opposite of "rus in urbe" ("country in the city") and proclaimed it "'the city in the woods".
Since then, the city has known numerous nicknames. Today, The ATL, and The A are the most prevalent.
Contemporary nicknames of Atlanta include, in alphabetical order:
The A: It is used in local media such as Only in the A, a video channel shown on MARTA rapid transit trains in Atlanta and Straight from the A, a popular Atlanta-based blog targeted at African Americans. "The A" or "da A" is also used in hip hop and rap songs such as Ludacris and Lloyd's "How We Do It (in da A)", Lil Scrappy's "The A", and T.I.'s "In da A". Atlanta newspaper Creative Loafing listed as one of its "reasons to love Atlanta" that it's "the only city easily identified by just one letter".
Chicago of the South (1880s–1900s): for Atlanta's "new men, new industries, new buildings, and new spirit" - though it was often remarked that the nickname was not quite accurate in terms of the size of Atlanta vs. the much larger Chicago
The City Too Busy to Hate (during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights struggle)
Convention City of Dixie (Land) (1910s–1920s)
SWATS, The S.W.A.T.S., or S.W.A.T.S. ("Southwest Atlanta, too strong") is, in street, hip-hop, or local contexts, Southwest Atlanta, plus territory extending into the adjacent cities of College Park and East Point. The term "SWATS" came into vogue around 1996, and was initially made popular by LaFace Records artist OutKast and Goodie Mob. This was the same time that "ATL" became popular as a nickname for Atlanta as a whole.
^Sources documented on Barry Popik's Big Apple blog:
5 October 1872, Appletons' Journal of Literature, Science and Art, pg. 376: "Marvellous tales are told of this antique period in the history of the present 'New York of the South,' concerning acres upon acres of land, near the heart of the city, selling for fifty cents per acre, but which now are worth a snug little fortune. Such was Atlanta less than three decades ago."
17 June 1879, Daily Constitution (Atlanta, GA), pg. 4: "...the future New York of the south - as it was predicted at the opening of the Port Royal railroad in 1873."
6 July 1881, The New York Times, pg. 4: "The New-Orleans Democrat says that that city is the New-York of the South, and yet has no public library."
29 January 1884, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 4: "The New York of the South. From the New York Tribune: THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION draws a sad picture of its environment. "Within one hundred yards of the officer," is its plaintive mean, "wagons are literally up to the hub in mud. Part of Ellis street, in a quarter mile of the depot, is literally impassable." Assuming that our contemporary's account of these wagons and this streets is literally correct, it looks as if Atlanta was likely to be known as the New York of the south."
12 November 1891, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 4: "Atlanta is a grand city. It is the New York of the south, and henceforth it can get the finest attractions produced, for its patronage is sufficient to make the very best and most expensive show a financial success."
21 October 1892, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 5: "Work will cease altogether and the New York of the south will pay honor to the brave navigator, who in spite of the hardships he had to endure, pointed out a new land to the ignorant people of the time."
19 January 1895, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 4: "Cedartown Standard: Atlanta aspires to be the New York of the south - in fact, she is, and so it is perfectly natural that she should follow New York in having the big police scandal and investigation that is now on hand