By now, most people are familiar with the term Black Friday. It’s by far the biggest shopping day of the year and a day that brings some controversy with it too, due to the often incidents, notoriously aggressive crowds, but also season’s biggest sales and discounts.
When did the term Black Friday first appeared?
The first time the term was used had nothing to do with crazy shopping discounts, but a big financial crisis that occurred on September24, 1869. In an attempt to buy as much nation’s gold as possible and drive up the price, selling it for sky-high profits later, two Wall Street financiers, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould caused a massive financial crisis, bankrupting everyone from Wall Street to farmers and sending the stock market in free-fall. The crisis happened once their plan was revealed. It was Friday.
A common version of the story that ties the term to shopping says that the origin has to do with the way retailers kept their books in the past. They were marking the loss as red and profits as black. The day after Thanksgiving is when their profits usually went to black as many people gravitated to shop on that particular day.
There is also a rather grim version that ties the origin to slavery. Allegedly in the 1800’s the plantation owners could buy slaves at a discount the day after Thanksgiving. Although it justifiable caused anger among people, this version is believed to be just a myth as there are no hard evidence to support it.
The real history goes like this. In the 1950’s Philadelphia police started using the term to describe the chaos that was happening the day after Thanksgiving due to hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists swarming the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game which was being held on that Saturday every year.
Police officers had to work weekends and due to the crowded stores, theft was common, which gave further headache to the police.
By early 1960’s the term has caught on and became accepted. Merchants tried changing the name to “Big Friday” trying to wash out the negative connotation. The term remained localized to Philadelphia for years though. Until the late 1980’s at least, when retailers managed to reinvent the Black Friday and turn it into something that had a positive connotation among the customers. That’s where the earlier story with the red to black came up and it marked the day when most American stores turned profit.
The new story stuck and the original, darker story from Philadelphia was mostly forgotten. Black Friday has grown ever since, eventually spreading to four days, including Small business Saturday/Sunday and Cyber Monday. Each year it seems the retailers offer their discounts earlier and earlier trying to edge out the competition.
National Retail Federation conducted a survey which shows that a staggering number of 135.8 million United States citizens plans to do some shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday has definitely become the biggest shopping day of the year.