It seems that since before Halloween there is one theme that we haven’t been able to escape. You hear about it on the radio, you see commercials for it on television, the web, Facebook, and even Twitter. I remember back in the “old days” when we never heard the term mentioned. We wouldn’t have known what it was even if we were told about it. The inescapable term I am referring to is “Black Friday.”
The commercials for “Black Friday” sales started before November even began. For a sale named after one single day it is irritating to have it stretched out for the whole month of November right up to the big push for Christmas shopping sales. I have always wondered when it started and whether it meant the same thing it represents today.
My first search went to the old standby Wikipedia and here is the explanation they published: “For centuries, the adjective ‘black’ has been applied to days upon which calamities occurred. Many events have been described as ‘Black Friday,” although the most significant such event in American History was the Panic of 1869, which occurred when financiers Jay Gould and James Fisk took advantage with their connections with the Grant Administration in an attempt to corner the gold market. When President Grant learned of this manipulation, he ordered the Treasury to release a large supply of gold, which halted the run and caused prices to dropped eighteen percent. Fortunes were made and lost in a single day, and the President’s own brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, was ruined.” The stock market crashed as a result and stock prices fell a devastating twenty percent.
Believe it or not, it was Abraham Lincoln who designated Thanksgiving Day as a US holiday. He picked the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. According to theballance.com “In 1939, during the Great Depression, Thanksgiving happened to fall during the fifth week of November. Retailers warned that they go bankrupt because the holiday shopping season was too short. They petitioned President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the Thanksgiving Holiday up to the fourth Thursday.” As it turned out, the change was made too late for that year which seriously hurt sales. Again quoting theballance.com “Unfortunately, by this time it was late October. Most people had already made their plans. Some were so upset that they called the holiday ‘Franksgiving’ instead. Only 32 states followed FDR’s move. It took until 1941 for congress to pass the law making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November no matter what.”
It seems that many people in the 1950s took advantage of the Thursday holiday by calling in sick Friday so they could have the long 4-day weekend. Many businesses gave employees the Friday off knowing there would be serious absenteeism if they were told to work. But how did “Black Friday” become the day after Thanksgiving? Back to theballance.com for this “In 1966, the Black Friday name became famous in print. That’s when a story appeared in an ad in the American Philatelist, a stamp collectors’ magazine. The Philadelphia Police Department used the name to describe the traffic jams and crowding in the downtown stores.
There is one more explanation given for calling it Black Friday and that is from the economics of a business. Businesses are often in the red (not making a profit) until the Friday after Thanksgiving when shoppers spend much more money than at any other time of the year. It does not matter how it came about. All that matters to the business is that people spend enough money and all that matters to the customers is that the feel the got a good deal for their money. I’m not even going to discuss “Cyber Monday” because it usually lasts only a week. Happy shopping!
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