You may know all about Black Friday, but here’s the challenge. Ask anyone born after 1990 if they know the origin of the term “Black Friday”.
Chances are none of them will have a clue, other than it's a Friday for special sales. Not even as the day after Thanksgiving or Holiday Sales, since many retailers now advertise Black Friday sales throughout the year.
WILL THE REAL BLACK FRIDAY STAND UP?
The first use of the term came about in relation to a specific financial crisis in the United State: the collapse of the Gold Market on September 24, 1869.
This collapse occurred when two stock brokers, Jay Gould and Jim Frisk ‒ who had already engaged in stock fraud and bribery ‒ collaborated in a scheme to cheat Wall Street investors by manipulating the Gold Market. The subsequent crash was called “Black Friday” by the financial world, the press, and those who lost money. Note: a good description of the event can be found by clicking here.
Image credit:. Library of Congress
Image Source: pbs.org/wgbh/black-friday/
Any number of stories exist about the rebirth of the “Black Friday” phenomenon we experience today, and each year I find a new version.
Some believe the term found new life in the 1950’s when factory managers referred to the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday" because so many workers called in sick.
However, the most direct trail leads back to the Philadelphia Police Department in 1966 when the police began using the term to mean the day after Thanksgiving, the official opening of the Christmas shopping season, which brought massive traffic jams, over-crowded sidewalks, a rash of shoplifting, and general chaos. In addition, the annual Army-Navy football game was played on the last weekend of November and brought its own crowd, traffic, and problems.
Image Source: usupdates.com/black-friday-history Image Source: philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/police
AMERICAN INGENUITY SAVES THE ECONOMY
Popularity and common usage grew, and by the 1970s and 80s retailers throughout the US aborted the dreaded name and complained about the negative connotations. I doubt that at that point the general public even remembered the tie to financial disaster, but apparently the merchants had not.
The internet and the 2020 pandemic can be thanked for the expansion of Black Friday Christmas sales morphing into year-round sales events and on-line purchasing, primarily to keep businesses alive during the shut-down. It certainly eased the stress a little by being able to purchase “without contact”. During the five-day Thanksgiving weekend of 2020, shoppers still spent an average of $311.75 on holiday purchases, only 1.7% down from 2019. blackfriday.com/news/black-friday-history
The other result was the almost sudden expansion of the phenomenon throughout the world. Of course, global expansion had been happening slowing with the accessibility of internet purchasing but the COVID virus gave it a kick in the butt… so to speak.
Now there are at least 195 countries which have a “Black Friday” which features pre-holiday or other sales (since some of these countries are not Christian, such as Saudi Arabia).
But alas, most of the 195 countries do not celebrate Thanksgiving, and for them there is no day after Thanksgiving. There is, however, a fourth Friday in November, which many countries have adopted as the day to begin the holiday sales. In some places, Black Friday falls on other dates.
Of course, it is not an official holiday anywhere and in most of these countries no one gets a day off as many do in the US, which was one of the main reasons for Americans to begin their holiday shopping. Note: I presume the photos below were all taken prior to 2020.
Image Source: mirror.co.uk/news/black-friday-2014 Image Source: youtube.com/watch?v=_2LDvAJi7dI
Image Credit: gettyimages.com.au/aeon-news-photo Image Credit: gettyimages.com.au/aeon-news-photo
I find it interesting that changes in society take place so slowly or so subtly that no one seems to have the foresight to see or think about what direction trends are going. No one is recording anything much in the way of history. So much change occurs that isn’t big or political, yet any history we have appears to be created after the fact. That results in so many unknowns about where things originated and how the evolution occurred.
Perhaps in this “ME” era when everyone has the internet to express their opinions and observations to a large audience (whether or not the audience wants to hear it), and want to talk about everything including their sex life and the color of their underwear, our historical information will be more accurate… or maybe not!
I guess I’m being unrealistic. Anyone can write anything on the internet, whether or not it’s correct or corroborated and can do it anonymously. No one ever checks, and everyone seems to believe anything on the internet.