The Real Facts Behind The Origin
Of Black Friday
Nowadays, when most of us think about Black Friday, we imagine once-a-year sales, stampedes of frenzied shoppers running through aisles, unbearably long lines and the occasional injury. It's much easier to do your Black Friday shopping online rather than risk running into mayhem at the stores, just as it's much easier to believe Black Friday got its name from the black ink bookkeepers used to differentiate profits from the red ink of losses. Although this explanation makes a lot of sense when we consider the fact that many retailers do a lot of business the day after Thanksgiving, it isn't the complete story behind the name. Get to know a bit more about Black Friday with these facts before filling your cart with cool Christmas gifts for teens.
The term "Black Friday" was originally coined to describe colossal financial crises, including two of the most notable stock-market crashes in 1869 and 1873. Both of these crashes occurred on a Friday. Even though the day of the week changed in the stock-market crashes that followed, such as the crash during the early days of the Great Depression in 1929 that fell on a Tuesday, the "Black" moniker was still utilized. It continued to be used, and is used to this day, to describe similar financial crises, dark days and foreboding predictions around the world. As it happens, this is most likely the reason why the moniker was linked to the world of shopping. That and the Army-Navy football game.
Black ink and profit margins is much easier to explain and digest than the real origin of the term "Black Friday." In reality, Black Friday was an expression commonly used to describe the out-of-control, day-after-Thanksgiving crowds that would swarm into Philadelphia preceding the much-anticipated yearly football matchup between Army and Navy. Fans planning to attend the game typically arrived in the city the day before, often using the free time to do some holiday shopping. Perhaps over time, retailers began to take notice of the football tradition that guaranteed these large suburban crowds on the same day every year. If so, the deals they offered were probably short-lived.
Highly anticipated as the large shopping numbers may have been, it didn't take long for people to realize that there was a downside to drawing such a large crowd. Retailers found themselves trying to fend off shoplifters that took advantage of the swarms of people. Not only were there potential looters lurking in the crowds, the mere presence of so many people in a concentrated area on a single day of the year took its toll on the city's resources and municipal workers. The police force in particular experienced a tough assignment patrolling the crowds and preventing theft.
In The Black
It took a few decades for Black Friday to shed its negative origin, and just as long for retailers to convince the American population with a story that's simpler to accept. It's easier to see why the "in the black" profit story took root. It's much less difficult to explain, makes perfect sense and doesn't bring to mind the fear that Philadelphia residents of the 1950s and '60s knew all too well. Furthermore, once the Black Friday name caught on outside Philadelphia, fewer people had the personal experience or the knowledge of the nightmare Philly residents endured. Fatefully, the craziness of Black Friday crowds in the stores would only increase. In some cases, it's easy to imagine the mayhem caused by the huge crowds in Philadelphia after watching people push and shove through the aisles in retail stores across the country the day after Thanksgiving.