Shoppers get ready – it’s almost the busiest deal-finding day the year: Black Friday.
On Nov. 29, retailers of all stripes offer heavily-discounted sales, with some shops opening up early. While the day is infamous, the origins of its name are less clear.
Many people assume that “Black Friday” comes from retailers making such good sales on the day that they end up “in the black” (as opposed to “in the red”).
In actuality the history is mixed and wholly unpleasant.
The first time Black Friday was used in the press was on Sept. 24, 1869 after the crash of the American gold market. On that day, two Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy as much as they could of the country’s gold in hopes of spiking up the price; consequently the prices crashed, leaving many people bankrupt.
It wasn’t until the 1950s, however, that Black Friday came to be associated with the post-American-Thanksgiving period. Around that time in Philadelphia, large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city to watch the army-navy football game after Thanksgiving, which created chaos, traffic jams and shoplifting opportunities. Consequently, more police officers were put on shift for long hours and used the term “Black Friday” to describe the day.
Retail sales had also been popular at the time because department stores like Macy’s would print ads surrounding their Thanksgiving Day parade.
Supposedly, some retailers tried to add a positive spin to the time frame, trying to call it “Big Friday” instead, but the term never stuck. By the late 1960s Black Friday was published in local magazines and by the 1980s it was used nation-wide.
The trend began to spread internationally, thanks to big influences from online shopping, and is now recognized around the world.