How Friday Turned Black

Keota – For many folks, the day after Thanksgiving, now commonly known as “Black Friday,” has become a holiday of its own. Even those who aren’t necessarily Holiday shoppers find it difficult to resist the deals and specials offered on this merchant day of madness. A popular shopping day for many decades now, the occasion has expanded in recent years into multiple days to include both Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, not to mention those few stores that open later in the day on Thanksgiving Day as well. For some this means a four-day shopping spree well planned for and anticipated the entire year.


            The term “Black Friday” has not always brought visions of shopping frenzy or Holiday spirit. In fact, the first use of the term was in association with the Stock Market crash of Friday, September 24, 1869. According to, this crash was influenced by the sudden drop in the price of gold brought about by the actions of two “notoriously ruthless” Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk and the involvement of President Ulysses S. Grant.

            “The country was reeling from a huge federal debt after the American Civil War. With this, millions of “greenbacks,” which were issued by the United States during the Civil War, no longer had value. Grant worked to change this. The U.S. economy started to decline against gold after millions of "greenbacks" were nonredeemable after the war. Gold then became a premium. Grant focused on healing the economy by reducing the notes and replaced them with gold currency backed by the nation. Meanwhile, both Jay Gould and Jim Fisk worked to cheat Wall Street investors and cornered the gold market…. by building a network of people working in the White House and in Wall Street, and even involved Grant’s brother-in-law. The duo started to buy as much gold as they could and the price of gold skyrocketed. When Grant realized what was going on, he ordered the Treasury to flood the market and then sell the $4 million in gold the following day. Once the government gold did hit the market, the prices dropped, and so did the economy,” writes Gatti.

            In the 1950s, the term “Black Friday” moved into its current spot on the calendar, but it had less to do with Christmas, and more to do with football back then. Also, rather than being a nationwide phenomena, it was localized in the Philadelphia area. reports that this term was given to the day by the Philadelphia police force because of the extra crowds, traffic, and hours this day required.

            “Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year,” writes Pruitt.

            Retailers in Philadelphia tried to spin the name into “Big Friday” during the 1960’s but were only mildly successful at changing the negative feel of the day. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that retailers came together nationwide behind the Holiday shopping concept behind “Black Friday,” using the analogy of stores moving from “in the red” to “in the black” as the reason for the name.

            Often retailers will use “Black Friday” as a day to market certain products, or to create hype for their products. One of the most memorable Black Friday frenzies happened in 1983 with the release of a shipment of Cabbage Patch Kids.


For the rest of this story, check out the November 28th issue of the Keota Eagle.