What’s the Origin of the Term Black Friday?

The day after Thanksgiving, widely known as Black Friday, has evolved into one of the busiest shopping days in the United States. National chain stores typically present exclusive money-saving offers on a diverse range of products, aiming to attract shoppers both in-store and through online platforms.

What's the Origin of the Term Black Friday?
What’s the Origin of the Term Black Friday?

What’s the Origin of the Term Black Friday?

Many people think Black Friday comes from the idea that businesses operate at a financial loss, or are “in the red,” until the day after Thanksgiving. On this day, massive sales supposedly help them turn a profit, or put them “in the black.” However, this belief is incorrect.

Evolution of Black Friday

In the early 1960s, police officers in Philadelphia coined the term “Black Friday” to depict the chaos caused by suburban tourists flooding the city for holiday shopping and, in some years, the Saturday Army-Navy football game. The police faced longer shifts, managing issues like traffic jams, accidents, and shoplifting due to the massive crowds.

In a few years, Philadelphia embraced the term Black Friday. City merchants tried to improve the day’s image by calling it “Big Friday.”

The term “Black Friday” didn’t become a national symbol for increased retail sales until the late 1980s. Merchants began promoting the narrative of shifting from red to black profits on this day, presenting Black Friday as the moment stores started making a profit for the year and as the biggest shopping day in the United States. However, the reality was that most stores experienced their highest sales on the Saturday before Christmas.

In recent years, Black Friday has been succeeded by other shopping holidays. Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to visit local retailers, while Cyber Monday promotes online shopping. Giving Tuesday has also emerged to encourage charitable donations.

Historically, Black Friday has had another meaning, separate from shopping. In 1869, Wall Street financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk tried to corner the nation’s gold market at the New York Gold Exchange. They aimed to inflate prices by buying large quantities of the precious metal. However, President Ulysses S. Grant intervened on Friday, September 24, causing their plan to collapse. The stock market promptly crashed, leading to the bankruptcy of thousands of Americans.

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