black friday 2016

What does "Black Friday" mean?

Does the name Black Friday bring positive or negative feelings to your mind?  I guess it depends on the perspective.

black friday

For some eager shoppers it is the best day of the year. It is the super shopping day where many people can find amazing deals, engage in the frenzy of the crowd and maybe even get all the holiday shopping done in fell swoop.

For others it is the worst day ever to venture out into public. The traffic, the crowds, the frenzy ... none of it is good. Certainly not worth the overly advertised discounts by every retailer.

For those in business it can be the biggest of all days: the Superbowl, the main event, the day where the years sales are made. For some, it is the most critical day of the year.

black friday

For me it is a combination of all three. I prefer to do my shopping from the computer screen, I like the deals I can find yet I have no desire to go out in public to find them. It is also one of the biggest day of sales for the e-commerce store here at San Francisco Bay Coffee.

But where did it begin?

What was the origin of this both loved and hated day?

My search for this answer revealed several answers. Some true, some not so true and many different beginnings I did not know about.

jim fisk jay gould

The first reported significant use of "Black Friday" happened in 1869 when speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk sought to corner the gold market and drive the prices up. President Ulysses S. Grant, an associate of Gould and Fisk, realized what had happened and released 4 million dollars worth of gold into the market causing prices to plummet and led to the "Panic of 1869" also known as "Black Friday".

The name did not stick, but is referred to as one of the earliest uses.


In the early 1950's workers called in sick so frequently the day after Thanksgiving the condition was often referred to as "Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis".

Owners and Managers would say that when the "Black Friday" came there would be more business than usual and half of the staff would conveniently be out sick. Eventually many businesses made it a paid holiday. Even then, the name did not stick, but it certainly started the conversation.

1960 Philadelphia Police Department

In the 1960's the Philadelphia Police Department found the day after Thanksgiving to be a day filled with traffic jams, immense crowds and long shifts.

They took to calling the day "Black Friday" to show how much of a hated day it was. This seems to be the real launch pad for the name, but it did not have the effect the police officers intended.

Black Friday Sale

With the day offered as an additional holiday, many people would go shopping and it began to signify the first day of the shopping season.

Retailers started using the term as a featured ad for great deals to be had.

Some businesses even recast the meaning of the term to mean that it was the day that businesses made their first profit for the year, thus being moved from the red to black, but that has largely been debunked as a myth.

Makes for a neat story about the name, but we know the truth.

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