US

The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought

  • Black Friday didn’t get its name because stores become profitable and go “into the black.”
  • The true story is much darker – the term “Black Friday” was first used in 1869 by two investors who drove up the price of gold and caused a stock market crash.
  • Watch the video above to learn how the name evolved into the shopping day frenzy we know today.

Many people believe we call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” because many stores become profitable on the huge shopping day and go “into the black.” The true origins of the term are a bit darker.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Why is it called “Black Friday”? Most people know Black Friday as the day after Thanksgiving, when stores open early and offer various sales. These stores are often “in the black” (profitable) that day.

But the true story of Black Friday is darker. The term “Black Friday” was first used on Sept. 24, 1869, when two investors, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, drove up the price of gold and caused a crash that day. The stock market dropped 20% and foreign trade stopped. Farmers suffered a 50% dip in wheat and corn harvest value.

In the 1950s, Philadelphia police used the “Black Friday” term to refer to the day between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy game. Huge crowds of shoppers and tourists went to the city that Friday, and cops had to work long hours to cover the crowds and traffic.

Merchants in the area tried to change the name to “Big Friday,” but the alternative name never caught on.

By the late 1980s, “Black Friday” had spread nationally with the more positive “red to black” backstory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on November 3, 2017.

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