The term “Black Friday” as we know it, referring to the shopping frenzy that takes place the day after Thanksgiving has some of its earliest origins in the Philadelphia area. According to Mental Floss, “the Friday in question is nestled snugly between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game that’s played in Philadelphia on the following Saturday, so the City of Brotherly Love was always bustling with activity on that day. All of the people were great for retailers, but they were a huge pain for police officers, cab drivers, and anyone who had to negotiate the city’s streets. They started referring to the annual day of commercial bedlam as ‘Black Friday’ to reflect how irritating it was.” The term was more or less specific to the Philadelphia area until the 1980s, when it then spread to surrounding areas in New Jersey and then became a nationwide phenomenon in the 1990s.
Somewhat surprisingly, although Black Friday is billed as the biggest shopping day of the year it didn’t earn that title until the 2000s acccording to the BBC. “That’s because, for many years, the rule wasn’t that Americans loved deals, it was that they loved procrastinating. So up until that point, it was the Saturday before Christmas that typically saw the most wallets being emptied.” Since then the holiday has gone international and the advent of Cyber Monday in the mid 2000s really helped the entire weekend gain steam.
From Gold to Black
Orginially the term “Black Friday” had nothing to do with shopping, however. According to History, the first recorded use of the term ‘Black Friday’ was a nod to the financial crisis of September 24, 1869. Two “Wall Street financiers worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.”
From Red to Black
One other saying that’s gone hand-in-hand with the holiday is that retailers who have been “in the red” for the year now have a chance to “get in the black” by offering deals and discounts. The term ‘black’ is used to refer to a company’s profitability. A company is said to be “in the black” if it is profitable or, more specifically, if the company produces positive earnings after accounting for all expenses. Conversely, a company with negative earnings would be said to be “in the red.”