November 25, 2016 – If you’re someone who pays homage to the day after Thanksgiving by shopping, you probably familiar with the term “Black Friday” as the day of the year that retailers “go into the black” and make a profit. What you might not know is that you’re only half-right.
The term is also used to describe the crash of the U.S. gold market on Friday, September 24, 1869. The crash sent the stock market into free-fall, bankrupting everyone in the country from Wall Street tycoons to farmers.
Black Friday’s ties to the retail industry are more commonly known, but the “black” part of Black Friday wasn’t always associated with profits. Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police coined the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving when suburban crowds would come into the city to watch the annual Army-Navy game, traditionally played the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Large crowds would arrive the day before for holiday shopping, with some taking advantage of the masses to shoplift, which often caused riots.
Philly’s Finest referred to that day as “Black Friday” because of the extra manpower needed to control the crowds. The term didn’t spread to the rest of the country, or take on a positive spin of retailers going from red to black, until several years later when it became a common holiday shopping day nationwide.
It seems that many firsts have roots in Philadelphia.