Black Friday: A History

Black Friday: A History

Slide1When we hear the term “Black Friday” and associate it with the herds of people who are likely to trample each other in the early morning its easy to guess at the reason one might refer to it by the color of death. Each year, folks go out in search of great deals and some (inevitably) end up getting injured or worse, killed. All in an attempt to score a door-busting buy to give (or keep) this Christmas.

But it hasn’t always been that way—although it’s long been considered the beginning of the Christmas season, the Friday after Thanksgiving was once more calm. In 1939, retailers appealed to President Roosevelt so that he might move up Thanksgiving and extend the Christmas shopping season. He obliged, and managed to anger a number of people, but merchants had more time to make money.

The term “Black Friday” was first used to describe the condition of the factories upon so many people showing up late or not at all to work following the holiday. Later, Philadelphia police are said to have used it in reference to many shoppers caught jaywalking in the downtown shopping district. By the 70’s, the term was more as we know it—a term used to describe a heavy shopping day.

And still, it wasn’t so sinister, meaning simply that a Thanksgiving shopping rush might move the businesses from red ink (no profit) to black ink (showing profit) for the year. Black Friday made no reference to the chaos we experience now because it didn’t exist—in its earlier forms, the shopping season actually began on that Friday. Now, many retailers are opening on Thanksgiving day. This has created some controversy, as it requires employees to sacrifice part of their holiday for the Christmas sale season.

There’s also something called “Cyber Monday” now, taking place on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Online merchants are said to have lower prices, though Christmas shopping is not at an online high at this time of year. More an alternative to chaotic Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers discounts (though not as deep of discounts) as traditional Black Friday Sales—but, you also miss the lines.

Despite the craziness of Black Friday, numbers of shoppers continue to rise. In 2012, approximately 89 million individuals lined up to score the latest and greatest at the best price. And they’re spending a lot–$423 per person, experts estimate.

What about you? Do you (like Jason Hartman) prefer to sleep in? If you went out, did you score any great deals? Tell us all about it! (

* Read more from Young Wealth
Screwed – New Penalties for the Uninsured
The Case for Financial Literacy in High Schools

The Young Wealth Team