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The History of Black Friday


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Black Friday is without a doubt one of the worst holiday traditions known to man, but do we love it, or do we just love to hate it? There is something uniquely American about waiting up until midnight, waiting in line for hours, and barrel-rushing old women at best buy to get a cheap flatscreen tv. The day after we give thanks for everything we have, we roll right into the day all about trying to get more. Hiding under the disguise of discounted shopping in preparation for the holiday season, retailers use Black Friday as a tactic to get consumers to fall into discount-ridden scams. However, the exact orgins of this greed-filled yet exhilarating day are quite disputed, perhaps that adds to the draw of Black Friday no one knows where it came from, and why it has such a hold on our nation’s psyche.

While this holiday season tradition is often surrounded by good intentions, its origins are deeply rooted in greed. The original Black Friday actually had no relationship with Thanksgiving, deals, or shopping but rather the free fall of the US economy into ruin in 1869. On September 24th, 1869, the US economy crashed sending millions into bankruptcy, Wall Street wolves Jay Gould and Jim Fisk had bought up as much gold as possible in order to corner the market and sell it for a profit. However, the scheme eventually fell apart leaving everyone from Wall Street to the backwoods of small-town America in poor financial situations. While this may have been the first Black Friday, the most common story told in relation to this infamous day comes from retail shops themselves. Throughout the year retail stores would report sales in ‘the red’ meaning they were working at a loss, but as the story goes, on the day after Thanksgiving with shoppers gearing up for the holiday seasons these stores would be in ‘the black performing at a profit. While this may be the most commonly told story behind Black Friday and certainly the one that makes the most sense, it’s actually based on nothing more than consumer predictions.

The darker aspects of American history are also connected to some theories behind the term ‘Black Friday’, while this isn’t surprising seeing as a disturbing amount of American traditions are rooted in racism and controversial practices. Some claim that the day after Thanksgiving in the 19th century Southern plantation owners would sell enslaved workers at a discounted price. While this twisted story is not entirely shocking, there is no evidence to corroborate this myth, however, it has led to many bashing Black Friday and refraining from participating in its activities.

Despite, the various stories, claims, and myths the most accurate history regarding Black Friday and its orgins actually has more to do with football than shopping. In the early 1960s police officers in Philadelphia coined the term Black Friday, due to the influx of people the city would see on the Friday after thanksgiving due to all the tourists and suburban residents that would flock in for the Army-Navy football game that took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This football-related journey quickly turned into a shopping spree for most individuals and created a state of chaos within the city, most police officers would have to work through the night and they had extra officers on shift just to ensure the chaos of the day was controlled. While this isn’t the most exciting history of the world’s most chaotic activity it encapsulates everything American; football, shopping, and Philadelphia. What more could we ask for?

Although Black Friday has its perks, early morning coffee, and an insane adrenaline rush, its effects on small businesses and the environment are terrible. This Black Friday shop local and shop used, upcycling is the new biggest trend so why not try it out this Black Friday? Happy shopping!

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