The Term ‘Black Friday’ Meant Something Much, Much Different Sixty Years Ago

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. I usually celebrate by staying home and eating leftover turkey gravy. Nothing else, just the gravy.

The general public assumes the term Black Friday was coined by companies concluding that making so much money in sales on the day after Thanksgiving that they’d be “in the black” or profitable for the rest of the year. It makes sense, but according to Huffington Post, that’s not the original meaning of the term.

It’s something a little more bleak.

But the truth is that Black Friday owes its name to the Philadelphia Police Department, which did not have profitability in mind. One thing to remember is that, long before the rest of us started calling it Black Friday, retailers hoped to start the holiday shopping season with a bang by offering “can’t miss” deals right after Thanksgiving. (Note: These days, “holiday shopping season” can begin way before Turkey Day.) People being people, they have long stormed stores, caused traffic jams and been generally terrible to one another in an effort not to miss these deals.

In the middle years of the twentieth century, the scene was often particularly bad in Philadelphia, where the annual Army-Navy football game was regularly played on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Lots of cars, lots of traffic, lots of chaos. Sound familiar?

So at some point in the 1950s or 1960s — some put the date exactly at 1966 — the Philadelphia Police Department started to refer to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday,” with the unrealistic hope that people would find the whole shebang distasteful and opt out of the collective consumer madness. At a minimum, it was a derisive way to describe an unpleasant day in the life of a Philly cop.

So the term was actually coined by the cops, in a effort to get people to stay home and drink turkey gravy instead of heading out into the crazy world of low prices and long lines.

It worked on me, I’m not leaving the house today, unless I run out of gravy or the EMTs insist.

H/T Huffington Post