A orange sky over a smooth ocean at dusk.

Black Friday: Then and Now

3 Things You Didn't Know About Black Friday


Black Friday, the nickname for the sales-centered day after Thanksgiving, has a mixed reputation amongst Americans. Some rely on Black Friday deals to purchase great gifts for loved ones at ultra-low prices, while others scorn the tradition for promoting spending money the day after Thanksgiving. No matter where you stand on the matter, however, one thing is clear – this tradition is here to stay. Learn more about the real history of Black Friday and what you can do to make the most of it this year from the financial experts at First Federal Bank.

Where Did Black Friday Come From?

The true history of the Black Friday holiday dates back farther than most shoppers think it does; all the way back to 1869, the year when the U.S. gold market crashed. Two bigwigs on Wall Street, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, had worked ruthlessly to purchase as much gold as possible – hoping to create a boom in prices that would work in their favor. Their scheme succeeded, and on September 24, 1869, their efforts came to a head — gold prices skyrocketed, and the stock market went into freefall.

On that fateful Friday, the disruption in gold prices bankrupted everyone from farmers to major investors. The changes in gold prices crashed the stock market, lowering prices by 20 percent. Commodity prices, by extension, fell at least 50 percent. Gould and Fisk never faced any punishment for their conspiracy due to already-corrupted New York City politics at the time. Consumers made out with exceptionally low prices on goods, unknowingly enjoying the very first “Black Friday” sale.

Who Started the Tradition of Hosting Sales on Black Friday?

Stores didn’t start using Black Friday for mega sales until almost 100 years later, in the 1950s. At this time, the U.S. government had already passed a law mandating that Thanksgiving fall on the fourth Thursday of November. This led to many workers calling in sick the day after to give themselves four-day weekends. Stores caught on to workers playing hooky and capitalized on it, hosting sales to encourage them to use the day after Thanksgiving to start holiday shopping.

The phrase “Black Friday” hit the papers in print for the first time in 1966. A stamp collectors’ magazine, The American Philatelist, published an article by the Philadelphia Police Department. In the article, the police mentioned the incredible crowds in shopping centers and traffic in the streets due to early holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving. They called the occasion “Black Friday” due to the chaos. By the 1980s, companies had spun Black Friday to give it a positive, rather than negative, connotation by offering enormous sales. The rest is history.

How Can Shoppers Get the Most of Black Friday Deals Today?

Today, Black Friday is an incredible opportunity for shoppers and businesses alike. It kicks off the holiday season with lower prices on goods and gifts than shoppers will find any other time of the year. In 2017, Black Friday online sales hit a record high with $7.9 billion. Get the most out of Black Friday as a shopper by doing your research ahead of time. Identify what you wish to purchase and which store will have those items at the lowest prices. Preparing ahead of time can make your shopping experience much smoother this holiday season.