In Australia, Black Friday is another term for Friday the 13th.

I have no idea of the origin of this phrase, except for the obvious superstition that Friday the 13th is a black and unlucky day.

Semi-originally used to describe a great stock market crash in 1869. Basically, a small group of investors, including railroad tycoon Jay Gould, and prominent financier James Fisk tried to corner the gold market. Gould and Fisk with the help of Abel Corbin convinced Abel's brother-in-law, President Grant to prevent the government from selling gold, by dumping the federal reserves onto the market. Meanwhile, Gould and his investors purchased gold at a staggering rate, driving up the price of gold twenty-five dollars in less than a week.

Catching wind of the ploy, Grant ordered 4 million dollars worth of federal gold to be sold. Effectively saturating the market, and dropping gold prices to much lower than what they were before Gould and Fisk began their plan. So on the morning Friday, September 24th, 1869, thousands of investors awoke to find that they were ruined. Many of them millionaires, now found themselves penniless. Thus it is forever know as Black Friday. Many other days of financial ruin have occasionally appended this name since.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is referred to as Black Friday in the U.S. retail industry. Many retailers will operate at a loss ("in the red") for most of the calendar year, hoping to first cover all their losses and then run up profits during the Christmas shopping season, which traditionally starts on the day after Thanksgiving and runs to December 24. With the massive numbers of shoppers on that Friday, retailers hope that they can erase the year's losses ("red ink") in that one day, virtually guaranteeing that their balance sheet will wind up positive ("in the black") for the year.

So though the name might sound ominous (especially side by side with such events as Black Monday), Black Friday is actually a positive event in the U.S. retail world.

Black Friday, the Friday, Sept. 24, 1869, when the attempt of Jay Gould and James Fisk, Jr., to create a corner in the gold market by buying all the gold in the banks of New York city, amounting to $15,000,000, culminated. For several days the value of gold had risen steadily, and the speculators aimed to carry it from 144 to 200. Friday the whole city was in a ferment, the banks were rapidly selling, gold was a 162 and a half, and still rising. Men became insane, and everywhere the wildest excitement raged, for it seemed probably that business houses must be closed, from ignorance of the prices to be charged for their goods. But in the midst of the panic it was reported that Secretary Boutwell of the United States Treasury had thrown $4,000,000 on the market, and at once gold fell, the excitement ceased, leaving Gould and Fisk the winners of $11,000,000. The day noticed above is what is generally referred to as Black Friday in the United States, but the term was first used in England, being applied in the first instance to the Friday on which the news reached London, Dec. 6, 1745, that the young Pretender, Charles Edward, had arrived at Derby, creating a terrible panic; and finally to May 11, 1866, when the failure of Overend, Gurney & Co., London, the day before, was followed by a widespread financial ruin.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

The term Black Friday denotes the annual stampede experienced by retail stores across the United States on the day after Thanksgiving. In breaking with the holiday season’s sentiment of peace on earth and good will toward men, Black Friday turns usually clear headed people into a horde of Huns on their way to pillaging an unsuspecting village. In turn they will push, shove, elbow, threaten and trample just about anyone who gets in their way in order to save a few bucks on something they probably don’t need in the first place. If you don't believe me, just tune in to the news either Friday night or Saturday morning and you'll see what I mean.

When it comes to shopping the term “Black Friday” appears to have originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (also known as the City of Brotherly Love) back in the early to mid 1960’s. Unlike today though, the term was more derogatory in nature. It was coined by the Philly police department to describe the various traffic jams and other woes they experienced on what would later become this holiest of holy days.

Since then “Black Friday” seems to arrive earlier each and every year. In the beginning many store owners and large chains wouldn’t open their doors until 8:00 AM on Friday itself. Through a clever ad campaign based on sales and deals on certain merchandise and in an effort to undermine their competitors that time has been moved up steadily over the years. Last year the evil empire known as Wal-mart opened its doors to shoppers at 10:00 PM on the eve of Thanksgiving and if what I read in the news rings true they’ll be bumping that up to 8:00 PM this year. Of course, this will lead many competitors such as Sears, Target, Kohl’s, Toys "R" Us and whatever's left of Kmart to follow suit as they don’t want to lose consumers in search of their quest of the ever elusive American Dream.

I should note that many employees of these institutions have refused to work but given the recent state of the economy and with so many people out of work they’re probably at risk of losing their jobs.

In closing, I see the ads on television. They’re filled with smiley faced consumers and employees alike rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of Black Friday and it strikes somehow as incongruent.

In a season that is supposed to be all about family and friends getting together in order to give thanks to what blessings we have, many of us are now headed out the door before Grandma can clear the table in order to be the first in line at someplace that normally you’d dread going to in the first place.

Here’s some friendly advice, warm up some leftovers and have that other piece of pie. After that, go for a walk around the neighborhood and say hello to some of your neighbors. When you get back home, flip in a movie or play some board games and rehash some fond memories for those who have left this world in search of greener pastures.

All that other shit can wait and besides, that’s what your family and friends really want.

And so do you.

Black Friday.

Any Friday on which a public disaster has occurred, as: In England, December 6, 1745, when the news of the landing of the Pretender reached London, or May 11, 1866, when a financial panic commenced. In the United States, September 24, 1869, and September 18, 1873, on which financial panics began.


© Webster 1913.

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