[1966] "Black Friday" (day after Thanksgiving)

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Fri Apr 25 04:15:30 UTC 2008

The stock market crash that was first christened "Black Friday" wasn't the
'29  disaster but an earlier one  (can't remember just when; sometime in the
'80s or '90s) that I associate (perhaps mistakenly) with Jay Gould. When the
term was resurrected for the opening of the Xmas shopping season, it struck
me as odd for a society that worships shopping.
on 4/24/08 6:58 PM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake at taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM wrote:

> James D. Smith wrote:
>> Rather than a nail in the coffin, I read the attitude of the
>> police towards Black Friday as the exception that proves the rule.
> If I'm reading you correctly, I'd like to point out that I see a couple
> problems with the "red ink to black ink" theory as the origin for this
> particular "Black Friday."
> The principal flaw is that --  while Martin Apfelbaum was reporting in
> January, 1966 that Philly cops were calling the day, with its "massive
> traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks," thus -- the proposal that the term
> "Black Friday" had to do with putting local businesses "back in the black"
> hasn't been found (granted, so far) to appear before November, 1981 [1].
> (The previous earliest sightings, also out of Philadelphia, of "Black
> Friday" as the day after Thanksgiving date to November, 1975; these also
> refer to traffic and crowds and omit mention of black ink.)  And, although
> Apfelbaum certainly did describe his Philadelphia stamp shop as hopping on
> that Friday and Saturday in 1965 (so it must've been a profitable holiday
> weekend), it's interesting to me that this merchant chose to present the
> phrase in this somewhat negative light, as Philadelphia police officers used
> it.
> That and the problem that "Black Friday" as a general term invariably
> carries negative connotations, however serious or semi-serious.  To me, at
> least, its application to those hectic, overcrowded Fridays on Thanksgiving
> weekends in the heart of Philadelphia would've made for an appropriate,
> humorous pejorative.  I'm leery of the notion that this was used positively
> from the outset, as a reference to store owners gleefully watching weekend
> sales bring their accounts back into the black.  News accounts coming out of
> Philadelphia in the early 1980s [2] seem to bear out my skepticism.
> Me, I'm betting that offering up the "black ink" explanation was a later
> attempt to rehabilitate a negatively tinged (however humorous) phrase that
> just wouldn't go away.
> -- Bonnie
> ---------------------------------------------------
> [1] [From "Shoppers Flood Stores for 'Black Friday'," *The Philadelphia
> Inquirer*, 28 November 1981, Pg. B04.]
> If the day is the year's biggest for retailers, why is it called Black
> Friday?
> Because it is a day retailers make profits -- black ink, said Grace McFeeley
> of Cherry Hill Mall.
> "I think it came from the media," said William Timmons of Strawbridge &
> Clothier.
> "It's the employees, we're the ones who call it Black Friday," said Belle
> Stephens of Moorestown Mall.  "We work extra hard.  It's a long hard day for
> the employees."
> ---------------------------------------------------
> [2]
> [From Jennifer Lin's "Good Start, Shopping Season Opens with Crush of
> Customers," *The Philadelphia Inquirer*, 24 November 1984, Pg. A01.]
> The strength of yesterday's sales quashed any doubts among retailers that
> the season would not live up to expectations.
> "It looks good to me," Peter Strawbridge, president of Strawbridge &
> Clothier, said. "All the indicators are that this is going to be a good
> season."
> The only thing that disturbed Strawbridge was the persistence of people in
> referring to the day as "Black Friday."
> "It sounds like the end of the world, and we really like the day," he said.
> "If anything it should be called 'Green Friday.'"
> How the day got its name is a matter of debate. Shoppers contend that it is
> derived from the enormous crowds that make shopping somewhat unpleasant. But
> merchants say it has to do with the fact that the level of sales before
> Christmas can mean the difference between losses for the year -- or red ink
> on a retailer's ledger -- and profits -- or black ink.
> ------------
> [From Jennifer Lin's "Why the Name Black Friday?  Uh ... Well ...," *The
> Philadelphia Inquirer*, 30 November 1985, Business, Pg. D08.]
> The caller wanted to know about retail sales at Hess's department store in
> Allentown on Black Friday.  But the question touched a sensitive nerve for
> Irwin Greenberg, chairman of the chain.
> "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," snapped Greenberg.
> Retail sales?
> No, he steamed, the term Black Friday.
> "Black Friday is a phrase that's sinful and it's disgusting," a perturbed
> Greenberg said.
> "Why would anyone call a day, when everyone is happy and has smiles on their
> faces, Black Friday?" he asked.
> Greenberg, a 30-year veteran of the retail trade, says it is a Philadelphia
> expression. "It surely can't be a merchant's expression," he said.
> A spot check of retailers from across the country suggests that Greenberg
> might be on to something.
> "I've never heard it before," laughed Carol Sanger, a spokeswoman for
> Federated Department Stores in Cincinnati, which is the largest department
> store operator in the country. "Black Friday out here means the day of the
> Great Flood in 1937."
> "I have no idea what it means," said Bill Dombrowski, director of media
> relations for Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc. in Los Angeles. "We don't have
> anything like that out in Los Angeles.  But we do celebrate Cinco de Mayo
> Day, which is when Mexico overthrew Emperor Maximilian."
>> From the National Retail Merchants Association, the industry's trade
> association in New York, came this terse statement:
> "Black Friday is not an accepted term in the retail industry and as far as
> retailers are concerned, it is understood to mean the Friday the stock
> market crashed in 1929." (The first huge drop in stock prices actually
> occurred on Oct. 24, a Thursday, but the New York Stock Exchange closed on
> Nov. 1, a Friday.)
> Retailers, in general, loathe the term. The Center City Association of
> Proprietors [Philadelphia], in fact, has been lobbying quietly for years to
> banish the word from the city's vocabulary.
> "We hate it," said Peter Strawbridge, president of Strawbridge & Clothier.
> Local shoppers yesterday could not provide any insight into when or how the
> term got started.  Many simply said that it is a phrase that they have been
> using for years to describe the day after Thanksgiving.
> If shoppers are at a loss to explain the origins of the phrase and merchants
> don't own up to it, could it be that the term was coined by ... no, not the
> media?
> Yes, the press, suggests Joyce Mantyla, a spokeswoman for John Wanamaker.
> "The media may have dubbed the term, kind of tongue-in-cheek, because it is
> the toughest time to shop," Mantyla said. "And we've been inundated so much
> with it that we have come to accept it."
> Armchair etymologists -- including retailers, shoppers and reporters --
> analyze the meaning of the term in several ways.
> As Mantyla suggests, shoppers might view the crush of humanity in stores
> with some trepidation, making black, as in gloom-and-doom black, an apt
> adjective for describing the day.
> One retailing insider added that sales clerks who have to work that day --
> and deal with the mobs of customers -- may have come up with the
> description.
> David Feld, president of the six-store Today's Man chain, has a novel
> explanation.  He credits the Philadelphia Police Department.
> "Years ago, the business of Christmas was celebrated entirely in Center
> City," said Feld, a Philadelphia native. "You would go to Gimbels, walk down
> to Wanamakers, then go to the stores lining Market Street and Chestnut
> Street.
> "There were no suburban malls and the city was where you went to shop. The
> Police Department dreaded the day because the traffic became impossible and
> they were flooded with calls about shoplifting. And that made it the
> blackest day of the year for them," Feld said.
> A more accepted explanation among merchants, however, is that the black in
> Black Friday refers to profits. With a windfall of earnings coming in during
> the Christmas season, it is a day when the number crunchers for retailers
> can put down their red pencils and start using their black pencils to write
> profits into ledgers.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society
>> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of James Smith
>> Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 9:47 AM
>> Subject: Re: [1966] "Black Friday" (day after Thanksgiving)
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       James Smith <jsmithjamessmith at YAHOO.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: [1966] "Black Friday" (day after Thanksgiving)
>> --------------------------------------------------------------
>> -----------------
>> Rather than a nail in the coffin, I read the attitude of the
>> police towards Black Friday as the exception that proves the rule.
>> James D. SMITH                 |If history teaches anything
>> South SLC, UT                  |it is that we will be sued
>> jsmithjamessmith at yahoo.com     |whether we act quickly and decisively
>> |or slowly and cautiously.
>> --- On Wed, 4/23/08, Bonnie Taylor-Blake
>> <taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM> wrote:
>>> From: Bonnie Taylor-Blake <taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM>
>>> Subject: [1966] "Black Friday" (day after Thanksgiving)
>>> Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 5:14 PM
>>> Because it's never too early to be thinking about
>>> Thanksgiving and Black
>>> Friday, I submit what follows as a nail in the coffin of
>>> that "from red ink
>>> to black ink" explanation for how this particular
>>> Friday got its name.
>>> By the way, Google Books provided a not-very-helpful
>>> snippet view of the
>>> following advertisement, which appeared in the January 1966
>>> issue (Volume
>>> 79, No. 4, p. 239) of *The American Philatelist*.  Thanks
>>> go to Ellen
>>> Peachey of the American Philatelic Research Library
>>> (Bellefonte,
>>> Pennsylvania); she came to the rescue, locating the text in
>>> question and
>>> sending the appropriate PDF to me, all with good humor.
>>> -- Bonnie
>>> -----------------------------------------------------------
>>> [This advertisement is in the form of a column written by
>>> Martin L.
>>> Apfelbaum, Executive Vice President of Earl P.L. Apfelbaum,
>>> Inc., of
>>> Philadelphia.  PDF available upon request.]
>>> *Philadelphia's "Black Friday"*
>>> JANUARY 1966 -- "Black Friday" is the name which
>>> the Philadelphia Police
>>> Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving
>>> Day.  It is not a
>>> term of endearment to them.  "Black Friday"
>>> officially opens the Christmas
>>> shopping season in center city, and it usually brings
>>> massive traffic jams
>>> and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are
>>> mobbed from opening to
>>> closing.
>>> This year proved to be no exception -- especially at
>>> Apfelbaum's.  The pace
>>> was hectic and the traffic was heavy.  Here's a capsule
>>> report of how
>>> Apfelbaum's weathered "Black Friday."
>>> [...]
>>> All in all, "Black Friday" certainly lived-up to
>>> its reputation.  In fact it
>>> lasted for two days, with more of the same traffic and
>>> congestion the
>>> Saturday which followed.
>>> Is this activity unusual?  A little.  But just stop in on
>>> any day of the
>>> week and you will see more action at Apfelbaum's than
>>> at any stamp shop in
>>> the world.

>> ------------------------------------------------------------

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