Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving), 1961

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 5 00:36:53 UTC 2011

I find the following particularly helpful because it not only
represents the (so far) earliest sighting of "Black Friday" used with
respect to the day after Thanksgiving, but it also underscores that
"Black Friday" was commonly used by Philadelphia police officers and
not merchants.  Moreover, it reveals a concerted, though ultimately
failed effort by downtown merchants and a Philadelphia city official
to change the name of that post-Thanksgiving shopping day because of
consumers' association of "black" with misfortune and disaster.

This reinforces the suspicion that sometime well after 1961 some group
launched an effort to rehabilitate "Black Friday," an expression that
just wouldn't go away, by claiming an association with black ink
(i.e., signifying profitability).  It's this upbeat (though false)
black-ink explanation that has stuck.

-- Bonnie

[From *Public Relations News*, 18 December 1961, p. 2.  This weekly
newsletter was published by Denny Griswold of 815 Park Avenue, New
York, NY.]

Santa has brought Philadelphia stores a present in the form of "one of
the biggest shopping weekends in recent history."  At the same time,
it has again been proven that there is a direct relationship between
sales and public relations.

For downtown merchants throughout the nation, the biggest shopping
days normally are the two following Thanksgiving Day.  Resulting
traffic jams are an irksome problem to the police and, in
Philadelphia, it became customary for officers to refer to the
post-Thanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday.  Hardly a
stimulus for good business, the problem was discussed by the merchants
with their Deputy City Representative, Abe S. Rosen, one of the
country's most experienced municipal PR executives.  He recommended
adoption of a positive approach which would convert Black Friday and
Black Saturday to Big Friday and Big Saturday.  The media cooperated
in spreading the news of the beauty of Christmas-decorated downtown
Philadelphia, the popularity of a "family-day outing" to the
department stores during the Thanksgiving weekend, the increased
parking facilities, and the use of additional police officers for
guaranteeing a free flow of traffic ... Rosen reports that business
over the weekend was so good that merchants are giving downtown
Philadelphia "a starry-eyed new look."

The American Dialect Society -

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