On the early days of Philadelphia's Black Friday (ca. 1960)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 19 23:41:30 UTC 2011

In 1994, Joseph P. Barrett, longtime reporter for *The Philadelphia
Bulletin*, wrote a piece for *The Philadelphia Inquirer* [1] on the
origin of "Black Friday."  Along with a fellow reporter, he seems to
have had a major role in popularizing the expression in the city in
the early 1960s.

Barrett's reminiscence not only lists why police officers had dubbed
the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" (including that all traffic
cops had to report for 12-hour shifts that day), but also describes
merchants' displeasure with the term and the city's consequent attempt
to rename the day.


[Excerpted from "This Friday Was Black with Traffic," 25 November 1994.]


In 1959, the old Evening Bulletin assigned me to police
administration, working out of City Hall. Nathan Kleger was the police
reporter who covered Center City for the Bulletin.

In the early 1960s, Kleger and I put together a front-page story for
Thanksgiving and we appropriated the police term "Black Friday" to
describe the terrible traffic conditions.

Center City merchants complained loudly to Police Commissioner Albert
N. Brown that drawing attention to traffic deterred customers from
coming downtown. I was worried that maybe Kleger and I had made a
mistake in using such a term, so I went to Chief Inspector Albert
Trimmer to get him to verify it.

Trimmer, tongue in cheek, would say only that Black Friday was used to
describe the Valentine's Day massacre of mobsters in Chicago.

The following year, Brown put out a press release describing the day
as ''Big Friday." But Kleger and I held our ground, and once more said
it was ''Black Friday." And of course we used it year after year.


This 1994 account of the city's attempt to sell everyone on "Big
Friday" fits nicely with an overly optimistic blurb that had appeared
in a December, 1961 issue of *Public Relations News*.


-- Bonnie

[1] Or *The Philadelphia Daily News*.  It's a little unclear to me
where this originally appeared, but I'm awaiting confirmation of

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