Many people know when Cyber Monday is. But do you know the Origin of the term?
The earliest known usage of “Black Friday” as a post-Thanksgiving shopping day appears in the 1 December 1961 issue of The Shortsville-Manchester Enterprise (Shortsville, New York). This article, discovered by Barry Popik, refers to a usage by police in Rochester, New York.
“Kathie Caulkin, our intrepid advertising manager, made a serious mistake in judgment last Friday. Took her three kids to Rochester on the day all city police call “Black Friday.” Besides being the day after Thanksgiving — thus one of the busiest shopping days in the year — bus drivers were still on strike, adding to automotive traffic. Katie reports she waited through 13 changes of a single traffic light — then had to back up to get into the parking garage. “I didn’t care if I crumpled fifty fenders at that point,” Katie reports.
An article mentioning the simultaneous use of the term in Philadelphia appears in a public relations newsletter (18 December 1961). This report notes that, as of that writing, this usage among Philadelphia police officers had already become “customary.”
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 attempt to rename Black Friday was unsuccessful, and its continued use is shown in a 1966 publication on the day’s significance in Philadelphia:
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.
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