Why Is the Friday After Thanksgiving Called, “Black Friday?”

November 16, 2016

It sounds like we’re talking in code: Psst … Black Friday … psst … any good deals? Over! But today, “Black Friday” is a commonly used term to describe the day after Thanksgiving. It is the biggest shopping day of the year (at least in the United States) and it’s the day when retailers like Target and Amazon start to see significant black (or profits) and not red (or loss) in their accounting books.

But the term, “Black Friday” wasn’t always linked to something positive. No, “Black Friday” was first used in September of 1869. Two Wall Street criminals tried a get-rich-quick scheme of buying as much gold as possible, hoping that it would force the price of gold to rise. When that happened, their plan was to sell their gold and make a HUGE profit. Well, that didn’t happen, but it did rock the stock market. That day many people from the very wealthy to the very poor lost A LOT of money. That day was referred to as, “Black Friday.”

In more recent history, the term “Black Friday” was used in the 1960’s by Philadelphia police officers. The term was used to describe the sea of cars and people that would storm into the city the day after Thanksgiving to take advantage of the shopping deals.

Today, Black Friday goes hand-in-hand with great deals, Buy one, get one free!, and profits. But not all retailers are keeping the profits for themselves. Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, announced the week before Thanksgiving that they would donate all of their Black Friday profits to charities helping the environment. They expected a profit of around $2 million, but they’ll be donating $10 million instead. It looks like consumers really loved Patagonia’s idea of planet over profits. We do too!