And the answer: Philadelphia.
In the early 1960s, police officers in Philadelphia started using the term "Black Friday" to describe the post-Thanksgiving flood of suburbanites entering the city to begin their Christmas shopping or catch the weekend football game. The term did not catch on until the late 1980s, when merchants crafted a narrative that stores would finally turn a profit for the year, thus becoming the biggest shopping day in the US. Truthfully, stores often see higher sales numbers on the Saturday leading up to Christmas.
The first recorded use of the term Black Friday didn’t actually refer to consumerism at all, and in fact quite the opposite: the term was used to refer to the financial crisis that occurred on Wall Street in 1869. Two financers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, took it upon themselves to buy as much of the nation’s gold as they could, hoping it would drive the price sky-high and they could turn a large profit by selling back. On Friday, September 24th, 1869, the conspiracy came to light, and the market was sent into a free-fall.
For about a century following, the term fell out of use and into obscurity. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that it earned the association with shopping and post-Thanksgiving sales as police herded crowds of shoppers getting ready for the holidays. In recent years, the holiday has been followed by other shopping-related occasions, such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Did you know?
Yesterday was Black Friday! To give you a sense of the scope of this shopping holiday, Americans spend more time shopping on Thanksgiving weekend than they do visiting Disney hot spots! Walmart boasts that over 22 million people flock to its stores just on Thanksgiving Day—which is several million more than the 18.5 million people who visit Disneyworld in Florida every year, or the 16 million who visit Disneyland in California.
Learn more about the history of Black Friday here.