The name Black Friday was originally coined by Philadelphia traffic policemen in 1960 who used it describe how thick the traffic in City Center was the day after Thanksgiving. Retailers tried to change the name because they thought it would scare shoppers away.
Shoppers and football fans
The Friday after Thanksgiving was the first major day of Christmas shopping and Santa Claus’ first day at the department stores. Beginning in the 1930’s several thousand people would also travel to Philadelphia on this day for the big Army-Navy football game at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium. This game was typically on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so a combination of shoppers and football fans coming into town gave traffic cops their hardest work day of the year.
In 1961, a year after the day was first titled Black Friday, many retailers and a Philadelphia public relations writer named Bonnie Taylor-Blake attempted to change the name to Big Friday. These retailers and Bonnie feared the term sounded negative and would scare shoppers away.
- This Friday Was Black With Traffic. Joseph P. Barrett, Philly.com. Overview: This article was written by a Philadelphia policemen who worked during the 1960’s when the term was created. He describes some of the events leading up to it’s creation and the retailer’s efforts to change the name.
- Everything You Know About Black Friday Is Wrong. Amy Merrick, The New Yorker. Overview: Information about the Army-Navy game contributing to traffic and the retailers efforts to change the name.
- Image Credit: Fenwick