“Black Friday” and Philly Shopping

The term “Black Friday” has for years been synonymous with mayhem at stores, and its origin story has roots in turbulence.

Philadelphia Skyline

Black Friday began in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Tourists would descend on the city on the day between Thanksgiving and the annual Army-Navy football game held on Saturday. Historians say the Philadelphia police took to calling the day Black Friday because officers had to work long hours and deal with terrible traffic, bad weather and other crowd-related miseries.

Local retailers wanted to draw in shoppers that day. But they disliked the term because of the connotation of the word “black” in front of a day of the week, which historically has been used to mark unpleasant events. One was Black Tuesday, the day of the stock market crash of 1929, and another, Black Monday, the day in 1987 when the market lost more, on a percentage basis, than on any day in 1929.

Retailers tried to rebrand the holiday “Big Friday” but were unsuccessful. Businesses later reclaimed the name Black Friday, saying that the day was when stores’ books went from red ink to black.