How Black Friday Got Its Name

Why is Black Friday called Black Friday? For centuries, the name usually meant a day of calamity, first for political unrest, and later for financial markets. But why is a day of famously sensational shopping deals called something so bleak?

Until a generation ago, if the nickname "Black Friday" rang a bell, you'd probably be a banker and it would have made you shudder. On May 11, 1866, the collapse of the house of Overend, Guerney & Company in London sent the markets into a panic. On September 24, 1869, a group of New York bankers jacked up the price of gold, panicking more investors.

Four years later, there were two Black Fridays. One in Vienna and one in America when the Jay Cooke & Company bank failed, kicking off the so-called Long Depression. (Yes, there was one, and it lasted for two decades.)

We're more likely to remember the Black Monday of October 19, 1987, the bottom fell out of the Dow Jones, which plummeted more than 22%, wiping out entire fortunes. Many analysts think it was caused when automated trading systems triggered a sell-off.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. But contrary to popular belief, the cause was not the release of Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby. That idea is positively ludicrous, of course. Because that movie came out a month later.

It turns out the first written reference of "Black Friday" as a shopping day goes back nearly half a century to Philadelphia, and at first, the nickname didn't have to do with retailers' bank accounts -- but with the misery of the day's crowds.

For modern America, the "black" in Black Friday refers to retailers' fortunes, not yours. Or so you'd think.

The video explains all.
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