There's no way to avoid it. That glorious hustle-bustle phenomenon designated “Black Friday” again has returned. I'll admit, due to $6.22 billion (2018) online acquisitions, it's not the circus it once was. Regardless, yours truly is quite satisfied to relinquish responsibility of remaining one-day bargain procurements to my patient spousal unit.
President Abraham Lincoln inadvertently set the tone for this day in 1863 when making a proclamation, setting aside the last Thursday in November as a “day of thanksgiving and praise.” As decades rolled by, American innovation took over when folks began to call in “sick” to their employers the following day (Friday), thus creating headaches for the bosses, a four-day weekend, and a chance to get a jump on holiday shopping.
The term “Black Friday,” as we know it today, became part and parcel to our popular culture around 1966. From what I gather, it is primarily attributed to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Penn.
Suburban shopping malls were only beginning to develop inroads with shoppers in the mid-1960s. Thereby the sphere of holiday purchasing influence remained centered with established downtown retail merchants. Philadelphia was certainly no exception.
With thoroughfares and intersections being inherently narrow, the overwhelming glut of hustle-bustle, package-toting consumers brought traffic to a standstill. Philly's police types nearly pulled their hair out trying to manage the sea of pedestrians and frazzled, gridlocked motorists. The boys in blue dubbed it Black Friday. Madison Avenue advertising whiz-kids latched onto the catchy term and developed its holiday spendthrift potential.
If you're a purist, the first historically recognizable use of the term in the U.S. came about way back in 1869 when some tricky financiers attempted to make a fortune by manipulating the gold market. Their scheme backfired and instead of the desired outcome, it triggered the Panic of 1873, a four-year depression causing headaches for President Ulysses S. Grant.
In 1961, for D.C. Republicans, Black Friday took on a liquid connotation. The G.O.P. had basked in eight comfortable years with Dwight D. Eisenhower occupying the White House. When Democrat Jack Kennedy edged out Republican Dick Nixon for all the marbles by 100,000 votes in November 1960, the elephants were a bit downcast.
The J.F.K. inauguration took place on a snowy Friday on Jan. 20, 1961. To dampen their woes, Republicans in the District of Columbia christened a new adult concoction to commemorate the historical occasion, dubbing it Black Friday. The inebriant consisted of a portion of Jamaican rum and grape juice served over ice, garnished with a ripe olive. Here's to you Mr. President!
Hollywood couldn't be left out of a story like this. I located a couple of instances where writers in Tinseltown adapted stories to fit the “BF” heading.
On Jan. 22, 1967, Little Joe Cartwright (Michael Landon) came to the assistance of a friend (John Saxon) turned gunfighter in a Sunday night Bonanza TV episode using the Black Friday title. To add drama, the storyline was written to take place on Friday the 13th.
One film entitled “Black Friday” was a 1940 Universal-released nail biter. The headliners in this black-and-white fear monger were Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, two of the creepiest. The story was that of a doctor (Karloff) who transplanted half of a gangster's brain to save the life of a dying friend. Lugosi played a nasty underworld associate of the gangster.
During the last week of August 1940, the movie played at the ISIS Theater in Kokomo. It followed up years later in re-release at the Sipe Theater in August 1948 and the Indiana Theater in July 1954.
Late-night TV had a field day with the old flicker. How many of us stayed up late on weekends to watch a horror movie with ghoulish Sammy Terry on WTTV Channel 4? I know I did, if the antenna and weather conditions were right of course.
Television latched onto old motion pictures which were inexpensive to run in various time slots. Sammy featured the film no less than three times in '71, '72, and '73. Nearby TV stations offered the gangster flick in '75, '81, and '89. Starting in October '95 you could rent the aging film via the new medium, DVD.
When researching for this piece, curiosity got the best of me. I searched and located this Karloff/Lugosi effort on YouTube. It received no Academy Award nominations back in the day (for good reason), but my time on YTube was well-spent viewing the old scare masters on a chilly evening while reminiscing the late-night, teenage fun and Sammy Terry persona.
Well, how about that. Black Friday ain't so bad after all. I'm still not going shopping.