After I wrote about the Philadelphia origins of the term “Black Friday” for the shopping day after Thanksgiving, I got the following email from a reader:
I had recently dropped out of college for the first time. I had just turned nineteen and had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. The dire warnings came from the sweet older women that took me under their wings in the arts and crafts department at John Wanamaker’s department store in center city Philadelphia shortly after I was hired as temporary holiday help in October, 1971. They warned me to be prepared for the hoards of obnoxious brats and their demanding parents that would alight from the banks of elevators onto the eighth floor toy department, all racing to ride see the latest toys on their way to visit Santa. The feeling of impending doom sticks with me to this day. The experienced old ladies that had worked there for years called it “Black Friday.” I’m quite sure it had nothing to do with store ledgers going from red to black.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t push the frontiers of knowledge forward since we already knew that the term was in common use by at least 1966. But it does offer us an opportunity for some crowdsourced research. I figure this blog must have at least several dozen readers from Philadelphia. With some linkage help, maybe a few hundred will see this. Many of you will have older relatives who have lived and worked in Philadelphia for a long time. And many of those older relatives will have been cops or bus drivers or retail clerks in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
So here’s your task, Philadelphians: talk to your relatives. Find out if they remember the term “Black Friday” being in common use and compare this to the era when they worked. If, say, clerks from the 40s don’t remember this, but clerks from the 50s do, we’ll be making some progress. Science demands that we do this. So ask away, and either email me your results or leave them in comments. Let’s demonstrate the power of the internet to the infidels.