Inside Redbubble

The Totally True History of Black Friday

What the heck is Black Friday all about anyway, and as a Redbubble artist why should you care? Well, we just so happen to have some knowledge for you and it’s so good we’re giving it away.

The origin of Black Friday, the most sales-y sales day of the year, was largely unknown for centuries. It wasn’t until a group of savings historians came together to share research—and removing 20% off of course—that we finally knew the true origin of this day. It’s believed that the original name was “Hey that’s mine, give me that too, mine mine mine”, but needed to be catchier so they went with Black Friday. This was of course inspired by the top selling product of that year, tuxedos for turkeys.

An alternative story, and one we’re told is factual, is that the term Black Friday originated in Philadelphia around 1950-60, and was related to the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic that occurred the day after Thanksgiving.(1) As the term became more and more popular, the common explanation was that this heavy sales day marked a profitable turning point for retailers, in that they moved from “in the red” to “in the black”.

During the early years of this term being used, there was some negativity associated with it. Police in Philadelphia needed to work longer hours to deal with the influx of shoppers, the Army-Navy football game that took place yearly on Saturdays, and shoplifters that would take advantage of the mania and push law enforcement to the limit. At one point there was an effort to change the term to “Big Friday”, in hopes of creating a more positive spin, but this didn’t take and by 1985 Black Friday had been adopted nationwide. It was during this time that the “red to black” explanation helped to give the sales day a more positive feel.


A few myths have surfaced over the years that claim to tell the true origin of Black Friday, and while the “red to black” story is technically inaccurate, these myths were negative enough to lead to boycotts of the sales day. However, none of these myths have any factual evidence to back them up. (2)

The other significant time the term Black Friday was used, was during the U.S. Gold Crash on September 24, 1869. Two speculators, Jay Gould and his partner James Fisk, bought as much gold as they possibly could in an attempt to drive up prices. At one point they were making $15,000 dollars ($263k in 2016) for every dollar rise in gold. Once the scheme was known, Ulysses S. Grant stepped in and ordered $4 million in gold to be released, which not only drove down the price of gold but create a panic on Wall Street that would lead to turmoil for months. (3)

Black Friday has become so popular and profitable over the years, that many other retail holidays have sprung up, such as Cyber Monday. The benefit with this sales day is that all the shopping is online. This is nice, as you can shop from the comfort of your home and avoid any health or safety risks.

If you are planning on going out to shop on Black Friday, we recommend keeping safety and respect for others a priority. Remember that the employees of your favorite retail stores are working very hard, and most likely very long shifts away from family during the holiday weekend. Be kind and let them know you appreciate their hard work. Smiles are contagious.

Shopping online is the easiest way to go, and we totally recommend doing that. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, put on your favorite slippers, and be inspired. Our mobile app also goes great with a relaxing breakfast.

As an artist, what can you do to join in this season bursting with sales flavor? Glad you asked. We have an awesome post designed to help get you in the game. We call it the 2017 Holiday Design Guide. This guide is filled with tips, tricks, links to helpful posts, quotes, and also a custom holiday checklist video with Resident Artist Nicholas Miller.

This Holiday find your thing in style.

(Header Image: “Hurry Up” by smalldrawing)

View additional posts by Josh


Art historian, burrito enthusiast, and Email Marketing Specialist here at Redbubble.