Black Friday’s grim history including gold conspiracy and devious schemes

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Black Friday is coming around once again and it is an event steeped in interesting history.

November 26 will see opportunistic shoppers attempting to take advantage of pre-Christmas deals and make huge savings on a range of items from TV's, coffee machines, jewellery and aprons, to toasters, tea cosies and toilet brushes.

There have been some unsavoury scenes over the years as shoppers clamber over each other to get to the luxury items.

Some don't like it as a result, but others can't wait to get their elbows out a bit on their way to a huge saving.

Retailers in the form of Argos, Amazon and Curry's will be fighting it out to attract customers to their deals, while Very slashed £150 off Shark vacuum cleaners.

It is set to be an interesting day full of bargains, but where does the term come from?

Why is it called Black Friday?

There are a range of meanings behind the term. Black Friday, which dates back to 1869, has a rather grim history.

Two investors called Jay Gould and Jim Fisk conspired to drive up the price of gold, causing a market crash and halting foreign trade.

Gould and Fisk were president and vice president of the Erie Railroad and they were known for devious schemes.

In 1869, gold was still the official currency of international trade and Gould believed that a buyer with deep pockets and feeling particularly lucky could 'corner' the market as there was only $20million (£15million) of it on the market at that time. It was believed that buying up the gold would allow them to drive up the price and sell it for huge profits.

The problem was that the US government essentially set the price of gold as they were using it to buy 'greenbacks', another form of currency in use.

If the government decided to sell off a huge amount of gold the price would go down and that meant Gould needed the president to keep his pockets sealed.

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Gould brought in Abel Corbin, who was married to President Ulysses Grant’s sister, Jennie. Corbin was meant to keep his ear to the ground and find out if the president planned to sell off the gold. It eventually worked and Grant told Corbin he planned not to sell off the gold in the coming months.

The price of gold skyrocketed until September when a huge crash occurred and had a big effect on the stock market. Value in foods like wheat and corn dropped by 50%.

Later, somewhere from the end of the 1950s to the early 1960s, the term was coined by police officers in Philadelphia. Every year at Thanksgiving there were significant shopping sales and the city would be hugely crowded by deal seekers and traffic. It was difficult for police to control and not a day they enjoyed.

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A 1966 issue of The American Philatelist explained: "Black Friday is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them.

"Black Friday officially opens the Christmas shopping season in centre city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing."

It is believed that regular use of the name in terms of shopping came into use around 10 years later.

Black Friday falls on 26 November this year.

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  • Black Friday
  • Deals
  • Christmas

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