The idea for Black Friday is not a new one, at all. It extends far back into the twentieth century, at the very least. What I mean by that is that the idea to have a huge sale on the day after Thanksgiving is not new. The name--Black Friday--is also not as new as many people tend to believe, as it was used as early as the sixties in reference to post-Thanksgiving sales events.
What turned this day into a prime choice for having sales events is easy enough to understand, however. Prior to the Civil War, Thanksgiving could be--and was--celebrated on different days in different States and locations. In some years--prior to the Lincoln Presidency--it was not officially celebrated by the Federal Government at all. But in 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that declared a Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November. And from then on, Presidents followed his lead. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress officially established this in law by making Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday in November (which is usually the last Thursday in November, though not always; it won't be in 2017).
|FDR's 1939 Thanksgiving. Source: National Archives|
In all three years, there were thus two Thanksgivings, events which indicate just how partisan people were in the past by the way:
FDR's proclamation of the date of Thanksgiving had the force of law only in the District of Columbia and the territories of Hawaii and Alaska. A few states mandated that Thanksgiving be marked on the date set by the president, but in most states governors issued pro forma ratifications of the date the president proclaimed.But as the author of the above piece rightly notes, the supposed benefits of an earlier Thanksgiving never materialized. That--coupled with the continued public outrage over Roosevelt's arbitrary action--was enough to convince Roosevelt to abandon his experiment, thus leading to legislation passed by Congress and signed by Roosevelt in December of 1941 mandating that Thanksgiving would be an officially recognized Federal Holiday that occurred on the fourth Thursday of November.
Now, however, the celebration became a political hot potato. Governors had to read public opinion, examine the local business climate, consider political loyalties, and decide which date to select as the official Thanksgiving.
Do they stick with tradition and celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 30, or follow FDR's lead and change the date to Nov. 23? It wasn't long before people started referring to Nov. 30 as the "Republican Thanksgiving" and Nov. 23 as the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or "Franksgiving."