Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Black Friday

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 29, 2013

The expression Black Friday — outside of its use to describe the Friday after American Thanksgiving — is applied to any Friday when a public calamity happens. It’s most often applied to calamities that are associated with finances, however.

On July 16, 1966 the Leader-Post newspaper reported about Britain’s new economic crisis where millions of pounds were wiped off market value of shares according to a news story entitled, “Wilson Hit Hard On Black Friday.” The second paragraph reported:

It was called Black Friday in the financial district. It was a Black Friday for Wilson politically as well, with a stunning byelection defeat of the government and reports of a cabinet tussle between two senior ministers.

When the Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal was rolled out on April 10, 1932 one of the news stories dated April 9, 1932 and out of Washington that dealt with the long deferred investigation of the New York stock exchange situation where a group of traders planned to raid the market in an attempt to collapse the market. The article read in part:

One member of the senate banking and currency committee declared the reports indicated the raiders hoped to cause a more sensational decline on prices than occurred on the “Black Friday” of October 1929.

Jumping back almost 50 years, an article was published on February 23, 1881 in the Owosso American newspaper that talked about the Funding Bill that forced banks to call in their loans and where brokers refused to buy stock on margins. It was reported that the stock exchange was in pandemonium. It was also reported that while the fall in stocks was significant, it was nothing equal to the panic of 1873. The article was entitled, “Another Black Friday In Wall Street.”

It was the New York Times edition of March 1, 1870 that spoke of the original Black Friday of September 24, 1869 when Jay Gould and James Fisk Jr. cause the gold market to collapse in an attempt to corner it. The Congressional Committee appointed to ask into the circumstances of that day head that Messrs. Gould and Fisk along with their associates had tried to force gold to 100 premium and in doing so, the gold market actually collapsed when President Ulysses S. Grant ordered a release of government gold for sale. The created the situation where gold prices to plummeted thereby creating a panic in the stock market. The article was entitled, “The History Of Black Friday.”

At the time, Black Friday caused a scandal as some speculated that President Ulysses S. Grant (27 April 1822 – 23 July 1885) had been complicit in the scheme. This potential scenario was offered up in light of the fact that the president’s brother-in-law, Abel Rathbone Corbin (May 24, 1808 – March 28, 1881) and Secretary of the Treasury, George Sewall Boutwell (January 28, 1818 – February 27, 1905) were involved in the scheme, coupled with the fact that President Grant had personal associations with Messrs. Gould and Fisk Jr.

The use of the expression Black Friday first appeared with this scandal and for this reason, Black Friday is pegged to this event in history back in 1869.

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