The Original Black Friday

Here we are – the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday. The day thousands of Americans hit the malls and retail stores searching for the perfect sale to make all their Christmas gift-giving dreams come true. For some, this is the first Christmas tradition to engage in every year. They wake up early, brave the cold, and set out before dawn to grab the best deals they can on electronics, clothes, and anything else that might appear on a loved one’s Christmas list.

Me? Well, my idea of a good Black Friday, is keeping my eyes shut and sleeping in with my husband. Then lazing around the house all day, eating leftover turkey, playing games with the kids, and yes, probably watching some football. The important thing for me is avoiding the retail craziness at all cost.

For a day that has become famous for spurring the economy, I found it rather ironic that the first Black Friday became famous for crashing it.

During reconstruction, following the Civil War, the nation’s economy was at a devestating low point. In order to stimulate economic growth, President Grant made an effort to reduce the supply of paper money or greenbacks by offering to buy them from citizens at a discount and replacing them with currency backed by gold.

However, in 1869 a pair of shady financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, came up with a scheme to profit from the government’s plan by cornering the gold market. If they could convince Grant not to sell gold to the public, they themselves could buy it up in large quantities and watch the price soar. Then, when it peaked, they would sell out and make a fortune. But how were they to influence President Grant?

Gould and Fisk recruited Abel Corbin, a financier who just happened to be married to Grant’s sister, Virginia. Crobin arranged invitations to social engagements for Gould and Fisk where the two used their charm and persuasion to argue against the government sale of gold, bending Grant’s ear. Grant wasn’t swayed, but he did allow Corbin to convince him to appoint General Daniel Butterfield assistant treasurer of the United States. Part of Butterfield’s job was to handle government gold sales on Wall Street. In return for a piece of the action, Butterfield agreed to inform Gould and Fisk when the government was ready to sell gold.

Pandemonium in the New York Gold Room

Grant eventually became suspicious of his brother-in-law’s sudden intrerest in the gold market, and when he found a letter between his wife and sister regarding the same matter, he recognized the scheme for what it was. Sensing the danger, Gould, Fisk, and Corbin began buying up as much gold as they could on September 20. The price rose to as high as $162 per ounce, a price that would not be reached again for 100 years. However, on September 24, Grant ordered the immediate sale of $4,000,000 worth of government gold. Within minutes, prices plummeted. Investors scrambled. Panick set in. Many investors had taken out loans to buy their gold and when the price dropped, they were ruined, Abel Corbin among them.

Gould escaped relatively unscathed, by selling his gold before the market began to fall. Daniel Butterfield was removed from his post after a congressional hearing. Bad luck and continued scheming caught up to Fisk a few years later. In 1872, fellow financier, Edward Stokes, shot him dead after arguments over money and the affections of a show girl named Josie Mansfield. Has all the makings of a western showdown, doesn’t it?

So, are you a Black Friday shopper, or do you prefer to hide away at home and avoid the crowds?

Here’s a Black Friday deal you can take advantage of right now. My latest release, Short-Straw Bride, is available in e-book for only $2.99. This price is valid for both Kindle and Nook, but the deal is only available today.

Click on the book cover to visit Amazon.

If you’ve already read it, consider giving it as an early Christmas gift to a friend. All you need is an email address to send the e-book as a gift. Happy shopping!!!

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

11 thoughts on “The Original Black Friday”

  1. Karen, what an interesting post. I’m glad those scoundrels got their comeuppance.

    You won’t find me out on Black Eye…eh…I mean Black Friday. Today I’ll stay home and savor the glow from yesterday.


  2. It is interesting to see how history is brought into the present day.. Thanks for bringing this great piece of history to us.

  3. Hi Karen – well you’re BLACK FRIDAY deal is a great one. Hope lots of people read your wonderful book!!
    For me, I won’t go near a store today…no way! It’s madness and parking is ridiculous.

    Wish I could buy some gold for #162 an ounce. Ha! Interesting story and research!

  4. Great post Karen – learned something new today! And no, I’m not a black friday shopper – fighting crowds for sale items is not a sport I enjoy! These ast few years I’ve become more of an online shopper – love browsing from the comfort of my home.

  5. Very interesting blog. Those gold investors must’ve been heartsick when the price started plummeting. But really, if a person wanted to invest some money today gold would be the way to go. Wish I had a bunch of money laying around. I’d sure buy some.

    No, I don’t do Black Friday. Never have and never will, unless I totally lose all my wits. I did do some shopping online though. Found a good price on a computer monitor I really need. Mine is shot and flickers on and off. I also bought my granddaughters a few things. But if my fingers can’t do the walking then I’m afraid I’ll do without.

    Have a great relaxing Friday.

  6. Hi Karen, I agree with Margaret, savoring the glow from yesterday. We ate with friends, 30 miles south and had a great day. Our puppy ran and ran and wore himself out with the other dogs. (We were at a hay ranch). Lots of acreage and dogs and kids. The weather was terrific and the company was great, too. Talk about cowboys. There were 6 with hats. And the ‘farmer tan’ heads stood out when the hats came off. So, today it is relaxing and enjoying the whole weekend. There is no way I would travel 2 1/2 hours to fight with shoppers. (That is our closest big retail stores).

  7. Karen, great blog and info I didn’t know. I just did my Black Friday shopping when I went to and got my daughter a “today only” bargain. It was the perfect one, too. A pair of diamond stud earrings for $99 instead of $275! Now my two daughters, along with my niece, hit the stores the minute they open and “enjoy”, if you imagine, Black Friday. I typically have worked way too long in the kitchen to enjoy fighting a crowd. Seems I do that enough on a regular day of shopping. Have a great one. Phyliss

  8. I’m actually traveling back home today so I’ll be out a lot. I agree with many of you nim becoming more and more if an online shopper. Browsing from home is the way to go. I buy so much from Amazon these days. It’s my online Walmart.

    Mary J- your thanksgiving with cowboys sounds awesome! The only cowboys I had were the football team and they lost. Ha!

    Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the holiday weekend!

  9. Hi Karen, My husband and I shopped on Black Friday just once. We had just moved into this house and wanted a new television for the bigger space. Best Buy had an amazing deal, so we braved the crowds and got a real bargain. Not so bad except for 45 minute wait at the traffic signal to get out of the parking lot!

    I’m not much of a shopper . . . My favorite way to spend Black Friday is with family and leftovers.

  10. I leave the crazy shopping to those who enjoy it. This year it was our day to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was out of town since Nov. 1, so we slid the celebration. It is a date and a thought and as a military family, we learned to celebrate whenever we could. We are retired now, but the same thing applies. I spent the day cooking and with the whole family.

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