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.
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!!!