Dangers Of Black Fridays Past11/26/2013
On November 24, 1623, shoemaker's apprentice Nicholas Keeney became the first-ever fatality of Black Friday promotions when he was run over by an oxcart in Plymouth, Massachusetts, rushing to get a great deal on goose quill pens. Thus began the long and checkered history of Black Friday, by far America’s deadliest holiday.
At the time the Friday after Thanksgiving was not yet known as Black Friday. Mr. Keeney’s wife, Abigail, petitioned the town’s councilmen to honor the price her husband paid as the original Black Friday enthusiast. “Nicholas was a God-fearing man, but truth be told, he feared paying full price just as much as he feared the Almighty,” wrote Abigail. “He was never satisfied with the unstable cost of goose quill pens, how a dozen of them seem to rise and fall from a penny to two pennies every day. When he saw them for a ha’penny, he felt it was his duty as a shopper to make the purchase, no matter how many risks he had to take as a pedestrian.”
Abigail Keeney’s petition was unanimously accepted. To this very day, every Black Friday, goose quill pens are sold by the dozen for a ha’penny in Plymouth (ha’pennies and live chickens are still major forms of currency in Massachusetts and Rhode Island).
Years later, businesses became convinced that it was their holiday and started the absurd rumor that Black Friday is called that because it helps them stay afloat: the influx of revenue allows businesses whose books are “in the red” to rise into the black. Abigail Keeney’s ghost, clearly enraged by this usurpation of her husband’s special day, makes it rain hailstones on the town of Plymouth every Black Friday. (In life, Mrs. Keeney was a witch whose specialty was the weather.)
The Jerusha Quick Stampede of 1743
Over the years, Black Friday only became more aggressive and more frightening. In the first three decades of 18th-century New England, Black Friday was the leading cause of death, taking the lives of over 50,000 colonists. In a distant second was consumption, accounting for only 32,483 deaths.
A remarkable incident of mass fatalities was the Hootenanny Keynote Stampede of 1743, which changed the way that everyone looked at Black Friday. Jerusha Quick was known throughout upstate New York for her renegade butterchurning techniques (too slow churns clockwise followed by three rapid churns counterclockwise, thump the butterchurn with a lighted whale oil candle, leave it out in the snow for six hours, and repeat), which she taught by mail correspondence, typically for a penny.
The settlers of early upstate New York had become accustomed to Jerusha’s amazing prices and excellent customer support (she promised to answer any question within a fortnight). However, no one was prepared for the shocking reduction in price which Jerusha presented on the morning of Black Friday. As Jerusha’s husband Caleb later reported, the stampede occurred in a flash, first thing in the morning.
“Jerusha awoke at my side on Black Friday and immediately grabbed her cowbell,” he wrote in the nation’s first spouse-penned unauthorized biography. “You see, Jerusha is always making decrees, and she always rings that bell to let everyone know that one is forthcoming. She went to the door, opened it wide, and started clanging that bell like I’ve never heard it before. She was putting real muscle into it, and in a moment, the whole town knew why she was so excited.”
Within moments hundreds of people gathered around the Quick cabin. Jerusha stated calmly that she would be holding a hootenanny in the barn, starting momentarily. She would start the event with a 20-minute scrub board solo, followed by a keynote address on her butterchurning tactics. The price was the clincher: a ha’penny per couple (America’s first “buy one, get one free” special).
The crowd surrounding Jerusha was so shocked by the value she was presenting that they lost all sense of orientation. The entire group of people, en masse, turned and ran off a cliff. There were no survivors.
Jerusha Quick Proclamation & Certified Hosting Revolution
To quell the Black Friday frenzy in the colonies, King George II immediately issued the Jerusha Quick Proclamation, making it a capital offense to suddenly announce earth-shattering savings in a manner “that might cause human stampede or any other disaster.”
Everything calmed down a bit from 1744 to the present. Most notably during that 169-year stretch, Frank Delano Roosevelt signed King George II’s declaration, word for word, into law in 1944, commemorating its bicentennial anniversary in his 28th Executive Order. FDR said at the time, “It’s one of the only safeguards we have that protects us from falling from great heights on Black Friday.”
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By Kent Roberts