But the question is how did “black Friday” become associated with the day after Thanksgiving? That’s the question people were asking. The answer seems to point to the Philadelphia police who named the day after the unusually heavy crowds on that day. It wasn’t about the shopping; it was about the crowds (and which is why its still called “black").
There’s probably another, perhaps subtle reason Philadelphia police had dubbed the name so (in addition to the increased traffic in the city because of the perfect storm created by the collision of a big shopping day with the Army-Navy football game the following day). Longtime Philadephia reporter Joseph P. Barrett (as Ben’s column also points out) mentioned in a 1994 remembrance that not only were all police officers expected to work that day in order to deal with the traffic gridlock and parking woes, but that they were also expected to work 12-hour shifts in order to accomplish this. It wasn’t just a busy, headache-filled day for Philadelpia police officers, it was a long day, one better spent—in an ideal world—napping and eating turkey sandwiches.