Black Friday, the Poem


Arts & Culture


“The New York Gold Room on ‘Black Friday,’ September 24, 1869.” —E. Benjamin Andrews 1895

While most of us know Black Friday as the nightmarish commerce-fest following Thanksgiving—a term coined in Philadelphia in 1961—in fact the nom de guerre dates back to the nineteenth century. In 1869, robber-barons Jay Gould and James Fisk attempted to corner the gold market, resulting in financial crisis and scandal.

E. C. Stedman, a poet and broker (!), wrote the following:

One Hundred and Sixty! Can’t be true!
What will the bears-at-forty do?
How will the merchants pay their dues?
How will the country stand the news?
What’ll the banks—but listen! hold!
In screwing up the price of gold
To that dangerous, last, particular peg,
They had killed their Goose with the Golden Egg!

I spent too many minutes trying to transform this into a piece of doggerel that incorporated door-buster sales, accidental deaths, Best Buy vigils, and rampant modern consumerism, but it was a losing battle. Some things are beyond parody. Not to mention, poetry.

One more note on Stedman, via Wikipedia: “In 1879, he proposed a rigid airship inspired by the anatomy of a fish, with a framework of steel, brass, or copper tubing and a tractor propeller mounted on the craft’s bow, later changed to an engine with two propellers suspended beneath the framework. The airship never was built, but its design foreshadowed that of the dirigibles of the early decades of the twentieth century.”