Back in Time: Stores’ day-after-Thanksgiving sales appeal to shoppers is nothing new

The term "Black Friday" would not appear for decades, but on the day after Thanksgiving in 1916 ever

H.S. Barney wanted the money. So did Mr. Carl. And Mr. Wallace.

Every merchant in Schenectady was thinking of big crowds and big sales on Friday, Dec. 1, 1916 — the day after Thanksgiving, which in those days was on the last Thursday in November. The dark description “Black Friday” would not appear for decades, but shoppers were still being asked to start spending their savings for Christmas.

“There’s a whole city of toys,” read the newspaper advertisement for Barney’s, self-described as Schenectady’s Greatest Store. “And big dolls, some almost as big as yourself; rag dolls, jointed dolls, marching soldiers, fierce-looking Indians and a myriad of other toys.”

Adults were thinking about giving — and maybe getting — one of the wonders of the age. A Victrola could bring recorded sound into porch and parlor, and ranged from $13 to $200.

“Ask us to show you a list of the great singers, musicians, comedians, bands and orchestras that the Victrola alone can bring into your home,” the Barney gang shilled. But the ad was a little off the mark — the competing Columbia “Grafonola” played the same records. And it was pricier, with the top model selling for $350.

Barney’s also began its annual post-Thanksgiving sale on suits and coats. Suits that were $22.50 were now $12.75; a $50 set of clothes was walking out the door for $24.75. The prices were insane.

The Wallace Co. also wanted a piece of the action. “Are you puzzled, sir, as to what to give your sister?” read the store’s printed pitch. “Gloves, of course.” The store also was pushing a line of “Christmas” bathrobes for men.

Carl’s tried to rustle up a Friday morning crowd with soap. Four bars of “Acme” soap, which usually sold for 20 cents, were on the block for 11 cents. But the bundle was only a bargain between 9 and 10 a.m.

The Carl’s gang didn’t mind scaring customers, either. Just a little bit.

“We strongly advise you to buy children’s gift sweaters now,” blared the company’s position. “If you wait, there won’t be enough sweaters to go around this year.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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