FDR Edict Moved Thanksgiving For Shopping Rush
Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2012
Let’s blame President Franklin D. Roosevelt for all this Black Friday shopping madness. He fueled the ever-expanding Christmas holiday shopping fever.
In 1939, Thanksgiving would have fallen on Nov. 30 by the old standard of having the observance on the last Thursday of the month.
In those days, merchants religiously avoided posting their Christmas decorations and sales until after Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving was so late, they worried about lost Christmas sales by the compressed shopping season.
FDR’s Secretary of Commerce came up with an idea that he thought might also shock the nation out of the Great Depression: Move up Thanksgiving a week. Give ‘em more time to shop!
Roosevelt did it, prompting some critics to compare him to Hitler. Republican Alf Landon said it was another sign of FDR’s impulsiveness.
Some critics labeled that year’s holiday “Franksgiving.”
And you thought Washington political fighting was something new.
A Gallup poll found Republicans opposed it 79 percent to 21 percent; Democrats opposed less, 52-48. Twenty-two states refused to go along. Three states granted holidays on both Thursdays.
And, like most government plans, it didn’t work. The Commerce Department found holiday sales were about the same as the prior year. But the date change remained and took root among all the states.
FDR is not to blame, however, for all the big box stores opening on Thursday night this year. Nor is President Obama. But the apparent success will guarantee it will continue next year — maybe an hour earlier.
There is no force greater than a sale.
Elizabeth and I dropped the boys off at the movies in Winston-Salem on Thanksgiving afternoon, driving down the eerily quiet Hanes Mall Boulevard hardly passing a single car. We didn’t return the next day for the Black Friday madness. I don’t do well in crowds, and I don’t like shopping under any circumstances …
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