I Wonder Which Of These Was The Inspiration For Black Friday

As we wait for 2016’s Black Friday barbarism to begin, let us pause and remind ourselves that no matter how much more enlightened we think we are than previous generations, we still act an awful lot like they did. This also serves as a good argument that the person who came up with Black Friday is an even worse human being than previously thought, because he clearly should have known better. Those who don’t learn from history, I suppose.

In 1883, the organizers of a variety show in Northern England promised the children attending the event that they would receive a toy upon exit (the organizers denied reports that the prizes were to go to the first children downstairs). The organizers had intended an orderly exit in which toys were handed out individually, but a surge of 1200 kids rushed to the stairwell, where, at the bottom of the stairs, a door had been propped open inwards about 20 inches and bolted in place. The bolted door stopped the stampeding children from exiting, and the crowd in the stairwell swelled. In the frenzy, children who fell were crushed or suffocated to death, while others were crushed by the mass of children still entering the stairwell. Almost 200 children were killed in the stampede; Queen Victoria’s private secretary wrote that the queen’s “heart bleeds for the suffering of the many bereaved parents.” The New York Times reported days later that the coveted box of toys was still positioned by the door.

One thing I noticed reading through these is the references to store employees tossing things to the crowds. That has bad idea written all over it, does it not? It caught my eye because it’s something I don’t hear about nowadays. I guess maybe we have learned something after all. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start.

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