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November 27, 2015

Macy's Preparations for the Christmas Season in 1948, Here's What Black Friday Looked Like Before It Was Called Black Friday

Black Friday wasn’t yet called Black Friday in 1948—nor do the newspapers from that era offer evidence of stampedes or overnight lines that have become par for the course on the day after Thanksgiving—but the kick-off to the holiday shopping season has long been a red-letter retail day.

Images of preparations for that season at Macy’s—then, at one million square feet, the biggest store in the world—bespeak a highly orchestrated operation relying upon 14,000 employees to ready 400,000 items to be swept off of shelves by 250,000 eager shoppers.

Jane Pickens leads 9,000 Macy's employees in "Jingle Bells" during giant rally designed to whip up fever of salesmanship for Christmas rush.

Eager customers stand outside the doors of Macy's, 1948.

Holiday shoppers line the sidewalk outside of Macy's, 1948.

Macy's shoppers wait to be allowed on the floor, 1948.

Bulletin board lists price changes made as a result of comparison shopping. Macy's gets around fixed prices by producing own brands, fixing own prices.

Shoppers clamor for coveted items, 1948.

This is how many pearls [salesgirl] Janet [Steurer] sells in one day.

A customer examines a string of pearls, 1948.

Santa Claus impersonators at Macy's, 1948.

Young salesman William Komlos (Yale '48) is member of the 60-man executive training squad.

The sales floor at Macy's is crowded with people and Christmas decorations, 1948.

Women try on furs in the Macy's dressing room, 1948.

Comparison shoppers buy in competing stores, bring back merchandise priced under Macy's. Macy's then lowers prices to undersell competition.

A child sits with her doll at the crowded Macy's world heardquarters, 1948.

Store hospital treats 65,000 patients a year. This is usual Monday morning lineup having temperatures taken. The lineup is longer after big sale days.

A pageant is performed for the store's thousands of employees before the holiday rush, 1948.

The mess in the wake of a major sale day, 1948.

(Photos: Nina Leen—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)


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