black friday macys
Black Friday shoppers raring to hit the Macy’s sales floor

Most people who know me, know I’m obsessed with New York. I visit once a year (I’d go more if I could…) and I’m always adding to my NYC bucket list. I love reading the New York Times and books set in NYC. I also write (sporadically) about my travels and New York culture here. I could go on!

I know some people have a love-hate relationship with the place. It’s not for everyone… and then there’s Trump… but, most of us love looking at an old photo or two of NYC I’m sure. So, today, seeing as we’re all about ‘Black Friday’ over here in Little Britain, I wanted to share this cool album of photos taken by Nina Leen for LIFE Magazine, showing what Black Friday was like at legendary NY department store, Macy’s, in 1948. Somehow in retro black and white the whole experience looks more appealing than some of the stampedes we see today…

black friday macy's 1948
A performer called Jane Pickens leads 9,000 Macy’s employees in singing ‘Jingle Bells’ during a giant rally designed to whip up fever of salesmanship for the Christmas rush

It wasn’t technically called Black Friday back then, but the day after Thanksgiving has always been a big event on the American retail calendar, and in 1948, Macy’s – at one million square feet – was the biggest store in the world which meant prepping for the holiday season was a military operation involving 14,000 staff, 400,000 items and 250,000 shoppers. Yikes!

Planning entailed both logistical and motivational efforts. At a giant pep rally, the morale of staff members was lifted by a harmonious rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Telephone operators prepared to respond to as many as six questions per minute. Plainclothes employee detectives trained to spot shoplifters from among the hordes. And clerks readied themselves to handle fluid pricing on that year’s hottest items—from striped pajamas to “simulated” pearls to Macy’s house-brand Scotch—which fluctuated as many as five times per day as reports of competitors’ pricing came in.

Another shot taken during the staff pre-Black-Friday rally. This time pianists entertain Macy’s staff to get them in the mood to sell, sell, sell!
macy's department store new york 1948
Crowds of holiday shoppers start gathering on the pavement outside Macy’s, waiting for the doors to open
macys new york black friday
Shoppers getting ready to fight their way in…
macy's new york
I love this – a Macy’s employee updates price changes on a bulletin board as a result of comparison shopping
coats and jackets macy's 1948
Ladies fight for a bargain coat!
Janet Steurer plowing through a pile of costume pearl necklaces that she will sell today
jewellery shopping at macy's in 1948
A customer searches for that perfect bargain string of pearls…
santa claus macy's new york
Santa Claus impersonators ready for work!
black friday macy's new york
The Macy’s sales floor in full swing, crowded with Christmas decorations and shoppers
Well-heeled customers trying on fur coats and jackets
Macy’s department store employees issuing refunds
macy's new york hospital
The aftermath: Macy’s had its own hospital which treated 65,000 patients a year. This is a usual Monday morning scene: a queue of staff waiting to have their temperatures taken – it was always longer after big sales days
black friday macy's new york 1948
The aftermath…


  1. Sheepskins Fairylights Reply

    Gosh what an interesting back story! The hospital picture with all the staff with thermometers, so funny! Xx

    • Ellie Reply

      The Macy’s staff hospital would make a story in itself!

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