Newspapers & April Fools’ Day: A Match Made in Prankster Heaven

Newspapers are generally perceived to be the ”most trusted” and ”authoritative” media. It’s probably for this reason, newspapers have a history of not being able to resist pranking their readers on April Fools’ Day. Here’s a few that are considered to be legendary AFD pranks:

Wiscons state capital 2.0In 1933 the Madison Capital-Times ran this image on the front page of their April 1st issue. The headline, as you can see, was ”Dome Topples Off Statehouse” and the subhead of the article was… ”Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air.” Despite that at the bottom of the article, the paper made it clear this was an April Fools’ joke, many readers wrote to the paper to express their displeasure over the hoax. Apparently, in 1985, the Science Digest put this one on their list of one of the world’s best hoaxes.

Next up…on March 31st, 1864, the Evening Star of Islington announced there would be a ”grand exhibition of donkeys” to be held the next day at the Agricultural Hall.donkeys 2.0

As the story goes, a large crowd gathered outside the Hall the next morning. Apparently it took a while for the crowd to realize they were the ”donkeys.”





These hoax stories are not ALL from long ago. In 1980, the Old Lyme Gazette, a small weekly paper in Connecticut, pulled a famous hoax on the New London Day, a much larger daily paper nearby. In addition to the small weekly buying the larger daily, the Old Lyme paper announced that it was planning to expand the Day’s reporting staff by ”cutting it in half -literally, at the waist; this would create twice as many reporters although, of course, they would be half their former stature.” Again, the article prominently declared ”April Fools!” but apparently the ”phones rang off the hook for weeks” at both papers. Also, the fictitious purchase was even later reported in a New England printing industry trade journal. Well played Old Lyme Gazette, well played.

Taxes for Health Club

Our last stop in this tour of historic hoaxes, comes from the Kokomo Tribune in 1965. The paper reported that city officials had decided to institute a new tax to raise money for a swanky new ”public officials only” health club. One town official was quoted in the article saying that ”public officials are hard working people and they deserve a convenient place for recreation.” The official went on to say that he felt people would accept the new tax once they realized it was for ”a good thing.” Objectively speaking, that’s pretty darn funny.

Happy April 1st 2016. Long live newspapers’ penchant for the April Fools joke!

Post by Jim Jinks

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