A gang of English boys plays April Fool pranks on an old man in the street
April Fool's Day:
During the eighteenth century April Fool's Day (or All Fool's Day as it was often called) became increasingly popular in England, and from there it spread to America. The English came up with a number of different names for April Fools, such as April Gob, April Gobby, or April Noddie. While few accounts of large-scale, elaborate pranks have survived from the eighteenth century, there are numerous descriptions of the small, mischievous tricks that people played on each other.
The most common prank was to send someone on a 'sleeveless errand,' which meant sending them to search for a non-existent product. Young apprentices working in the shops of tradesmen were frequent victims of this trick. For instance, they might be sent to the market to search for hen's teeth, pigeon's milk, a history of Eve's grandmother, striped paint, a soft-pointed chisel, a box of straight hooks, sweet vinegar, a stick with one end, or a penny's worth of strap-oil or elbow grease. Alternatively, they might be sent to a saddler's shop to ask for some strong strapping, at which point, if they were not careful, they would receive what they asked for across their shoulders. Or they might be sent to ask for a 'long stand,' whereupon they would be told that they could stand for as long as they wished.
The English were fond of playing pranks on unsuspecting strangers in the streets. The most popular gag was to pin a sign onto someone's back. Usually the sign would read, "Kick Me." Other tricks included gluing a penny to the pavement, putting a brick beneath a hat and waiting for someone to kick it out of the way, or tying a string to a purse and yanking it out of grasp whenever someone bent down to pick it up. Street urchins were also famous for their love of pulling the coattails of gentlemen and then running rapidly away. The gentlemen, believing they had been robbed, would run fruitlessly after the boys.
There were also pranks that were popular in the home. These included serving chocolate-covered cotton balls, putting salt in the sugar bowl, or asking someone if they wanted to see the greatest fool in town and then showing them a mirror.
We find numerous literary allusions to All Fool's Day during the eighteenth century, such as this example from Poor Robin's Almanac in 1728: