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April Fool's Day, 1800-1849
Signor Gaudentia de Lucca. (1800) "On Tuesday the First of April, a few hand-bills were struck up in Kendal, purporting that a person, who styled himself Signor Gaudentia de Lucca, or The Little Devil, would perform the most surprising and extraordinary feats on the tight rope, that had ever been exhibited to the public, at the Old Castle Yard, on the Tuesday evening following. The bill contained a great deal of unintelligible jargon, which no person was able to make out, but which was supposed to be Welsh, from the great number of consonants in it.
Notwithstanding the unintelligibleness of the bill, a concourse of people assembled, at the time appointed, to the number of five hundred, and upwards: the owner of the castle had appointed constables, and others, to keep the multitude from breaking down the young trees, &c. No performer yet appeared; when, after waiting near an hour in the utmost expectation, they at last concluded it must have been a hum upon the town, and breathed nothing but revenge on the persons who had stuck the bills up — if they could find them out. On the next morning (Friday, April 4) the following translation was stuck at the foot of the bill.
All ye good people, who expect to see
The greatest wonders—thus perform'd to be;
The Little Devil bids you—go to school,
And there learn hence to be no—April Fool."
[London Morning Post and Gazetteer, Apr 12, 1800]
Ah! You April Fool!. (1826)
"Sir, there's something out of your pocket."
"Your hand, sir—Ah! You April fool!"
The Great Cave Sell. (circa 1845) On an undetermined April 1 in the 1840s, a story appeared in the Boston Post announcing that a cave full of treasure had been discovered beneath Boston Common. It had supposedly been uncovered by workmen as they removed a tree from the Common. As the tree fell, it revealed a stone trap-door with a large iron ring set in it. Beneath the door was a stone stairway that led to an underground cave. In this cave lay piles of jewels, old coins, and weapons with jeweled handles. As word of the discovery spread throughout Boston, parties of excited curiosity-seekers marched out across the Common to view the treasure. A witness later described the scene: "It was rainy, that 1st of April, the Legislature was in session, and it was an animated scene that the Common presented, roofed with umbrellas, sheltering pilgrims on their way to the new-found sell. A procession of grave legislators marched solemnly down under their green gingham, while philosophers, archaeologists, numismatists, antiquarians of all qualities, and the public generally paid tribute to the Post's ingenuity." Of course, the Common was empty of all jewel-bearing caverns, as the crowd of treasure seekers eventually discovered to its disappointment.
The Train to Drogheda. (1844) During the final week of March, 1844, placards appeared around Dublin advertising a free train ride on April 1st to all who desired it, transporting passengers to the town of Drogheda and back. Early on the first of April a large crowd gathered at the station. As a train approached, the crowd surged forward, eager to secure their free seats. But the conductors and overseers intervened to keep the people away from the train, informing them that there was no free ride. The crowd grew displeased, and a riot broke out. "The labourers on the road supported the overseers—the victims fought for their places, and the melee was tremendous." The following day a number of people went to the police station to lodge official complaints, but the police dismissed all complaints "in honour of the day." [The London Times, Apr 6, 1844]
Street Urchins. (1847) "Hurly-Burly what a time! dogs, boys, fops, ladies, carts and wagons. Of all places cities are the greatest on the first of April. The quiet dandy; the romping maid; the mischevious News Boys are all in confusion; the dandy has become the laughing stock of the whole street—he walks along, he rubs his modest moustache—he feels his dignity—he swells; he sees the ladies smile—oh! ye Gods what a happy man! he walks on further—bright Phoebus shines resplendently— he looks to see the sun set forth the latest Parisian Fashion and he beholds his form adorned with papers— he swears, he looks round and sees a gang of boys with their fingers to their faces, he increases his pace and is soon out of sight."
[Prisoner's Friend — Apr 3, 1847]
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