The April Fool Archive:
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April Fool's Day in the 1890s
Rattlesnake Bite. (1893) "Monday forenoon we received by stage from Captain Jackson of the Jackson ranch a beautiful pair of rattlesnakes which had been captured by some of his cowboys. We were arranging to forward them to Chicago and left the box for an hour or so on the front steps of The Kicker office. For fear that some idiot would come along and stick his finger into one of the holes bored for ventilation we printed and hunt out a sign of "Don't Poke!" It hadn't been out 10 minutes when that old critter of a Bill Henderson came along, and being about half slewed he took the sign and the box for an April fool joke and deliberately poked.
We got out just as he yelled, one of the snakes having bitten him, of course. We ran him into the butcher shop and cut off the finger and sent for a doctor, and during the next hour we got three quarts of whisky down his neck. He is still drunk, but the poison has been neutralized, and he will come out on top. The next time he sees a hole and a sign of "Don't Poke!" he will probably stop to find out whether the hole is an underground route to Tombstone or stops short against something with teeth. He can have his missing finger by calling at this office, though we believe we could legally claim it as a relic."
[The Gazette and Farmers' Journal — Apr 27, 1893]
A fool’s cap and a plate of ice cream. (1896) Peter Newell (artist), Harper's Bazaar — Apr 4, 1896
Mr. Smarty and his April Fool Joke. (1897)
1. Mr. Smarty of Hayseed Cents thinks up a great April Fool joke.
2. Which is the rather ancient one of nailing ten-cent pieces to the board walk.
3. A pair of wayfarers play the game.
4. But soon find a way to get ahead of it.
5. How Mr. Smarty enjoyed the joke.
6. And how the others liked it.
[The Sunday World — Apr 4, 1897]
“Sold”. (1895) "This is 'all fools' day,' and judging by the number of people who are passing along the sidewalk with strings and rags dangling from their coat tails, the custom of making people appear ridiculous is not obsolete. What delight the youngsters take in covering a few bricks with an old hat, and leaving it temptingly upon the sidewalk, while they withdraw into some nook to watch the bait and halloo at the person who is thoughtless enough to kick it."
The Brick in a Hat—a perennial favorite. (1896) "It is strange that there has been little or no improvement in the jokes of April first. Reliable authorities assert that the old gentlemen of colonial days were made victims of hat hidden bricks just as old gentlemen are today and that the small boy has been invariably the culprit in all the ages." [Lemars Globe — Apr 1, 1896]
April Fool Cigars. (1896) "All Fools' Day was not unremembered yesterday, although the practical jokes incidental to it are not as much relished or looked forward to in America as in England and France.
Street hawkers did a lively trade downtown in so-called April Fool cigars, which were offered at 5 cents each and were said to be explosive. Some of the Custom House clerks laid in a stock of them, which they presented to brokers. To the amazement and disgust of the buyers, who expected the cigars to go off like firecrackers when they were well started, they smoked quite as comfortably to the end as was to be expected of cigars at that price, fooling the foolers completely.
Chocolate stuffed with cotton was generously distributed at the Stock Exchange, and provision men at the Produce Exchange set burning matches in dough on each other's hats and indulted in other pranks which amused them."
[New York Times, Apr 2, 1896.]
Sweating Silver Vault. (1896) Hundreds of people gathered outside the New York Sub-Treasury vault, located on Pine Street, lured there by a rumor that the vault was "sweating" because of the warm weather, causing the silver contained inside it to exude through the marble walls. Specks of mica were pointed out in the walls to prove the theory. [New York Times, Apr 2, 1896.]
The Fool at the Phone. (1896)
"Hello! Well, what is it? Yes this is — hello! I can't hear you plainly—stand closer, you know. (The idiot talks with his mouth full of dough). I say, I'm not deaf, darn you; don't holler so! Yes, this is (confound it), why can't you go slow? You want to see who? Spell it—"F, double O L—first name is April!" Oh, hell—hello! (Consigns him to regions unmentionable below)."
Dentist summoned to cemetery. (1896) "There was the usual number of April fool jokes sprung yesterday, and the young dentist who went over on West Main street as far as the cemetery to do some work, in response to a bogus call, returned fully convinced that the fool business was being overdone." [The North Adams Daily Transcript, Apr 2, 1896.]
Man regrets scaring wife. (1896) "Near Nashville yesterday John Ahrens, a farmer, planned an April fool joke on his wife with disastrous results. He disguised himself as a tramp, fastened a white mask over his face, and knocked at the door. When she appeared he ordered her to get dinner for him. To his horror his wife fell to the floor in a faint and died an hour later. Ahrens has been married only a few months and idolized his wife. Her death has crazed him with grief and remorse, and he threatens to take his own life." [Des Moines Daily News, Apr 3, 1896.]
April Fool Whistle. (1899) "An April Fool whistle can be made as shown in the illustration, and filled with flour, which will fly into the face of any one who tries to blow it. A B (Fig. 1) is a tin tube, stopped by two pieces of cork. One at the end has holes in it and a glass tube through it, as shown in Fig. 2. The other figures explain themselves.
[The Young Folks' Cyclopedia of Games and Sports, 1899]