The Museum of Hoaxes
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Taco Bells buys the Liberty Bell, 1996
Jennifer Love Hewitt's Disappearing Breasts
Rachael Ray cooks her family and her dog
Fake Photos of Very Large Animals
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
The Great New York Zoo Escape Hoax, 1874
Did Poe say 'The best things in life make you sweaty'?
Prof. Wingard's Death Ray Hoax, 1876
The Great Wall of China Hoax, 1899
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
The Trial of Polly Baker
In 1747 the London General Advertiser printed the text of a speech said to have been given by a woman, Polly Baker, at her trial. She had just given birth to her fifth child, was unmarried, and had been charged with having sexual intercourse out of wedlock.

Polly Baker readily admitted her guilt but argued that the law itself was unreasonable. Why was she being punished, she asked, while the men who committed the crime with her were let off scot free? According to the article, Polly's argument so moved the judges that one of them asked her hand in marriage the next day.

The text of Polly Baker's speech subsequently circulated widely throughout Europe and America, and it was widely believed to be real. However, thirty years later Benjamin Franklin admitted he had written it. It is not clear how he managed to insert the article into the General Advertiser. However, almost all scholars accept that he wrote it. His intention appears to have been to draw attention to the unfairness of the law which punished mothers, but not fathers, for having children out of wedlock. Franklin himself had fathered a son out of wedlock. The hoax was also Franklin’s first criticism of the penal system, a subject which he devoted much attention to in later decades.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.