关于在内战赛季前的奇怪报告,可疑的文书和谣言,这一天的新闻甚至比美国平常大部分的新闻更奇怪。八月费城证券交易所的选区,例如,国务卿威廉·H·苏厄德局长——被广泛的视为是美国未来的领导——突然,莫名其妙 辞职的这个令人震惊的宣布。



那一天在费城的其他地方,报纸报道,“许多陈旧的伎俩会被青少年发掘出来,在他们的父亲身上成功实践了,尽管以后的每一代人应该更加清楚这种伎俩。”其中许多是“你看”的各种技巧。一些地方青年散布谣言,一艘名为约翰卡车,两个星期前在特拉华州已经沉没,是河床即将提出的“大机器”。然后,他们驻扎在附近的一个码头—— 对着甲板上停泊的汽船——看路人的停下的脚步和同伴们爆笑的好奇的望着那平静的水面。但这些人自己结束了恶作剧。一些水手已经轮船的甲板上刷油漆,男孩们回来的时候就被新上的未干油漆包裹了。



Philadelphia, April 1, 1861

In that pre-Civil War season of strange reports, dubious dispatches and false rumors, the news that day was even odder than usual throughout much of America. The august precincts of the Philadelphia stock exchange, for instance, were rocked with the startling announcement that Secretary of State William H. Seward — widely viewed as the leader in whose hands lay the future of the Union — had suddenly, inexplicably, resigned.

Amid the uncertainty that brokers already felt over the standoff at Fort Sumter and the possibility of impending war, this was the worst news imaginable. For a moment, the prices of securities and commodities teetered on the precipice of a sickening plunge. But then, according to the next day’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the prudent financiers appointed a special committee “to inquire into the truth of the announcement … Of course, the report of said committee was April 1st.” The distinguished gentlemen, in other words, had been pranked.

They were not alone. Throughout 19th-century America, April Fool’s Day — then more commonly known as All Fools Day — was an occasion for hoaxes, merriment and practical jokes. Even the rupture of the Union provided no respite; if anything, anxious citizens seem to have relished the opportunity to break the tension.

Elsewhere in Philadelphia that day, the newspaper reported, “many an antiquated trick was played off by the juveniles, as successfully as had been done in the days of their fathers, despite of the supposed increasing sharpness of each succeeding generation.” Many of these tricks were of the “made-you-look” variety. Some local youths spread rumors that a ship called the John Trucks, which had sunk two weeks earlier in the Delaware, was about to be raised from the riverbed by “a powerful machine.” Then they stationed themselves along a nearby wharf — lounging against the deck of a conveniently moored steamboat — to watch passers-by stop and peer curiously at the unruffled water. But the pranksters themselves ended up pranked. Some sailors had spread wet paint on the steamboat’s deck, and the boys came away freshly coated.

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