April-Fool’s Day

On March 30, 1861, Harper’s Weekly published the following image to mark April Fool’s Day. An accompanying article reads in part:

We publish on the preceding page a picture of the morning of the 1st April, opposite the Astor House, on the Park, in New York City. Some of the personages in the picture are enjoying the usual frolics of the day…. A city reporter says: “The number of tricks and hard practical jokes played upon unsophisticated persons, such as sending Jimmy for a bottle of ‘stirrup oil,’ dispatching Betty in search of a pint and a half of ‘pigeon’s milk,’ or requesting your illiterate friend to buy you a copy of the ‘Life and Adventures of Eve’s Mother,’ in the Bowery, would require several volumes for their description. The most common methods of fooling people practiced in this city consist in pinning endless rag-tails to ladies’ dresses, fastening paper appendages to the men’s coat skirts, perpetuating cruel stories about the arrival of rich cousins from California with bags of the auriferous metal, and sending people extraordinary letters, containing extraordinary intelligence, and asking the most extraordinary things. Sometimes these nonsensical jokes result in the most serious consequences, and we have known ‘pistols and coffee’ for two to be the not unfrequent denouement. Latterly the sport of fool making is confined principally to little boys and girls, who indulge in a regular carnival of merriment. Those whose mammas an papas allow them ‘the freedom of the city’ kick up a most beautiful excitement among their grown-up superiors, while ‘­___in-door young ones club their wicket wits, And almost frighten servants into fits.’”

Harper’s Weekly “April-Fool’s Day in New York, opposite the Astor House.”

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