April Fool’s Day is upon us. (We thought Google Chrome’s support for emoji translation could be really useful for transcribing some of our newspapers!) These days it seems April Fool’s is mostly played out online, with websites jockeying for the best prank. Taking a look through DigitalNC’s Newspaper Collection shows that pulling pranks on April Fool’s via [print] media is nothing new.
The oldest reference found to April Fool’s Day in the newspapers is from The Wilson Advance in 1897, which reminded its readers which day it was and to be on the alert for pranksters. The small news item gives a glimpse of what April Fool’s jokes entailed in the late 1890s. (for context, $10 in 1897 would equal approximately $268 today)
Starting with the 1937 April Fool’s Day issue of the Clarion from Brevard College, which is the first appearance of an April Fool’s themed paper in NC Newspapers, it appears that special April Fool’s Day editions of student newspapers were popular across North Carolina, as they remain today if you browse through some campus newspapers online. Some of the funnier news headers we found included a color by number of Elon’s Pendlelum in 1999 and the 1991 Goofordian [regularly the Guilfordian] from Guilford College, which also noted that you can read all about the debate over the sweatiest professor on page 2.
To view more newspapers from across North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Newspapers collection and to view specifically more papers from April 1 through the years, check out the “Today in North Carolina History” section on the right side of the page.