The Balloon Hoax

The Balloon Hoax

April 13 marks the 157th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's 'Balloon Hoax.' On April 13, 1844 a broadside, or 'extra page,' appeared in the midday issue of the New York Sun announcing that the famous European balloonist Monck Mason had succeeded in crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 75 hours. The news story was a hoax written by Poe.

Poe later wrote an account in the Columbia Spy of the scene following the publication of this news:

"On the morning (Saturday) of its announcement, the whole square surrounding the 'Sun' building was literally besieged, blocked up—ingress and egress being alike impossible, from a period soon after sunrise until about two o'clock P.M.... I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper. As soon as the few first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up, at almost any price, from the news-boys, who made a profitable speculation beyond doubt. I saw a half-dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper, and a shilling was a frequent price. I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy."

The picture shown above depicts "the Steering Balloon 'Victoria'" that Monck Mason supposedly used to cross the Atlantic. The illustration accompanied the article in The Sun. Poe obtained this picture by redrawing it from the frontispiece of an anonymous 1843 pamphlet (the author of which was probably Monck Mason) that was titled: Remarks on the Ellipsoidal Balloon, propelled by the Archimedean Screw, described as the New Aerial Machine.

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