For the past week I've been researching the history of April Fools Day in order to revise and supplement the info I already have on the site. For instance, I've significantly revised my article about the origin of April Fool's Day
. I think it's now just about the most thorough examination of this question in print -- which isn't saying much because most articles about the origin of April Fool's Day simply repeat the same old legends, and leave it at that.
In the course of this research I came across a book printed in 1852 by the Sunday-School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York titled April Fool; or, The Evils of Deception
. I couldn't resist buying it. The preface states:
The custom of playing tricks on the first day of April is one of very general prevalence. Many persons encourage children to practice those tricks through a mistaken idea of their innocence. The object of this little book is to exhibit some of the evils of deception, even when practiced in a form so apparently harmless and so pleasing to many. It will also indicate to parents and teachers the decided opposition with which they ought to discountenance this, together with every other evil, and 'appearance of evil.' It is from such beginnings that the young too often have their morals corrupted, and their souls destroyed.
In the book we read of evil William, who likes to play tricks on strangers in the street. He sees some girls in the street and shouts out at them, "Run, run, girls, a horse is coming!" They start running (though there's no horse), and one of the girls, holding the hand of her little sister, "was so intent upon getting her out of danger, that she did not see a lamp-post, which was in her way, and struck her head against it with so much force that the blood gushed from her nose."
(Too bad they didn't have padded lampposts
back then.) Evil William snickers and yells out, "April fools."
Just in case we can't quite envision the scene, an illustration is provided, which shows the girl about to collide with the lamppost. We don't get to see the later scene of gushing blood. Thankfully, William later realizes the error of his ways, with some help from his Sunday-School teacher.
We also are told that liars "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." So just think about that before planning any April Fool's Day hoaxes this year.