Tuesday, August 25, 2009
August 25, 1835: The Great Moon Hoax
On August 25th 1835, this eye-catching headline was printed on the New York Sun:
GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES
BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c.
The article described various fantastic lifeforms on Moon, such as bison, unicorns, goats, winged humanoids building temples and more. Forests and oceans were observed, under a supposed 'new principle' and 'telescope'. Supposed narrator was Sir Andrew Grant, describing himself as the companion of, then the most influential astronomer, Sir John Herschel.
The Great Moon Hoax, appearing in six articles on the New York Sun starting on August 25th, drew the New York Sun paper circulation higher than ever, and established the paper as a successful paper. The New York Sun never issued a retraction, and enjoyed its high circulation. The supposed discoverer of these fantastic animals, Sir John Herschel, was at first amused by these articles; however, was annoyed by a few who took the hoax as serious.
Richard A. Locke, a Cambridge-educated reporter, is attributed to the authorship of this article. While working for the New York Sun in 1835 he never publically admitted his authorship. Some others were also speculated to be involved in these articles, but there is no good evidence that indicated anyone but Locke was the author of the story. What was his reason for writing the articles? Probably to increase the paper circulation, or to ridicule some extravagant astronomical theories of the time, some say. Whichever was his reason, the author was extremely successful in both ways. ☆
Jin Shin, EVHP Staff