April Fool’s Day, 1916

As suggested by our folklore collections, there is a fairly strong tradition of April Fool’s Day pranks found in the Utah and the Intermountain West. Contemporary newspaper accounts provide useful documentation on the establishment of the holiday in the region.

The first references to the April Fool’s in Utah appeared in non-Mormon newspapers in the 1870s, such as a Salt Lake Tribune article from 1874 listing common pranks like putting coins on a string or leaving a hat on the sidewalk with a brick under it. Occasionally these articles also provided an opportunity to denigrate Mormons or to call out individuals. For its part, the Deseret News appears to have not included mention of April Fool’s until the 1890s, though references were indifferent or focused on the negative consequences of jokes. This unfavorable editorializing continued into the early 1900s, with a 1903 article proclaiming that

the fellow who seeks pleasure in the discomfort of others, is on the level with the untutored child that amuses itself by plucking the wings from live insects.

April Fool's Day, 1916

In the BYU student newspapers, the first reference to April Fool’s was in an April 1903 issue of the White and Blue, which noted that following devotional on April 1st the students all determined to skip their classes and take an outing to the canyon instead. By 1916, it appears that April Fool’s pranks had also become common in Provo, with a poem in the school newspaper listing tricks like offering others candy covered in pepper and switching sugar for salt.

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