Hilarious History: The MASTER of trolling


The MASTER of Trolling

Trolling people didn’t just start with the internet. Hoaxes intended to have a little fun and also get a rise out of people has been going on for centuries. It wouldn’t be April Fool’s Day if I didn’t start the Hilarious History segment off with the one I personally think is THE KING of pranksters, and this may surprise some, but it was none other than Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

From the time he was a child, Franklin enjoyed playing jokes on unsuspecting friends and family, and he never really grew out of it. One of his more famous pranks he pulled at the age of 16 on his brother James.
James Franklin was the founder of the New England Courant. Just like sibling relationships of today, older brother James was constantly pestered by his younger brother Ben who wanted to write articles for the newspaper, too. Repeatedly James refused to let him. So Ben one day decided to take a different route to get his articles published in the paper. Under the fake name Mrs. Silence DoGood who had a fake backstory of being a middle-aged widow, Ben penned several letters to James. James, who had no idea it was his younger brother, thoroughly enjoyed the letters and published them in his paper.
Little brother: 1
Big bro: 0
(Silence DoGood letters can be found here: http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/courant/silencedogood.htm)

As an adult, Ben continued his ‘fake letters’ scheme. He would use satire, which people believed was true, to get his point across and also to point out double standards.
In the Boston Independent Chronicle, Ben wrote several false stories to arouse the sympathy of British supporters during the American Revolution and get them to support the colonists. One of the stories was a letter claiming the British hired Native Americans to scalp colonists. This angered and disgusted many British supporters and some of them publicly voiced their opinion on this “disgrace.” Now, scalping was a legitimate issue, but it was not true that the British hired “scalpers.” It wasn’t discovered to be false for 70 years after its publication, but to this day, some insist it was true that the British hired scalpers.
Lesson: Not everything you read in the Boston Independent Chronicle is true.
Nor is everything you read in The General Advertiser, if Ben Franklin has anything to do with it.
Under the fake name Miss Polly Baker, Franklin made up a story saying he was a woman named Miss Polly Baker who was punished for having illegitimate children but wanted to know why the men involved were not punished as well. Most people believed it was a true story, and it may very well have been a real situation a woman was enduring, but alas, it was only Franklin having a little fun, and also pointing out some hypocrisy, which was a hobby he thoroughly enjoyed almost as much as pulling pranks. He did the same thing just 25 days before his death in 1790, penning an anonymous letter to The Federal Gazette about a character by the name of Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim who was a tyrant that fought for the enslavement of Christians by Muslims in 1680. The story, and the arguments for slavery that this “Ibrahim” made were deliberately over the top to rouse people’s thoughts on slavery and to challenge the morals of those who believed in it. Many believed the story was true and some pro-abolitionists and anti-abolitionists used this fictional tale, assuming it as factual evidence, for their arguments. Franklin himself was not pro-slavery, but used the story to illustrate the immorality of it.

Woe to all who called Franklin a friend or enemy, by the way. He not only pulled pranks on the public, but pulled the ultimate prank on one of his friends.
In 1733’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, Franklin, under the fake name Poor Richard Saunders, published an obituary for his friend Titan Leeds, who was an astrologer. Until 1738 when Leeds finally did pass away, “Poor Richard Saunders” accused the real Leeds of being an imposter, thus confusing the hell out of the public AND Leeds, who had no idea who was behind this ridiculousness.

Finally, the grandest of all Ben Franklin pranks, believe it or not, is something we suffer with today. Daylight savings time. Yes. Daylight savings time originally was a prank by Ben Franklin, who wrote an essay that was published in a Paris newspaper that the French could save money and candles if they woke up with the sun in the springtime. He even suggested waking people up by blasting cannons and ringing church bells when the sun came up. In 1895, a scientist by the name of George Hudson thought this was a good idea and presented his reasoning to the New Zealand government. Ten years later, Europe adopted “Daylight savings time” and in 1918, so did the US.
Today, we deal with daylight savings time ALL BECAUSE OF A PRANK!
Thanks, Ben.

Troll level: Legendary

Happy April Fool’s Day to one of my favorite pranksters of all time.


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