Posts Tagged ‘tabloid newspapers in the 19th century’

The New York Sun’s “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835

August 19, 2009

Life on the moon? Yep, it’s really true, and the New York Sun had the exclusive scoop. In late August 1835, the newspaper published a week-long series covering a powerful telescope that allowed astronomers to view the moon’s surface.

So what was on the moon? According to the Sun, living the lunar life were winged humans called “man-bats,” bison, unicorns, beavers walking on two legs, as well as rivers, valleys, and forests. The lithograph below gives you an idea.

Greatmoonhoax1935

Of course, it was all a hoax planned by the paper’s editors, designed to drum up circulation. The stunt worked, but then, the Sun tallied its own circ numbers, so who really knows.

Many New Yorkers fell for it while others weren’t sure what to think. The Sun raised the possibility that the story wasn’t true in a September 1835 article, but they never ‘fessed up completely.

The Sun has one lovely legacy: this weathered yet elegant clock-thermometer that survives on Chambers Street.