April Fool’s Day in Poughkeepsie

We can probably all agree that today is one of the most annoying days on the calendar. April Fool’s Day is actually older than you’d think. There are references to April 1st being a day of fools that go back to the 12th century. The main goal of the day has always been playing tricks on people and otherwise making them look like fools. Searching through the newspapers, one can easily find tales of interesting pranks over the years, though not all of them worked out quite as planned.

On April Fool’s Day in 1894, someone had spread a rumor in the Little Italy district near Dutchess Avenue that workers were needed at the bridge, and within “less than half an hour there were sixty Italians up at the bridge depot looking for work.” That same day, a helpless man who had been walking down Main Street with a large package under his arm did not realize that someone had placed a note on the back of his coat which read, “This man is going on a fool’s errand; that box is empty.” In 1900, someone decided to prank the local fire departments (which is not a good idea, by the way) by placing a bright light inside the Elting’s clothing store on Main Street. This led people to believe that there was a fire inside, which prompted two fire companies to respond. Phoenix Hose and Lady Washington Hose both raced to the scene from different directions and nearly collided at Main and Liberty streets.

In 1908, it appears that everyone got involved, from students at Eastman Business College, to some of the girls working in the courthouse. A student at Eastman who was taking an exam placed a note on his desk which read “April Fool’s” and began sneaking a peek at the paper, which led the instructor to believe that the student was copying something. When the instructor got up to examine the paper, he realized the joke. In the courthouse, someone cut out words from newspaper headlines and stuck hair pins in them before gently placing them in a young lady’s hair. The most elaborate prank was pulled by a young boy who hid in a horse drawn wagon as it drove down Main Street, which spooked a merchant into thinking it was a runaway horse. Upon inspection of the wagon the boy popped up and shouted, “April Fool!”

On a more serious note (and this is no April Fool’s joke) don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming Local History Presents: Long Lost Buildings of the City of Poughkeepsie, which is coming up on April 6th. This event takes place at our Boardman Road branch at 6:30 p.m. and spaces are filling up fast!

Poughkeepsie Eagle News: 3 Apr 1894, 2 Apr 1900, 2 Apr 1908

01 – A photograph of firemen and horses racing out of the Phoenix Hose firehouse. – LH Collections
02 – A photograph showing the Lady Washington Hose fire department – LH Collections
03 – Photograph of students inside the Eastman Business College – LH Collections