A Historical Joke to Play for April Fools’ Day

Today is my favorite holiday.

I know it’s kind of absurd to have April Fools’ Day as my favorite holiday. After all, a lot of people do use the holiday as an excuse to pull some really nasty pranks on others. However, I love the holiday for its inherent silliness and playful nature, and I hope that, in such a spirit, you’ll humor me for just one newsletter. Because after all, I love pranks.

You know who else loved pranks? Benjamin Franklin.

Have you heard of the Silence Dogood letters? You might have if you’ve seen National Treasure. It’s been a while for me, but I was reminded of the letters recently and thought I would share the story with you.

When Ben Franklin was 16, he was an apprentice for his brother’s Boston-based newspaper, The New England Courant. Being the younger sibling, Ben knew that nothing he wrote for the paper would ever be published – that is, if James Franklin knew it was his younger brother who was writing.

So Ben did what any other prankster would do:

He disguised his handwriting and used a pen name.

“Silence Dogood” was supposedly the widow of a local minister, and she had some interesting things to say about society and the people who made it up. She became so well-liked by the paper’s readers that some of them even wrote her marriage proposals!

Eventually, James Franklin learned that the author of the letters was his brother and put a stop to it. Nevertheless, the 14 letters survive, and can be accessed online in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society. You can read them here.

I thought it would be fun to create a Silence Dogood letter of our own.

Here’s a letter I wrote in the spirit (albeit not the verbose style) of Silence Dogood. I encourage you to print it and mail it to a child or grandchild to teach them about this unique bit of history. I’ve also included some information about Silence Dogood on the second page. I suggest you put the child’s name in the salutation at the top, and include a handwritten message from yourself at the bottom!

Enjoy, and happy April Fools’ Day!

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