Friday, April 4, 2008

April Fool's Day, 19th-century style

Today's Owen Sound Sun Times features something that I couldn't resist posting: an 1887 April Fool's joke featuring, of all things, a shipping canal.

The Bruce Peninsula, which neatly splits Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, has been a menace to navigation for time immemorial. No longer, proclaimed an article in the March 28, 1887 Wiarton Echo (which was reprinted in today's Sun Times). According to the Echo, a new canal had been finished and opened just days before that would allow ships to pass through the Peninsula between the Bay and Lake Huron, thereby giving the tip of the Bruce, a known magnet for shipwrecks, a miss. The new canal was nothing less than a marvel of technological achievement and a boon to marine safety.

The description of the opening ceremony and its "Carnival of Nations," in its flourish of, let's say, colourful, nineteenth-century English, is worth quoting here: "Every known people on earth, civilized or uncivilized, was represented -- from the pure skinned Canadian to the tailed dwarfs of Central Africa, and each caravan was busily engaged in their own peculiar industry."

But, sadly, just as central Ontario's hopes for a safer waterway were raised, they were quickly and cruelly dashed upon the rocks. According to Owen Sound writer and historian Andrew Armitage, who reprinted the Echo article in today's Sun Times, it was signed "H.O.A.X. April Fool!"


To read the full story, click here.

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