Over the past 14 years I’ve written several stories about April Fools Day as it relates to New Hampshire and New England. The custom of playing pranks was most certainly brought to New Hampshire by the first European colonists.
A 1760 almanac made famous by Poor Robin included a poem about April fools:
“It is a thing to be disputed,
Which is the greatest fool reputed,
The man who innocently went
Or he that him designedly sent?”
Around 1900, in addition to performing the usual rude jokes, New Hampshire residents turned the day into a social event, holding April Fool Socials and Parties. These gatherings continued on into at least the 1940s, when they fell into disfavor.
In the first part of the 20th century, the beginning of April was the perfect time of year to begin socializing–it was a lull time. The snows had for the most part melted, and it was too early to begin the hard work of farming the land. The April Fool social was a harbinger of spring. The notices and stories of these gatherings of our ancestors give us insight into the games and music that entertained them.
In 1909 the membership and reception committees of the Young Men’s Christian Association were entertained with a April Fool Day supper at the home of the organization’s secretary, W.G. McKay. The menu for the event was painted with pictures and disguised names (like a guessing game to figure out what was going to be served). The chandelier over the table was a Japanese umbrella “from this strings were suspended to each plate and when the strings were pulled a little paper came out of the egg. On these papers there were some stunts which those present had to carry out such as holding hands with his next neighbor and proposing, or driving a load of hay into town and selling it.”
In 1934 the members of the Daughters of the Good Shepherd gathered for an April Food Party at the parish house of the church. A card game of “crazy bridge” was considered a highlight of the evening.
In 1937 the members of Milford New Hampshire’s Custos Morum Rebekah Lodge IOOF enjoyed an April Food day party that included a burlesque of Romeo and Juliet. There was piano music accompanying the frolics.
In 1942 the Granite Grange of Milford New Hampshire held an April Food Party. The Nashua Telegraph newspaper notice stated that “special versions of the ‘Whispering Song‘ [first published in 1920] was given by a male quartet, Eugene Woodward, Carl Holland, George and Alex Falconer (with piano accompaniment).
Honey, I have something to tell you
And it’s worthwhile listening to
Put your little head on my shoulder
So that I can whisper to you
If you want to learn more, see stories I have written previously.
April Fool’s Day: Hunt the Gowk Another Mile!
New Hampshire April Fool Jokes of Olden Times
Manchester New Hampshire Performer: George Washington Morrison Nutt (1844-1881) — he was born on April 1, 1844.