On This Day: The Great Moon Hoax of 1835

calendar-Aug25        Looking back, we might refer to it as the “War of the Worlds” hoax of the nineteenth century.  On this day in 1835 a series of articles began to be published in the New York Sun, purporting, among other things, that evidence of life on the moon had been discovered.  The Sun had been established in 1833 and according to History.com, “was one of the new ‘penny press’ papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism” — a nice way perhaps of describing sensationalized yellow journalism.

Perhaps it was a ploy to increase circulation, because in the opening days of the series circulation numbers rose to fifteen thousand.  By the end of the series the number was 19,360, and editor Benjamin Day would proclaim his newspaper had the largest circulation in the world.  Competitors started to panic a bit and began printing the series in their own papers, pretending they had the same access as the Sun.

NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription here.

Leave a Comment