Monday, April 1, 2013

1930: Real Hoax

In 1930 Republican leaders throughout the United States received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of the esteemed Hugo Norris Frye, aka Hugo N. Frye. The letter, anticipating its recipients might not be fully aware of who Hugo N. Frye was, summarized his contributions to U.S. history: "This little-known patriot of Central New York has been deprived of the fame that should have been his for his part in the organization of the Republican Party in New York State. Born on a little farm in the struggling hamlet of Elmira...", etc., etc.
None of the politicians could make it to the event, but almost all of them replied, expressing their regret at being unable to attend but also noting their sincere admiration for Frye. For instance, Secretary of Labor James Davis wrote, "It is a pleasure to testify to the career of that sturdy patriot who first planted the ideals of our party in this region of the country..."
Unfortunately for the Republican leaders who responded, Hugo N. Frye didn't exist. He was the satirical creation of two student editors at the Cornell Sun, Lester Blumner and Edward Horn, authors of the "Berry Patch" humor column. Hugo N. Frye was shorthand for "You go and fry!"
When May 26 arrived, the Hugo N. Frye Sesquicentennial Committee hosted a celebration. The laudatory comments written about Frye by the Republican politicians were solemnly read out, to the accompaniment of laughter and applause. And the next day, the Cornell Sun ran a gloating headline on its front page, "Vice-President Curtis, Prominent Republicans Acclaim Fictitious Party-Hero, Hugo N. Frye."
Within a day news of the prank had spread to the national press, and for the next week Republican leaders were the brunt of jokes throughout the nation:
New York Times, May 28, 1930

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