John’s Believe It Or Not… April 1st

Photo of John Fioravanti standing beside the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s April Fools’ Day Saturday! Did you know…

* 1776 – Ships carrying 1,124 United Empire Loyalists arrive at Halifax from Boston. (With America declaring its independence, Great Britain lost 2.5 million subjects in one fell swoop. However, over 100,000 settlers who remained loyal to the Crown — hence the name “Loyalists” — left the Thirteen Colonies that had become the United States, since they were no longer welcome there, to return to England or settle in other British colonies.)

Painting of Loyalists standing on the shore of Nova Scotia with their trunks.

* 1873 – Wreck of the Atlantic, off Halifax Harbour, with the loss of 546; world’s worst 19th Century marine disaster. (The wreck of the ocean steamer Atlantic on a rock, about fifty yards distant from Meagher’s Island, in the County of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 1st April 1873, will long be remembered as one of the most disastrous wrecks whichever occurred on the North American coast; for 545 souls were swept into eternity-many of them with scarcely a moment’s warning. The vessel struck the rock nearly square on, about fifteen minutes after three o’clock on the morning of the day alluded to. In a few minutes after the vessel struck, several hundreds of the passengers and crew reached the deck, but the vessel having swung round and heeled over with her deck nearly perpendicular and facing to seaward, many of the poor helpless passengers were washed off by the fearful seas which swept over her, and as she soon filled with water, those under deck were drowned, without a chance to struggle for life. From the position of the vessel it was found impossible to lower the lifeboats, and no assistance reached the vessel from the shore till some time after the accident had happened. The result of this frightful disaster was, as already stated, a loss of 545 persons out of 957 people on board. This steamship was one of the “White Star” Line running between Liverpool and New York and was probably one of the finest ocean steamers that ever left the United Kingdom. She was an iron vessel, built at Belfast in 1871, and measured 3,707 tonnes, gross measurement, and 2,366 net or register tonnage. Her engines were 600 horsepower; length, 420 feet; breadth, 40 feet 9-10ths; depth, 31 feet; and her value when new, was about £100,000 sterling.)

Drawing depicting the Atlantic sinking.

* 1700 April Fools tradition popularized. (On this day in 1700, English pranksters begin popularising the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other. Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognise that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolise a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.)

Cartoon depicting the April Fools' Jester

* 1976 Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found Apple Computer in the garage of Jobs’ parents’ house in Cupertino, California. (The first 50 Apple 1s were built in Jobs’ parents’ spare bedroom (at 11161 Crist Drive in Los Altos, the house number changed to 2066 when the land was annexed from the county to the city in late 1983). That consignment of Apple 1s were sold to Paul Jay Terrell’s Byte Shop for $500 each. The partners had to take out loans in order to meet the Byte Shop order. Just a few months later Apple moved upscale – in to Jobs’ parents’ garage.)

Photo of founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
Steve Wozniak (sitting) & Steve Jobs (standing)

* 1924 Beer Hall Putsch secures Hitler’s rise to power. (Adolf Hitler is sentenced for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch of November 8, 1923. The attempted coup in Munich by right-wing members of the army and the Nazi Party was foiled by the government, and Hitler was charged with high treason. Despite his conviction, Hitler was out of jail before the end of the year, with his political position stronger than ever. The failed coup turned out to be quite a boon for Adolf Hitler. His trial brought him more attention and publicity than ever before. With a crowd of thousands including press from around the world watching the proceedings, Hitler made the most of this opportunity by going on the offensive.)

Picture of Hitler in jail.

Look who was born on this date!

portrait of Germain* Sophie Germain in 1776. (French Mathematician:  One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, Germain won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after.)


Portrait of von Bismarck* Otto von Bismarck in 1815. (German Statesman:  Unified most of the German states into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership and became the first chancellor of a united Germany. This set the stage for the European struggles of the 20th Century. The Nazi super-battleship of World War II was named after him.)


head shot of McCaffrey* Anne McCaffrey in 1926. (She was an American-born writer who emigrated to Ireland, best known for the Dragonriders of Pern fantasy series. Early in McCaffrey’s 46-year career as a writer, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2005 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named McCaffrey its 22nd Grand Master, an annual award to living writers of fantasy and science fiction. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on 17 June 2006. She also received the Robert A. Heinlein Award for her work in 2007.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 1st”

  1. Wow! This is a really good one, John.

    1. I remember reading Dragonriders of Pern back in my early 20s. Anne McCaffery was a much loved author.
    2. I had no idea the tradition of April Fools extended back so far. For some reason I would have thought that a more modern custom.
    3. So sad about the Atlantic. There’s something about shipwrecks that are forever haunting. And the White Star line? I’m pretty sure the Titanic came from the same fold. Not a good track record!

    Liked by 1 person

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