The Balloon-Hoax (1844)
Edgar Allan Poe
Originally written as a news story and published as such in the New York Sun, Poe’s hoax about a group of men using a hitherto unknown propeller-driven balloon to traverse the Atlantic Ocean in three days, caused quite a sensation. In Poe’s own words:
"On the morning (Saturday) of its announcement, the whole square surrounding the 'Sun' building was literally besieged, blocked up—ingress and egress being alike impossible, from a period soon after sunrise until about two o'clock P.M…. I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper. As soon as the few first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up, at almost any price, from the news-boys, who made a profitable speculation beyond doubt. I saw a half-dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper, and a shilling was a frequent price. I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy."
Today, this bit of ephemera is of mainly historical interest, especially since the narrative, lacking the wonder and excitement of then-contemporary scientific achievement, is remarkably uneventful.
Reviewed by: Nat Hocken