The Prince and the PilotOn April 3, 2019 by Elyse
Loyal readers might recall the story of plant-eating, teetotaling, jiu-jitsu-demonstrating health nut and newspaper darling, Gladys Mason, who went missing somewhere between Chicago and San Francisco on a cross-country trek in 1913. Well, folks, we found her!
It turns out, after leaving Chicago, she took a detour to Wisconsin, where she opened a popular burger joint/martial arts studio. During Prohibition, she made a fortune manufacturing bathtub gin. Later in life, she invented the treadmill and lived happily ever after. Case closed.
April fools! I’m two days late, but fake news has no expiration date. Gladys’ case is still unsolved, so keep those tips coming.
In the meantime, the Chicago newspaper The Day Book had an account of a much more interesting hoax from 1914:
America is not the only country that gets fooled on titles, now and then! Right here, in England, where they grow them, one of the greatest hoaxes ever put over an unsuspecting public has just been played and all Britain’s “common folks” are getting a great laugh over the way royalty “fell” for it!
According to the article, “a young man of charming manners” introduced himself to pioneering pilot Claude Grahame-White as Lord Stanton Hope at an aeroplane meet Claude hosted at Hendon Aerodome, an early aviation center in London. Claude graciously introduced Stanton, along with Stanton’s friend, the crown prince of Wurtemburg, to his other distinguished guests. They reportedly “made themselves at home with the society people, and became popular.” Stanton suggested to Claude that the crown prince might like a ride in his plane, and the royal was treated to several flights that day.
Later in the week, when Society (with a big S) had time to look up “Lord Stanton Hope” and the “crown prince of Wurtemburg,” it was discovered there are no such persons in existence!
The imposters had been busted. Still, Claude was a good sport about it:
“But, so far as I, personally, am concerned, no harm was done—except I’m minus the fee the ‘prince’ should have paid me! No, we have taken no steps to discover the two ‘fakers,’ nor will we. They were really charming fellows, you know, and no one could have detected the difference between them and any sure-enough royalty!”
There’s just one more detail you should know: The article was published on April 1, 1914. The media’s April Fools’ Day pranks are a time-honored tradition, and the entire article is just as fictitious as Gladys’ aforementioned ventures. April fools!
I promise, I’m done now. Hoaxes aside, Claude’s real-life adventures were far more exciting than his fake mishap.
Considering this zombie-like picture, the newspaper should really check its sources:
In some ways, Claude was a visionary ahead of his time:
In other ways, not so much:
Unfortunately, that article was not published on April 1.
Disclaimer: The modern era is far from the first to grapple with rampant “fake news.” As I am neither a historian nor journalist, I make no claims about the accuracy or lack thereof of the above historical articles. I assert only that they make for a good story.
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