Thirty-Two Stories

By Edgar Allan Poe; Stuart Levine et al. | Go to book overview

THE BALLOON-HOAX

"The Balloon-Hoax " is strong evidence of Poe's involvement in popular interests of his day and his excellent sense of journalistically exciting topics. The media of the day were filled with related true stories; Poe used as characters in his story people who had, in fact, been involved in an extraordinary and widely reported balloon voyage; Poe disguised it as a news article in a daily paper. Moreover, a speedy brig named Moon had made the New York--Charleston run so quickly just two months before that it had beaten the mail by three days; that made plausible the claim in The Extra Sun that its amazing "news" story was a scoop (for details, see notes 1 and 2). Hoax or not, the idea seems to have been exciting to Poe as well--see especially the portions of the story "by" Mr. Ainsworth. Poe probably hoped someone would take his lead and try the journey.

A note of explanation:Poe and his friends at the Sun needed all the credibility they could muster, for people remembered the paper for a famous earlier hoax. A close look at Figure 9 shows that Poe's hoax shares the front page of The Extra Sun with an article on Egyptology, not an unusual topic for an American paper of this period.


PUBLICATIONS IN POE'S TIME

The New York Sun, April 13, 1844 (Brief "news" item only, promising details in an "extra" which "will positively be ready and for sale at our counter by 10 o'clock this morning." Poe said it did not actually appear until nearly noon [Mabbott 9, III].)

The New York Sun (The Extra Sun), April 13, 1844

New York Sunday Times, April 14, 1844


THE BALLOON-HOAX

ASTOUNDING NEWS By EXPRESS, via NORFOLK! THE ATLANTIC CROSSED IN THREE DAYS! SIGNAL TRIUMPH OF MR. MONCK MASON'S FLYING MACHINE -- ARRIVAL AT SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, NEAR CHARLESTON, S.C., OF MR. MASON, MR. ROBERT HOLLAND, MR. HENSON, MR. HARRISON AINSWORTH, AND FOUR OTHERS, IN THE STEER

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