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Friday, July 9, 2010

H. L. Mencken and the history of bathtubs: “Harmless fun in war days”

In “A Neglected Anniversary” (New York Evening Mail, December 28, 1917), H. L. Mencken took just 1,800 words to perpetrate a hoax on his wartime readers that continued to be cited as fact as late as 2008 (in a Kia television ad). Even The Washington Post fell for it less than a decade ago. Frank Lee MeiDere recounts the history of “The Great Bathtub Hoax of H. L. Mencken,” whose famous prank begins:

On December 20 there flitted past us, absolutely without public notice, one of the most important profane anniversaries in American history, to wit, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the introduction of the bathtub into These States. Not a plumber fired a salute or hung out a flag. Not a governor proclaimed a day of prayer. Not a newspaper called attention to the day.
Related LOA works: H. L. Mencken: Prejudices: The Complete Series

1 comment:

  1. Huh. Imagine finding myself here. Thanks for the link, hope you found the post informative. I've got a fascination with journalistic hoaxes, and Mencken's was one of the best.


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