The following item appeared on the front page of the Mobile Daily Tribune on a Sunday morning in 1877. At least, I think it was the Tribune. My copy has only "Mobile Daily" at the top and a daily Tribune was being published in the city in that year.
A HUGE FROG
PRONOUNCED BY SEVERAL OF OUR RIVER AND BAY MEN TO BE THE LARGEST EVER SEEN ABOUT OUR WATERS
One of the curiosities of our coast, is a mammoth frog, which was exhibited yesterday afternoon, to a crowd, down at the New Orleans and Mobile depot. He is evidently a stray animal in the pen, as no such frog was ever known to infest the waters or bays of our gulf coast before. Several river men and bay men declared that it is the largest frog ever known to exist anywhere in our swamps and bayous. It is estimated that its weight is a least 200 pounds. Tom Bullock, the courteous and popular agent of the New Orleans road, in whose keeping his frogship is, has determined to keep him on exhibition several days, when he will send him to Barnum. The old fellow was found under the wharf, at the foot of Government street and captured by a little negro boy. We advise all who would witness a real curiosity in the shape of abnormal growth, to go down to the New Orleans and Mobile depot and take a look at this--certainly the largest frog ever seen by us.
Well. What a sight the creature must have been for all the Mobilians who went to the depot to see him! Why, they would have found absolutely nothing! This item appeared in the April 1 edition of the paper.
Even in 1877, just a dozen years after the end of the Civil War and in the same year as the end of formal Reconstruction in the South, journalists in Mobile were pulling such jokes. April Fool's Day humor and hoaxes have a long history; April 1 was initially associated with pranks and such by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales.
The mention of "Barnum" refers of course to P.T. Barnum, already well-known in 1877. A major figure in the history of American business and showmanship, Barnum's career helped create the culture of spectacle in which so much of the world lives today.
I wonder if Tom Bullock, he of the great courtesy and popularity down at the depot, was also a real person?