The origin of April Fool's Day has been a mystery for centuries. It was not until the eighteenth century that significant numbers of references began to appear, but by then the custom was already well established. It is mentioned as early as the fifteenth century, but even William Shakespeare, who was so fond of using "fools" in his plays, does not refer to April Fool's Day.
In any case, today it enjoys status as a special day for pranksters and "fools" all over the western world.
Those interested in how April Fool's Day has been celebrated in Canada over the past century will find many interesting references in our collections. Early Canadiana Online contains material published from the time of the first European settlers to the first two decades of the 20th century, while the Canadiana Discovery Portal provides free access to the diverse digital collections of Canada’s libraries, museums, and archives.
A drawing from the childrens play "An April Fool!" in the book "Holiday Plays for Home, School and Settlement" (page 50) by Virginia Olcott, published in 1922.
The April 2, 1858 issue of "Branigan's Chronicles and Curiosities" speculated on the origins of the day and gives some credence to a French origin.
The journal "Pleasant Hours" (25 March 1899) provides a French April Fool's story about how two people were saved by a mistake:
Two more April Fool tales show up in the 1 April 1891 edition of "The Young Canadian":
Another "Fool" from the book "Holiday Plays for Home, School and Settlement" (page 51) by Virginia Olcott: