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Don't Look Stupid on Saturday, either

Remember, y'all. Tomorrow is April 1st, which--to quote Puddnhead Wilson--"is the day on which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."

Prepare yourself for the salt-in-the-sugar trick tomorrow morning with The 100 Top April Fools' Pranks of all time. My personal favorite would be the April 1998 issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. Now, we do not wish to criticize New Mexico, which we are sure includes many, many citizens who favor science and reason, but this journal has never had a terribly high subscription base.

And yet despite that small circulation, the journal became famous for publishing an article claiming that the legislature in my home state, Alabama, had changed the value of pi from 3.14... to its "Biblical value" of 3. The article spread on the Internet, was taken as gospel (so much for science and reason), and continues to get occasionally forwarded to this day.

Oh, and if you're looking for April Fool's pranks, consider taking a page from hilarious prankster Uday Hussein. Between 1998 and 2000, Uday's newspaper published a different hilarious April Fools' Day story each year, including one asserting that jokingly told the Iraqi people that their food ration would be increased to include bananas. The people were all like, "Oh thank God, I'm so hungry," and then Uday was all like, "Just kidding," and then the people were all like, "Oh, ha ha! That was a good one, Uday. It's nice to know that you're not too busy with your 1,200 luxury automobiles to share a joke with the commoners now and again."

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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