8 April Fools’ Day Jokes – You Won’t Believe #3
The tradition of playing practical jokes on April Fools’ Day goes back hundreds of years. The origins of the holiday are unclear, but it’s celebrated by pranksters all around the world.
Two longtime U.S. companies, S.S. Adams Co. and Fun Inc. can be credited with the invention and manufacturing of many legendary gags that have been used by generations of jokesters. Both companies are still operating today and several of their best sellers are featured below.
1. Cachoo/Kerchoo Sneezing Powder -The S.S. Adams Company in Neptune, New Jersey was created by Soren (Sam) Sorenson (more popularly known as S.S. Adams) who has been called the Edison of Practical Jokes and the Ford of Foolery for having created of over 600 pranks, many of which received patents. Adams’ first product, Cachoo Sneezing Powder originated after an accidental discovery in 1905 while working as a salesman for a dye company. Adams noticed one of the coal-tar derivatives from the dye was causing co-workers to sneeze. Being an entrepreneur, Adams packaged the powder and started selling it for 10 cents a bottle. Adams sold more than 150,000 bottles of Cachoo Sneezing Powder in the first year alone. The gag caused a sensation around America, leading to disruptions in churches, schools and theaters. In 1908, Cachoo caused chaos at political conventions around the nation after one retailer in Philadelphia sold 70,000 vials of the sneezing powder. Years later, the main ingredient in sneezing powder was replaced with finely ground pepper after the FDA banned the original ingredient, Dianisidine, which was also used in chemical weapons.
2. Joy Buzzer A 1931 patent granted to S.S. Adams for his now classic Joy Buzzer which was built with a German steel winding mechanism that rapidly uncoiled and startled the unknowing hand shaker with a vibration that felt similar to a shock. The rapid success of the Joy Buzzer allowed Adams to grow his company, moving to a larger building and hiring additional employees. This was a particularly impressive business success since it happened during the Great Depression. Adams released several of his products at the perfect time, when people were looking for a cheap laugh and way to relieve stress during the tough economic times.
3. Auto Burglar Alarm – These days it’s hard to imagine a product like this ever existed. The Auto Burglar Alarm by S.S. Adams allowed you to secretly attach this explosive device under the hood of a car. When your “friend” turned the key in the ignition, the car battery set off the practical joke, producing a loud explosion and cloud of smoke from under the hood of the automobile.
4. Chatter Teeth – In 1949, U.S. Patent 2,504,679 was granted to the H. Fishlove & Co. in Chicago, Illinois for the design of a set of plastic teeth that would rapidly chatter after being wound with a steel coil mechanism. H. Fishlike & Co. was purchased by Fun Inc. which is still being operated by the David, Kathy and Andrew Michals. In addition to manufacturing fine novelty items, Fun Inc. is also the largest manufacturer of magic tricks in the United States.
5. Snake Can – On March 28, 1933, S.S. Adams received US Patent # 1,903,082 for his Snake Can that he invented a decade and a half earlier. When the lid was opened, a cloth covered metal spring that resembled a snake would “jump” out of the can. Millions of snake cans/jars have been sold over the years in different varieties, including marshmallows, peanut brittle, jam, mints and facial cold cream. In the 1990s, Adams’ grandson updated the gag with a snake potato chip can.
6. Dribble Glass – One of the many classic practical jokes invented by S.S. Adams. The Dribble Glass has small holes cut into the design on the side of the glass causing liquid to pour out onto the shirt or dress of your victim. Even funnier with red wine, right?
7. WHOOPS – In the 1950s, Chicago based Fishlove & Co. was the premier joke and gag manufacturer. When one of their designers invented the concept of fake vomit, he had a hard time selling the idea to others because they thought it was too gross. When people started seeing the hilarious reactions, it became a huge seller. Fun Inc. in Chicago still manufacture WHOOPS with a secret formula that has been perfected over half a century. In 2015, Andrew Michals of Fun Inc. released an updated version of the gag with Zombie WHOOPS. As the Fun Inc. website states, “it’s 30% larger than the original and green in color.”
8. Finger Snapping Gags – Similar to a mouse trap in construction, finger snapping gags have long been popular practical jokes. When the person pulls out a stick of gum or other sliding device, a spring loaded metal bar on the underside smacks down on their finger with a stinging “snap.” The gags pictured on the ends in the photo below are from unknown Japanese manufacturers, circa 1930s. The snapping gum in the middle of the photo is the most popular variation of the gag.