According to a Huffington Post article by Alex Leo a couple of years back…
“The origins of April Fools’ Day are murky, but the likeliest explanation is that it began as a way to mock French people who were slow to switch to the Gregorian Calendar which changed New Year’s from April 1 to January 1. These folks were labeled ‘fools’ and some were sent on ‘fools’ errands.’”
The article further goes on to list some of the greatest April Fool’s pranks of all time.
1) Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In 1957 the jokesters at BBC, ran a segment on the coming of spring after a mild winter and what that meant for Swiss farmers.
An unusually large spaghetti crop.
According to the Museum of Hoaxes, “Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, ‘place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.’”
2) The Taco Liberty Bell
In 1996, Taco Bell ran an ad in six major newspapers saying:
“In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’ and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.”
Many politicians’ offices were taken in, as the Park Service received phone calls from aides to Sens. Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and J. James Exon (D-Neb).
3) Nixon’s Second Term
In 1992, National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” announced that Richard Nixon was running for a second term as president with the slogan, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.”
Listeners were fooled and called in in droves.
Later in the show, the host revealed it was a joke and that Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.