So we all know Abraham Lincoln was a pretty badass president. He reunited a country torn apart by civil war, helped end slavery and invented Facebook.
Yup, that’s right Mark “I’m worth more than Yahoo!” Zuckerberg, Abraham Lincoln patented the basic idea for your social network 146 years ago.
Except he didn’t. The story appears to be the latest hoax to take the web by storm.
The story originated as a claim made by reporter Nate St.Pierre after he did some digging around at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
While there, he claimed to have across the Springfield Gazette, a newspaper entirely dedicated to honest Abe:
The whole Springfield Gazette was one sheet of paper, and it was all about Lincoln. Only him. Other people only came into the document in conjunction with how he experienced life at that moment. If you look at the Gazette picture above, you can see his portrait in the upper left-hand corner. See how the column of text under him is cut off on the left side? Stupid scanned picture, I know, ugh.
But just to the left of his picture, and above that column of text, is a little box. And in that box you see three things: his name, his address, and his profession (attorney).
The first column underneath his picture contains a bunch of short blurbs about what’s going on in his life at the moment — work he recently did, some books the family bought, and the new games his boys made up. In the next three columns he shares a quote he likes, two poems, and a short story about the Pilgrim Fathers. I don’t know where he got them, but they’re obviously copied from somewhere. In the last three columns he tells the story of his day at the circus and tiny little story about his current life on the prairie.
Way to make it sound convincingly like Facebook, without slipping in anachronisms.
St Pierre claimed he later found out evidence that Lincoln was looking to patent the Gazette, with an edition for every town and that:
He went on to propose that “each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship.” Evidently there was to be someone overseeing this collection of documents, and he would somehow know which pages anyone could look at, and which ones only certain people could see (it wasn’t quite clear in the application). Lincoln stated that these documents could be updated “at any time deemed Fit or Necessary,” so that anyone in town could know what was going on in their friends’ lives “without being Present in Body.
So how do we know it’s a fake? Well Jason Kotke made some pretty convincing arguments, including the fact that the first photographs weren’t reproduced in newspapers until 1880.
The most convincing proof though is an edition of the actual Springfield gazette, sans Lincoln.