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Wednesday, 09 May 2012 10:16

Hoax of the week: Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook

Written by Nick Farrell



Could not get a patent for it


A claim that a US blogger has found evidence that Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook has turned out to be an internet hoax. Nate St Pierre claimed that the only reason Lincoln could not clean up in the way that Mark Zuckerberg did was because the US patent office refused to give him a patent.  Well, that and the fact that by the time the technology came along Lincoln was dead.

The story took off from the Blog and became viral where it was reported in some prominent newspapers. St Pierre said that he was researching a card game which was played between P.T. Barnum,  Lincoln, and a circus performer Morty Smith played in which Smith beat the two icons. Apparently Lincoln was between jobs and and was having a go at patenting ideas. One of them was something called the Gazette. This was something like a local newspaper. He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as an example probably to attract the interest of Simpson fans.

Lincoln's idea was that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where “every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors.” Then each person may decide who should be allowed to see his page.  So that only those who he has listed as Family or Friends would be allowed to see the collection. He would be told which pages anyone had looked at, and could decide which pages some  people could see. The pages 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 it was a steam punk version of Facebook and was filed by Abraham Lincoln in 1845. Still it is fair to say that the bloke who freed the slaves later in his life was not stupid enough to think that the Timeline was a good idea. But although it was a well constructed hoax and fairly plausible, as Lincoln really was the only US president to have a patent.  But the Patent was for a device to get ships off sandbars and not one for Facebook. 

Although Nate's hoax is still widely believed it has now been denied by the museum where he "researched" it.  The PT Barnum link should have given everyone a clue.  He once said "there is a sucker born every minute."

Nick Farrell

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