Extra! Explosions Blow Dome Off State Capitol!
Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air
Wisconsin’s beautiful $8,000,000 capitol building was in ruins today, following a series of mysterious explosions which blasted the majestic dome from its base and sent it crashing through the roof of the east wing.
At 7:30 this morning the first mighty explosion occurred, rocking the dome and shattering windows throughout the city. This was followed immediately by two lesser blasts, which sent showers of granite chips down upon the heads of pedestrians.
After an interval of about 2 minutes, three more detonations followed in rapid succession, shattering pillars and toppling the dome from its supports. Huge blocks of granite were tossed into the air like feathers.
With the sixth and final blast, the huge dome caved in on the east side, and the heavy mass of stone and steel collapsed. Falling in an arc, the dome split into a dozen parts as it struck the east wing roof, which was crushed like a cardboard box.
The wing was demolished into a heap of crumbled stone, into which was mingled the shattered granite blocks and pillars of the dome.
Hundreds of pedestrians and motorists about the Capitol square miraculously escaped death and serious injury as the heavy missiles hurtled through the air to the streets below.
Granite chips were thrown through a score of store windows, and a heavy pall of dust and smoke hung over the square after the explosions.
A major catastrophe was prevented when all six Madison fire companies arrived on the scene, putting out the dozens of small blazes which followed the explosions in various offices throughout the building.
More than 1,000 lives were saved due to the fact that the explosions occurred early in the morning before state employees at the capitol had come to work.
After police had ascertained that no one had been killed or seriously injured, an investigation of probable causes for the series of explosions was started immediately.
Authorities were considering the possibility that large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the senate and assembly chambers, had in some way been ignited, causing the first blast.
It is believed the other five blasts were indirectly caused by the first, which set off excess quantities of hot air that had seeped from the assembly and senate chambers into other rooms in the building.
© 1933 The Madison Capital-Times
On April 1st, 1933, the Madison Capital-Times newspaper ran a headline that announced “Dome Topples Off Statehouse”, claiming that “Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air.” A satirical political cartoon dawned the front page of the April Fools edition of the Wisconsin newspaper.
The article that followed reported that “Wisconsin’s beautiful $8 million capitol was in ruins today, following a series of mysterious explosions which blasted the majestic dome from its base.”
The explosions that detonated the Capitol building were said to have occurred at 7:30 AM, showing “granite chips down upon the heads of pedestrians”. The article added, humorously, that “large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers, had in some way been ignited.”
Even though the story concluded with the words “April Fools!”, readers across Wisconsin were displeased with the editorial. One reader sent in a letter claiming that “there is such a thing as carrying a joke too far.” Many readers saw the joke as void of humor and a hideous gesture towards the Wisconsin legislators that were elected by the people.
The story doesn’t end in 1933, however. In 1985, The Science Digest named this tale of journalistic trickery one of the world’s best hoaxes.
So, Happy April Fools, readers. Your pranks can’t be as large as what The Capital-Times published back in 1933.