Join us at 1 p.m. ET Thursday for a live Q&A on frequently asked coronavirus questions. Learn more.
by Larry Lipman, AARP Bulletin, April 1, 2010
At a time when stadiums, highways, and cherished football bowl games were getting corporate sponsors, news that the Liberty Bell had been purchased by Taco Bell—and was being renamed the Taco Liberty Bell—rang true.
Taco Bell’s April 1, 1996, prank caught the nation, and the National Park Service, off guard.
It began that morning with full-page ads running in six of the country’s largest newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer. The ad claimed Taco Bell was buying the historic icon in “an effort to help the national debt,” and urged other corporations to purchase national treasures.
A news release issued by Taco Bell showed its chief executive officer with an actor portraying Benjamin Franklin in front of a Liberty Bell replica. The release said the bell would continue to be available to the public, but it would spend half of its time in Philadelphia and the other half at company headquarters in Irvine, Calif.
The phones started to ring at the National Park Service and at Taco Bell headquarters. Among the concerned callers were aides to two U.S. senators. In Philadelphia, the Park Service hastily called a news conference to declare that the bell had not been sold. “The Libery Bell is safe. It’s not for sale,” a spokeswoman said.
By noon, Taco Bell issued another news release admitting the prank and pledging $50,000 for the Liberty Bell’s upkeep.
At the White House, spokesman Mike McCurry got into the spirit of the hoax, telling reporters that Ford Motor Co. was purchasing the Lincoln Memorial, which would be renamed the Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
Larry Lipman is a senior editor at AARP Bulletin Today.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
WW will help you build a customized weight loss plan
25% off the first healthy meal delivery of $99+.
Give or get help during the Coronavirus pandemic
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at