The Taco Bell Liberty Bell April Fool's Prank You Forgot About

April Fools pranking is a time-honored tradition. Dating all the way back to around 1582, the holiday started when the calendar new year changed to begin on January 1 instead of during the spring equinox on April 1, after France switched from using the Julian calendar to follow the Gregorian calendar, according to History. Those who were late to change their calendar new year were called "April Fools," and throughout the next few centuries, the tradition evolved to include good-natured pranking and teasing. These days, April 1 is considered April Fool's Day, when friends, family, and even companies get in on the pranking fun.

Back in 1996, the popular fast food chain Taco Bell decided to launch the mother of all April Fools Day jokes by playing a prank on the entire country. On April 1, 1996, to the shock of just about everyone in the nation, Taco Bell announced its plans to buy the Liberty Bell, according to the Philly Voice.

Taco Bell announced plans to purchase the Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is one of the United State's most famous landmarks. The Pennsylvania monument was constructed in 1751 at the request of the state's legislature, the Pennsylvania Assembly. The Bell was ordered in honor of the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, the state's original constitution, according to It is a pretty important piece of history. So understandably, news that a Mexican fast food chain planned to buy the iconic monument caused a bit of an uproar.

Taco Bell took out full-page advertisements in seven national newspapers announcing their plan to not only buy the Liberty Bell, but to change its name to the rebranded "Taco Bell Liberty Bell." "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," the advertisement read. The company acknowledged that "some may find this controversial," but assured the public the renamed Bell "will still be accessible to the American public for viewing ... we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt," according to the Philly Voice.

The White House played along with the prank

The news did not exactly go over well with the general public. Almost immediately, they made their dissatisfaction known, not noticing the date of the advertisement's publication. The National Park Service, which houses the Liberty Bell, as well as the Taco Bell headquarters, were soon flooded with callers disapproving of the purchase. However, not everyone disliked the prank. None other than the White House decided to play along, with then-presidential spokesman Michael McCurry stating that the Taco Bell Liberty Bell was just the beginning. "Ford Motor Co. is joining today in an effort to refurbish the Lincoln Memorial. ... It will be the Lincoln Mercury Memorial," he said, via the Washington Post.

However, not every major player was in on the joke. National Park Service spokeswoman Elaine Sevy told the Washington Post they "were shocked. We had no idea this was happening." Ultimately, however, Taco Bell came clean about the hoax, admitting the whole thing was simply an April Fool's joke — and a pretty successful attention-grabbing publicity stunt. As for the Liberty Bell, it remains the property of The City of Philadelphia. "We are encouraged by the outpouring of concern and I assure everyone that the ad is as false as it is cheesy. The Liberty Bell belongs to all Americans. It is not now, nor will it ever be for sale under any circumstances, period," Roger Kennedy, then-National Park Service Director, assured the public (via the Philly Voice). Luckily for fans of the restaurant, Taco Bell's crunchy tacos are.