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Extended Audio Sample The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York, by Matthew Goodman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (191 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matthew Goodman Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Sun and the Moon tells the delightful and surprisingly true story of how a series of articles in the Sun newspaper in 1835 convinced the citizens of New York that the moon was inhabited. Purporting to reveal discoveries of a famous British astronomer, the series described such moon life as unicorns, beavers that walked upright, and four-foot-tall flying man-bats. It quickly became the most widely circulated newspaper story of the era.

Told in richly novelistic detail, The Sun and the Moon brings the raucous world of 1830s New York City vividly to life, including such larger-than-life personages as Richard Adams Locke, who authored the moon series but who never intended it to be a hoax; fledgling showman P. T. Barnum, who had just brought his own hoax to town; and a young Edgar Allan Poe, convinced that the series was a plagiarism of his own work.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mr. Goodman has managed not only to give us a ripping good newspaper yarn but also to illuminate life in the nation’s largest city in the early part of the nineteenth century. He also provides something of a treatise on the birth of modern mass-market newspapering.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[A] delightful history…The genius of The Sun and the Moon is that it endeavors to explore, through the lens of nineteenth-century New York and the prism of the press, why we believe what we believe, particularly when those beliefs go beyond the pale of plausibility.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “The artistry of the great moon hoax can only be appreciated in its entirety and in its original setting with all the clatter, color and odor of the Bowery, as presented by Goodman.”

    Buffalo News

  • “Goodman presents a fascinating story about life in nineteenth-century New York, the savagely competitive newspaper business, and public entrancement with new sciences.”

    Sky & Telescope

  • The Sun and the Moon is a wonderful cautionary tale, especially in an era like our own.”


  • “Goodman strips away layers of deception by journalist Richard Adams Locke to fully reveal what was hailed as the era’s ‘most stupendous scientific imposition upon the public.’ Theological debates over extraterrestrial life, sensationalism and new technology, he says, met within a writer so pioneering in his science fiction that even Edgar Allan Poe declared him a genius.”

    New Scientist

  • “Highly atmospheric…[A] richly detailed and engrossing glimpse of the birth of tabloid journalism in an antebellum New York divided by class, ethnicity and such polarizing issues as slavery, religion and intellectual freedom.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Narrator Malcolm Hillgartner’s rich baritone works well with a story that could almost be fiction but isn’t. His slightly melodramatic reading lends a certain tone of irony to the book, keeping the listener aware that while this is factual history, it’s based on a big joke. This entertaining book gives an interesting glimpse of the early days of newspapers in New York City and how trusting and gullible readers were, once upon a time.”


  • “This is a rollicking read.”

    Library Journal

  • “Malcolm Hillgartner reads with great energy and enthusiasm. Public libraries may wish to consider this one.”

    Library Journal

  • “[The Sun and the Moon] tells an intriguing story and reveals some fascinating facts about nineteenth-century New York.”


  • “A delightful recounting of ‘the most successful hoax in the history of American journalism’…Goodman consistently entertains with his tale of press manipulation, hucksterism and the seemingly bottomless capacity for people to believe the most outrageous things. Absolutely charming.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Erin | 2/18/2014

    " Okay, so I enjoyed this book, but it was really hard at times to get through. There are lots of twists and turns and rabbit trails in the book - all interesting enough and full of trivia bits, but it does make it a little hard to follow. The lives of Robert Allen Locke, P. T. Barnum, and many others are all entwined to describe the history of the New York newspaper, the Sun, and the Moon Hoax that made it famous. I learned a lot about the development of the newspaper in the 1800s from an elitist purchase item concerning only the upper classes (and sometimes merchants) to a relatively cheap item full of sensational items that would appeal to the general public. Really, the content of the book is really interesting, it's just the formatting that I had trouble with. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jrobertus | 2/14/2014

    " This book is astonishing. It vividly presents New York, and the nation, in the 1830s. There is poverty and hope as scrappy people struggle to thrive. Slavery is a big issue across the land and newspapers are a new thing. The NY Sun costs a penny and allows people to read a paper who never did so. The editor is a crusader against slavery which is just one issue that brings rivals to blows. Crime reporting spurs sales, but the most amazing thing is a fabricated story that John Hershel has found life on the moon. This saga was written by Richard Locke (distant relative of John Locke), and his personal story is amazing in its own right. People from all over the world are swept up in the utopian moon fantasy. Even PT Barnum, a huckster par excellance, is amazed and admiring. Edgar Alan Poe is outraged because he feels his idea has been stolen! At the center of the hoax, its initial acceptance and then criticism, is religion versus science. Locke and Barnum were both religious skeptics and decried the gullibility of people, many of whom took this story as being consistent with the bible and used that interpretation as a basis for believing the unbelievable. Locke was a great crusader against slavery and many of his critics also found biblical support for slavery, which enraged Locke. There are so many issues raised by this wonderful and amazing book,many of which are still circulating today is one guise or another. I recommend this book without reservation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Charlie | 2/2/2014

    " 1800s and how the newspapers got started, first newsboys, fierce competition, who wrote articles, how hoaxes got started and thrived, the content of first papers,how the poor could finaly afford to read the news, etc. I'm loving it. with no copyright laws, with no libel or slander laws, and no other sources for news- publishers got away with the the wildest stories unchallenged. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mary Stephanos | 1/17/2014

    " This book is an exceptionally well-written account of a hoax that galvanized New York City in 1835, drawing in such figures as P.T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe and helping to usher in the newspaper age. It is also an engaging account of the development of urban newspapers in the 19th century. Recommended for anyone interested in American popular culture or the history of mass media. "

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