Fred Hart

Courtesy of the Nevada State Library and Archives.

A lithograph from Fred Hart's book, The Sazarac Lying Club, depicts the incident that allegedly inspired the club to form.

Courtesy of the Nevada State Library and Archives.

An article reproduced in Fred Hart’s book, The Sazarac Lying Club, illustrates the approach many period journalists took to the concept of the literary prank.

Courtesy of the Nevada State Library and Archives.

An article reproduced in Fred Hart’s book, The Sazarac Lying Club, illustrates the approach many period journalists took to the concept of the literary prank.

Fred H. Hart is an excellent but lesser-known practitioner of the western journalistic tradition of the humorous literary hoax perfected by Dan De Quille and Mark Twain. He was a miner in Austin who went east in 1868 to pursue the rich mining strikes around Hamilton. There he became a correspondent for the local newspaper, the Reese River Reveille. Realizing his talent as a journalist, he began writing for the White Pine News, then returned to Austin in 1873 to report for, and eventually edit, the Reese River Reveille.

In 1878, Hart published The Sazarac Lying Club. It was a book celebrating an institution based on his fictional article reporting on the organization's fabricated proceedings. The book's regional popularity inspired three printings in its first year.

Austin's Sazarac Saloon, named after a popular brandy, was home to the Sazarac Lying Club whose members sought the title of "Monumental Liar of America." Participants wore little hatchets pinned to their lapels as a sign of commitment to the western tall tale, which became an integral part of regional folklore. Hart occasionally wrote under the pennames of Van Jacquelin and Toby Green. He drifted from the Eureka Sentinel to the Gold Hill Daily News, and for a brief time was the Territorial Enterprise's editor in 1880. Libelous hoaxes in the latter extinguished his career. Impoverished, Fred Hart died in 1897 in Sacramento.

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