Fact Check-1897 New York Journal article did not reveal the earth is flat

An 1897 article by the New York Journal about believers of the debunked flat earth conspiracy theory is being presented misleadingly online. While the piece delved into flat earthers’ beliefs and their efforts to prove their thesis at the time, social media users have referred to extracts of the article taken out of context to falsely claim the journal was actually arguing that the earth was flat.

“People have known about for this a long time. You are the one that is new to this,” reads a superimposed text in one of the memes shared on social media. It shows segments of an 1897 edition of the New York Journal newspaper with a flat earth map and text that reads, “The earth is flat.” An iteration retweeted nearly 500 times since it was posted on Dec. 4 is viewable (here).

Other posts sharing the meme or referring to the same map and saying, “the Flat Earth as depicted in the New York Journal” can also be found on Facebook (here) (here)

The article is authentic, and can be seen in the January 31, 1897 edition of the magazine on the Library of Congress website (bit.ly/3Ha4Ve3).

The original, complete title reads: “The earth is flat. Enthusiasts who will attempt to prove this very curious theory.” The memes circulating on social media have cut the second sentence from its title.

The piece describes the so-called flat earthers’ arguments and their attempts to prove their case. At no point does the article present their beliefs as facts.

“Experiments are soon to be made on the coast of Florida for the purpose of demonstrating that the earth is not round, but flat. Strange as it may seem, there are still a great many people on this terrestrial ball who deny that it is a ball of any sort,” reads part of the opening paragraph.

The map highlighted in social media posts was indeed featured in the article, but it was described as an illustration of “how the school maps would look” if the theory were real, not as an authentic depiction of the earth.

Physicists and earth scientists have repeatedly dispelled flat Earth theories with evidence that the planet is round (here), (here), (here).

VERDICT

False. The New York Journal did not report in 1897 that the earth is flat. An article published in January that year, delving into believers of such theory has been taken out of context.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work (here).

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