Life on the Moon as imagined in 1836

In the old days, Mars was peopled by one vast thinking vegetable, and the Moon was peopled by stick-wielding bat-men and moth-winged moon maidens.

From the Smithsonian Institute Image Collections:

This portfolio of hand-tinted lithographs purports to illustrate the "discovery of life on the moon." In 1836, Richard E. Locke, writing for the New York Sun, claimed that the noted British astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon. Flora and fauna included bat-men, moon maidens (with luna-moth wings), moon bison, and other extravagant life forms. Locke proposed an expedition to the moon using a ship supported by hydrogen balloons.

The first order of business for Earthlings? Enslave the Moon men and slaughter the Moon animals!

Other discoveries made in the moon from Sigr. Herschel (Via Meine Kleine Fabrik)


    1.  Sorry, due to copyright extensions and licensing agreements, the prints are not available in your jurisdiction.

  1. I was just wondering the other day when people first dreamed up the concept of “aliens” as in people from another planet…. if it’s relatively modern (meaning 19th-20th C). I figure you need to have a concept of “planets” in the first place, before you can imagine people from another planet.

    1. I think the first people to suppose the heavens were full of things like the earth were ancient Greeks. Some of them, for instance atomists like Democritus and Leucippus, definitely suggested the planets were world like ours and talked about people living there.

      As far as I can tell, though, the idea that their people would be alien in form only goes back to the 1800s, probably thanks to evolution. Jules Verne’s characters wonder if the moon is populated by humans, while H. G. Wells’s find it full of insectoids.

    2. i think in the 17th-18th centuries theologian/natural philosophers assumed that God wouldn’t be wasting all these plantary bodies with nobody to live on them so they were ALL inhabited. 

      of course, that doesn’t fit well with the image that religion only supports the idea that man and Earth are special and unique, which science has had to displace.

  2. If there are moon bison, are there also moon buffaloes, and do moon people commonly confuse them with each other?

  3. Seems legit. It was the “enslave all Moon men, slaughter all Moon animals” that really sold it for me.

    1. Moonguys on the left and right are on their knees for her, even grooming her hair, but she only has eyes for the tall forward-looking alpha moon-man…

      1. His gaze forsees the arrival of the rapacious sky-tourists, and he is composing the death chant of his proud people. Soon, they will cease herding moon-buffalo (or moon-bison, he was never sure) by turning their neighbours upside down and knocking their heads into the fertile soil of their gracious homeland…

  4. I remember reading about this hoax when I was a kid,there were also horned bears,(if I remember right).This almost screams for an anime-type tragic animated film,but notice how eager people back then were to be the bad guys in “Avatar”.(whaling was probably still big business around that time,not to mention various genocides going on etc.)

    1.  Admittedly, even then, there was criticism of such practices – and that often happened in the form of caricature. The enslavement of the moon people depicted in that last image may well have been a harsh tongue-in-cheek…

  5. I also a fan of the Moon Hoax. I love that it would take more effort and expense to fake a Moon landing than actually make one.

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