E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A hoax. Cornelissen, to try the gullibility of the public, reported in the papers that he had twenty ducks, one of which he cut up and threw to the nineteen, who devoured it greedily. He then cut up another, then a third, and so on till nineteen were cut up; and as the nineteenth was gobbled up by the surviving duck, it followed that this one duck actually ate nineteen ducksa wonderful proof of duck voracity. This tale had the run of all the papers, and gave a new word to the language. (French, cane, a duck.) (Quetelet.)