Home / Q: Why Did Goldfish-Swallowing Become Such a Fad?

Q: Why Did Goldfish-Swallowing Become Such a Fad?

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A: Gold fish swallowing (or, reason No. 49,952 why you should never let your elders claim that kids were more mature “in their day”) first caught on in the 30s. More specifically, it was March 3, 1939 when a Harvard freshman named Lothrop Withington first swallowed a goldfish on a $10 bet.

Money can make a smart man do stupid things. Lothrop’s shenanigans quickly touched off a firestorm of publicity, not to mention imitators. For the next three months students sucked down goldfish in record numbers, while every authority figure from the Massachusetts State Senate to the U.S. Public Health Service tried to get them to stop.

The craze slowed down after many schools threatened to expel the fish-eaters, but it still managed to remain popular enough to ensnare the next generation. Today’s current world record, 300 fish in one sitting, was set in 1974.

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