Swallowing Goldfish: The Crazy and Cruel College Fad of 1939
If you think the eating Tide Pod craze from a few years ago was nuts, you will want to hear about the trend that many college students in 1939 participated in – swallowing goldfish! No, not the tasty cheddar crackers, but actual goldfish from the nearest aquarium.
In these colorized photographs, we will take a look at how this bizarre fad started with an undergrad’s friendly bet and how it spread around the country. We will also look at the fallout from this viral trend and how it still echoes in pop culture today.
It All Started at Harvard
The year was 1939 and Lothrop Withington, Jr. was a freshman at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was likely trying to impress his new classmates, so he told them some outlandish brags. He informed them that he had once swallowed a live fish. His new buddies were skeptical. They called his bluff by offering him $10 to do it again. At this point, Lothrop couldn’t refuse. On March 3, with a crowd of cheering and chanting students and one newspaper reporter from nearby Boston, Lothrop fished a three-inch goldfish out of a bowl and dropped the poor creature down his throat with a few chews and one big swallow.