Trivia

Hard

In The 1930s, It Was A Fad Among College Students to Swallow?

Goldfish
Pennies
Bullets
Frogs
A college student participating in the short-lived goldfish swallowing fad.
Bad Fads Museum

Answer: Goldfish

Over the years, we’ve learned about more than our fair share of weird trends while researching trivia. We’ve researched the history of phone booth stuffing, competitive squatting, and planking, but today’s trivia is a first in that it combines collegiate stupidity and animal cruelty in one “But why?” moment.

In the late 1930s, a fad emerged among college students across the country: swallowing live goldfish. While the exact origin of the fad is unknown, it is widely attributed to a Harvard student named Lothrop Withington Jr. He had bragged that he saw a person swallowing live goldfish while on vacation ten years earlier and had participated in the stunt. When pressed to prove that he would do it, he didn’t back down and, in fact, swallowed a live goldfish. In a puzzling display of monkey-see-monkey-do foolishness, other college students began emulating the stunt and it quickly spread to other colleges.

Much to the relief of goldfish everywhere, however, cities, states, and universities quickly banned the practice and the fad faded away as quickly as it had started.

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