1930s College Fun: Goldfish Swallowing
The Actual Fad Of Goldfish Swallowing Really Lasted Only 2 Months
...but it must have made an impact on the American psyche. Another misconception is goldfish swallowing is often thought of a fad that was made up in the Jazz Age Roaring 20's, but in reality goldfish swallowing was all the rage (well, not really) in 1939. Goldfish swallowing was a bona fide craze that began March of 1939 and by summer had run its course.
The amazing part is that very few fads can be traced back to one person, but goldfish swallowing can be. Actually you can trace it back not only to the first person, but to the very date, and the reason that goldfish swallowing began. All are well documented accounts. If you haven't guessed already like most idiotic stunts in America, this fad began on a college campus.Goldfish swallowing was started on the campus of the ivy league institution, Harvard. That's right kids... the beginning of the goldfish swallowing fad and later down the road... Dr. Timothy Leary and LSD experiments. The official date of the goldfish swallowing craze was March 3, 1939, but it really began a few nights earlier.
The dumbass...er...the man, in question had a name that outside of an ivy league school, would pretty much guarantee an ass-whoopin' or at very least a wedgie and his lunch money stolen: the man in question was Lothrop Withington, Jr. That's right... he was a "Junior" which means he wasn't the first in his family with the name Lothrop... it also proves that his parents were obviously children-hating sadists... anyway... One night good ol' Lothrop was bragging..yes!...bragging, about his ability to eat live fish... now there's a way to impress the chicks...guys if you want women to fall all over themselves, and beat a path to your door, so your never alone on a saturday night ever again, you need to start bragging about swallowing goldfish!.. the gals will throw themselves at you... Well... boys being the the "wholesome ivy schooled dandies" they where back then decided to play a game of truth or dare, and after being dared to admit he was lying... our hero.. Lothrop took the dare of eating a live goldfish. This was a big deal on the Depression era Harvard campus and a crowd showed up to watch Mr. Withington,Jr. melodramatically draw out the moment by grasping the little fish around by the tail and slowly lower it into his mouth like a circus geek swallowing a sword. He even added a few chews, before he defiantly took it down his gullet.
...And so was born the most asinine sensation ever born to grace the American lexicon of what is cool.
Who's The Man? Right Guys... hmmm..Guys?
In a 1963 letter to the New York Times, Lothrop claimed that the fad began in late 1938 when, he... Lothrop Withington Jr., as he self-describe, a then Harvard freshman with class presidential aspirations," was encouraged by his "campaign managers" to do so as a publicity stunt: "Reporters and photographers were inadvertently present in the Harvard Freshman Union when Withington swallowed his live goldfish (with a mashed potato chaser) and started a nationwide fad in the spring of 1939." The Times editor replied that "unless the Editor's memory is deceiving him, the goldfish-swallowing craze among school and college boys had begun at least as early as 1930." Apparently Lothrop's own memory was wrong, maybe from too much mercury (right Jeremy Piven)..., as a Time magazine article noted in a 1939, "Harvard Freshman Lothrop Withington Jr., son of a onetime (1910) Harvard football captain, started the fad sweeping U. S. campuses..."
O.K. Back To The Aftermath Of One Small Incident That All Started In March Of 1939
Soon the news of Withington swallowing a goldfish had spread like wildfire to other colleges, including Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Just three weeks later Frank Hope Jr. (what is it with these "Juniors"?) over-the -topped the Harvard man by swallowing three goldfish and declared Lothrop a sissy. Even though Frank added salt and pepper, and he refused to chew the fish; only opting to swallow (Hey! Frank...sissy bitch!).
Frank Hope's record was shattered within twenty-four hours, when another Franklin and Marshall student swallowed six fish. George Raab had decided to show Hope who the "sissy" was. Once these Franklin and Marshall students had joined in, the race was on between the two schools was on! Irving Clark Jr.(another "Junior"), a Harvard student, took up the school mantle and pride by swallowing two dozen goldfish, plus raised the ante by promising to eat any bug for a nickel, an angleworm for a dime, and even a beetle for only two bits (twenty-five cents...for you playing the home game).
After a week of competition between these two schools, many other colleges decide to toss their hat in the ring by deploying their school's garbagge guts. A student from the University of Pennsylvania, Gilbert Hollandersky, downed twenty-five goldfish and then quickly rid the taste from his mouth with a steak dinner (mmm...appetizer). Almost every day a new record was reported. Julius Aisner from the University of Michigan was able to swallow twenty-nine but Michael Bonner, the Albright College football captain, ate thirty-three. Albert Hayes, of MIT, powered through by gobbling forty-two fish.
Soon, where you swallowed the goldfish became just as important as doing the deed, places like Outside Boston's Opera House became vogue. Jack Smookler of Northeastern University swallowed thirty-eight in front of a small crowd. A veterinary student at Middlesex University, Gordon Southworth, stomached sixty-seven while standing next to a Soldier's Monument in Waltham Common. In fourteen minutes he was able to pull them one by one from an overflowing pail. A record that seemed it was going to last was made by Clark University's Joseph Deliberato. He digested eighty-nine goldfish at one sitting in early April.
Marie Hansen of the University of Missouri was the first female student to swallow a live goldfish. But a co-ed student of Boston University, Betty Hines, became known that spring because of the goldfish sugar cookies she had created.
It was university madness, and goldfish chaos everywhere...when would the carnage end?
Jazzy Number From 1930
Legislation Steps In, And Makes It Hard To Swallow
Finally, a Massachusetts state legislature introduced a bill that would "preserve the fish from cruel and wanton consumption." The president of the Boston's Animal League made sure that goldfish swallowers would be arrested if campus officials did not stop this behavior. A pathologist at the U.S. Public Health Service said that goldfish may contain tapeworms or harbor a disease that causes the swallower to become anemic.
In the spring of 1939 the rate of goldfish swallowing let up because of boredom, and because students at the time went home for spring-break...But the law believed it was because of the types of warnings that were made. Still once in a while campus' would produce a new champion for the record.
.... Before the 1970's, the record for goldfish gluttony was beyond three hundred. Thankfully though, this is a fad that had finally passed... until the popularity of sushi, of course.
Church To End Practice Of Goldfish Swallowing
From USA Today and The AP Wire Service 2005
FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — The First Assembly of God Church has agreed to discontinue its practice of swallowing live goldfish as part of its Fear Factor ministry.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked for a ban on the practice. Youth minister Anthony Martin said earlier the goal of the exercise was to teach teens about fear.
"I do appreciate your concern and just wanted to let you know that this will never happen again," Pastor Greg Woodall replied to PETA in a letter. "My views are a reflection of yours. We love God's creatures and would never want to show them harm."
As part of the Fear Factor ministry at the church, teenage participants were asked to swallow live goldfish. No one reportedly became ill during the goldfish phase of the program.
PETA thanked the church for the ban by sending a gift basket of vegan Swedish fish, a gummy candy, as an alternative to live fish.
Barnes & Barnes: Fish Heads
More by this Author
Airline Jokes Getting on a plane, I told the ticket lady, "Send one of my bags to New York, send one to Los Angeles, and send one to Miami." She said, "We can't do that!" I told her, "You did...
1 All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. - Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer 2 All of us get lost in the darkness, dreamers learn to steer by the stars. - Rush, The Pass 3...
Story of the bluesman, the Devil, and the deal at the crossroads, as retold in Stephen Davis's Hammer of the Gods. In the delta of the Mississippi River, where Robert Johnson was born, they said that if an...