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Goldfish swallowing was an American school trend starting in the 1920s, where a live goldfish was swallowed. Although it's not clear how the fad emerged, various people have made claims. A 1963 letter to the New York Times claimed that it was started by a man named Lothrop Withington Jr. Withington was a freshman at Harvard University who aspired to become class president and was willing to do what it took to receive the votes of his classmates. Because of his previous boasting in regards to swallowing a live goldfish, a student dared him to do the stunt once again. Allegedly his "campaign managers" encouraged him to do so as a publicity stunt in order to win the election. The letter to the Times claimed that on March 3, 1939, the freshman students gathered to see the show, and Lothrop didn't disappoint. He grabbed the goldfish, leaned back and with a bit of hesitation, gulped it down. "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." Before long, other colleges were joining in on the strange trend.
The stunt became so popular that the Massachusetts state legislature decided to make a bill to “preserve the fish from cruel and wanton consumption.”
- Goldfish Swallowing at Bad Fads Museum
- College Fads from The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture[dead link]
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