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Hippopotamus Steak: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1910, Congress considered importing hippo meat as a solution to the national meat crisis. This guide provides access to materials related to "Hippopotamus Steak" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Will the meat trust force us to this?" April 3, 1910. The Spokane Press (Spokane, WA), Image 18. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

If hippopotamus was put on the menu, would you try it? That’s what America almost did in 1910! Confronted by corporate beef monopolies, meat shortages, and rising prices nationwide, senator Robert Broussard proposed a solution: Import hippopotamuses from Africa to free-range in Louisiana! The idea was that hippos could substitute for cattle, ridding the hyacinth that polluted the swamps while being harvested to feed hungry Americans. While many considered edible hippopotamus quite practical since “a little of him would go a long way gastronomically,” in the end it was the idea—not the hippos—that was put out to pasture. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

March 1910 In light of a national meat crisis (caused by the Beef Trust), Robert Broussard, Frederick Burnham, and Fritz Duquesne introduce the ‘Hippo Bill’ to the US Agricultural House Committee. This exotic proposal greatly excited the press—and compelled many citizens to reevaluate their own eating habits.