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.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
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.
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.