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Vintage Photos of Eating Contests from the Early 20th century

Eating contest is one of the oldest sports in which people consume a lot of food in a short time for the prize. The first recorded pie-eating contest took place in Toronto in 1878. This sport is gaining popularity day by day, and more and more competition are being held all over the world. However, most don’t enjoy these contests because they find them disgusting to the point of being nauseating.

The industrial revolution changed a lot about food. Inventions like refrigeration, canning, and other food storage methods have allowed us to produce more food. With better food storage and better farming methods, food became a lot more plentiful, which meant that eating contests were now more doable than ever before.

Since electricity was still relatively rare, many local fairs throughout the U.S began to feature eating contests as a way to entertain people. Many of these contests focused on local crops such as corn, watermelon, or apples; eventually, pies began to reign supreme as the competitive eating food of choice. Here below are some historical photos of different eating contests.

#1 Lois and Ruth Waddell devour a combined total of 204 oysters in 1920.

Lois and Ruth Waddell devour a combined total of 204 oysters in 1920.

The girls were crowned winners of the Great Oyster Eatting Contest after they had finished.

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#2 Richard Baranski, 6, savors his victory after eating a 10-inch cranberry pie in 15 seconds, 1948.

Richard Baranski, 6, savors his victory after eating a 10-inch cranberry pie in 15 seconds, 1948.

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#3 A sausage-eating contest in Munich, Germany, 1952. The winner (second from left) wolfed down 15 sausages in one minute and 45 seconds.

A sausage-eating contest in Munich, Germany, 1952. The winner (second from left) wolfed down 15 sausages in one minute and 45 seconds.

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#4 Marion Todd, left, and Marge Kraus during National Hot Dog Month, posing with a plate of 60 hot dogs, which at the time represented what the average American ate in a year in Chicago, 1957.

Marion Todd, left, and Marge Kraus during National Hot Dog Month, posing with a plate of 60 hot dogs, which at the time represented what the average American ate in a year in Chicago, 1957.

Their hats were accented with a band of hot dogs smothered with mustard.

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#5 A watermelon-eating contest in Cincinnatti, Ohio, 1915.

A watermelon-eating contest in Cincinnatti, Ohio, 1915.

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#6 Juniors compete against each other on an Independence Day pie eating contest, July 4, 1919.

Juniors compete against each other on an Independence Day pie eating contest, July 4, 1919.

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#7 Mrs. Vincent Cosamano at a pie eating contest contest held at the Tidal Basin, Washington D.C, 1921.

Mrs. Vincent Cosamano at a pie eating contest contest held at the Tidal Basin, Washington D.C, 1921.

Pie eating contests had always been a traditional event at county festivals years since the turn of the turn of the twentieth century. In fact during World War I, American regiments pitted their soldiers against one another as a way to boost morale.

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#8 Four youngsters vie for first place during a doughnut eating contest held by the Salvation Army in May, 1922.

Four youngsters vie for first place during a doughnut eating contest held by the Salvation Army in May, 1922.

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#9 Men tuck into a row of pies during a contest on a Navy Ship in 1922.

Men tuck into a row of pies during a contest on a Navy Ship in 1922.

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#10 Boys dunk their mouths into pies at Jefferson school, Washington D.C, 1923.

Boys dunk their mouths into pies at Jefferson school, Washington D.C, 1923.

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#11 A pie-eating contest at the World’s Fair in Chicago, 1934.

A pie-eating contest at the World’s Fair in Chicago, 1934.

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#12 A rice eating contest at the National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938.

A rice eating contest at the National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana, 1938.

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#13 Joseph Rubolotta, 12, is crowned world champion doughnut dunker at a competition in New York, 1939.

Joseph Rubolotta, 12, is crowned world champion doughnut dunker at a competition in New York, 1939.

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#14 A pie eating contest, at the 4-H Club fair, Cimarron, Kansas, 1939.

A pie eating contest, at the 4-H Club fair, Cimarron, Kansas, 1939.

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#15 A six-year-old boy is pictured with food all over his face, as he recovers after eating a 10 inch cranberry pie in just fifteen seconds, 1948.

A six-year-old boy is pictured with food all over his face, as he recovers after eating a 10 inch cranberry pie in just fifteen seconds, 1948.

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#16 In 1948, a clam eating contest was held at Ivar’s restaurant on the Seattle waterfront.

In 1948, a clam eating contest was held at Ivar’s restaurant on the Seattle waterfront.

The winner was Richard Watson, a local cabdriver, who gulped down 110 clams in 10 minutes and became the first ever World Champion Clam Eater

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#17 Broadway show girls compete in a hands-free spaghetti-eating contest, 1948.

Broadway show girls compete in a hands-free spaghetti-eating contest, 1948.

From the late 1910s to 1920s, eating contests became a fun way to draw a crowd, and establishments, from restaurants to movie theaters offered prizes to draw contestants and bring in business.

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#18 A watermelon-eating contest in Rome, Italy, 1950.

A watermelon-eating contest in Rome, Italy, 1950.

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#19 Boys practice for a pie-eating contest at the Los Angeles Food Show, 1950.

Boys practice for a pie-eating contest at the Los Angeles Food Show, 1950.

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#20 London students attempt to eat potatoes hung on a line, 1952.

London students attempt to eat potatoes hung on a line, 1952.

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#21 Denver Patrolman Joe Hale poses with the winners of a pie-eating contest, 1954.

Denver Patrolman Joe Hale poses with the winners of a pie-eating contest, 1954.

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#22 Spectators look on as Joe Steele takes part in a food-eating competition, 1958.

Spectators look on as Joe Steele takes part in a food-eating competition, 1958.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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