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American colonists did not like lobsters. The crustaceans washed up on the beaches of Plymouth, Massachusetts but the settlers did not like to eat them. In fact, when political leaders served lobster for dinner, they often needed to apologize and explain that it was all that that they had. The fact that they would sometimes pile up several feet deep gave them a reputation as food for poor people. They were mostly fed to those who didn't have a choice - students, slaves, and kids. During the Revolutionary War, British prisoners of war complained about getting served too much lobster. A few states passed laws against feeding inmates lobster more than twice per week.

But everything changed for the lobster in the nineteenth century. The pivotal moment was the transcontinental railroads. Once fresh Maine lobsters could be quickly transported inland, they became a staple of the first class dining cars. They spread to Chicago - except by then it had been reinvented as an exotic delicacy. Lobster is a Veblen good, a commodity whose demand rises with its price.

In 1899, economist Thorstein Veblen identified luxury goods that experienced greater customer preference with greater price. For more on Veblen, I recommend reading his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class.