About Sylvester Graham
The Reverend Sylvester Graham (July 5, 1794 – September 11, 1851) was an American dietary reformer. He was an early advocate of dietary reform in the United States and was most notable for his emphasis on vegetarianism and the temperance movement, as well as dietary habits.
He was born in Suffield, Connecticut as the 17th child of Reverend John Graham. Sylvester Graham was ordained in 1826 as a Presbyterian minister.
In 1829, he invented graham bread, and the recipe first appeared in The New Hydropathic Cookbook (New York, 1855). Graham bread was made from unsifted flour and free from chemical additives such as alum and chlorine.
Graham argued that chemical additives in bread made it unwholesome. The use of additives by bakeries was a common practice during the Industrial Revolution to make bread whiter in color, and more commercially appealing. Darker wheat bread was considered the fare of country rubes. Refined bread was a status symbol of the middle class because of its "purity and refinement" in its color and was purchased, rather than home-made. Graham believed that a firm bread made of coarsely ground whole-wheat flour was more nutritious and healthy.
Graham was also inspired by the temperance movement and preached that a vegetarian diet was a cure for alcoholism, and, more importantly, sexual urges. The main thrust of his teachings was to curb lust. While alcohol had useful medicinal qualities, it should never be abused by social drinking. For Graham, an unhealthy diet stimulated excessive sexual desire which irritated the body and caused disease. While Graham developed a significant following known as Grahamites, he was also ridiculed by the media and the public for his unwavering zealotry.
In 1837 he had difficulty finding a place to speak in Boston because of threatened riots by butchers and commercial bakers. In 1850 he helped found the American Vegetarian Society modeled on a similar organization established in Great Britain. He died the following year, at the age of 57, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where a restaurant, Sylvester's, now sits on the former location of his house. Graham influenced notable figures in America, including Horace Greeley and John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Sanitarium fame.
Of his numerous writings, the best known were Lectures on the Science of Human Life (Boston, 1839), of which several editions of the two-volume work were printed in the United States and sales in England were widespread, and Lectures to Young Men on Chastity.
- A lecture on epidemic diseases generally: and particularly the spasmodic cholera (1833)
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- • Smith, Andrew F. Ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and drink in America. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2004).
- • GRAHAM, SYLVESTER. In Encyclopædia Britannica (Vol. V12, pp. 318).
- • Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, (1999).
- • "Recent Deaths"; New York Daily Times; September 18, 1851; page 2. (Accessed from The New York Times (1851–2003), ProQuest Historical Newspapers, September 19, 2006)