An Eccentric Lifestyle Popular in the Early 19th Century Has Left Us the Simple Graham Cracker and More!

by: Geoff Ficke 

The Presbyterian Reverend Sylvester Graham, an early 19th century proponent of an extreme, aesthetic lifestyle, is largely forgotten today. During his life, however, he was amazingly popular and many of the theories he espoused are actually popular to this day, though he is rarely credited with their acceptance. He was also widely reviled and a controversial figure of derision.

Rev. Graham promoted a strict form of vegetarianism at a time when meat was a staple and considered essential to a healthy lifestyle. He held a number of extremely controversial diet and wellness ideas which he championed and was militant in defending. His followers were so dedicated that they became known as Grahamites. 

Speaking before adoring crowds, Rev. Graham spoke boldly and powerfully against women wearing corsets, any type of gratuitous sexual activity and nihilism. His encouragement of a Spartan lifestyle was widely reported in the media. 

In an age when bathing was rare and oral care primitive Grahamites practiced both; daily and religiously. Temperance was strictly enforced among Grahamites. Excitement was discouraged. They also did not use spices to enrich the taste of food, as these additives were considered to excite the senses and encourage sexual activity. Consuming meat, butter and white bread were forbidden. Especially white bread! 

The elimination of white flour from their diet became central to the lifestyle and philosophy of Grahamites. Rev. Graham preached about the evils of white flour which was considered crucial by bakers in producing whiter loaves and more commercially appealing bread. He despised any food that contained additives and chemicals. Darker types of bread were considered a foodstuff for the lower classes during the Industrial Revolution. Graham set out to change this perception. 

He created the recipe for Graham bread. It was made from un-sifted flour and contained no alum or chlorine, both present in the white bread of that…

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