Sylvester Graham in The Market Revolution
Sylvester Graham (1795-1851) was a dietary reformer and lecturer who cultivated an extensive following between 1832 and his death in 1851. Born in Connecticut, and ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1826, Graham began to acquire an audience for his dietary reforms in 1832, as Americans anxiously anticipated the spread of Europe's cholera epidemic to America.
Graham believed that poor diet inhibited the body's ability to resist disease. He, therefore, discouraged the consumption of meat, spices, and stimulants, such as alcohol, coffee, and tobacco. Instead, he advocated a diet of course-grain bread and vegetables. Graham's dietary advice was matched by behavioral recommendations that emphasized moderation and self-regulation. He encouraged strict sexual restraint and condemned masturbation on the premise that wasting bodily fluids led to physical weakness. Graham also recommended more frequent bathing, loose fitting clothes, and improved ventilation. Among his legacies was the Graham Cracker.