Diet Reform and Vegetarianism

Overview

Book cover, green with black lettering, with a seated female figure in the center
Practical Manual of Hygiene and Temperance  1885

The Janice B. Longone Culinary Archive (JBLCA) at the Special Collections Library, in conjunction with the rich resources of the William L. Clements Library make available a number of materials on diet reform and vegetarianism in late 19th and early 20th century America. These books and other materials are an excellent source for researchers who are looking into the diet reform and movement, or those who wish to know the type of foods eaten by early American vegetarians. While there are plenty of other materials to be found in this collection, the books written by Sylvester Graham, J.H. Kellogg, and their followers are amongst the most prevalent.

Diet reform emerged from a distrust of 19th century medical practices, as well as the temperance movement led by Protestants which gained popularity in the United States around the same time. The reasoning behind much of this for those involved in temperance was that a clean body was essential in order to live a righteous life, and moderation in everything was ideal for good health. For some, diet reform included a small amount of meat, and did not mean entirely abstaining from eating flesh. While vegetarianism was not an unheard of concept to Americans at this time, it was not a common practice; eating meat was considered healthy, while vegetable eaters were thought to be weak and sickly.

In the materials held by Special Collections and the Clements, most of the writings done in the early and mid-1800s do not mention compassion toward animals as a reason for choosing a vegetarian diet. While there were vegetarians in the 19th century who chose this diet for compassionate reasons, most of the materials found at Special Collections and the Clements reflect very different reasons for adopting this diet. Many of those in the mid-1800s who were writing about the reasons for choosing to eat a vegetarian diet mentioned only the health benefits. However, around the turn of the century, compassion for animals began to be included as a reason for this diet in the vegetarian cook books written at the time. This change in attitudes illustrates how vegetarianism was beginning to be divorced from its original roots in diet reform.

In addition to diet, a popular medical treatment in the mid-nineteenth century was that of hydropathy (sometimes called the "water cure") -- the use of water in aiding the sick. This was done through drinking water, as well as wrapping patients in wet towels, putting their feet into both hot and cold water, and other methods. Hydropathy was a reaction to the prevalent "heroic" medicine of this time period, which involved bleeding patients and dosing them with large quantities of medication. Some viewed these practices as unnecessary and harmful and sought other, less extreme or more natural methods for treating patients. Those who practiced hydropathy, such as J.H. Kellogg, believed the water cure showed optimal results when paired with a vegetarian diet.

Table of Contents

Research Topics of Potential Interest

Sylvester Graham, Contemporaries, and Followers

Sylvester Graham is often referred to as the "father of American vegetarianism," which some scholars argue is not entirely true, as Graham himself was influenced by English minister Dr. William Metcalfe. However, Graham's contributions to diet reform and vegetarianism in America are undeniable. The JBLCA and Clements Library hold works by Graham and some of his contemporaries, including those who were directly influenced by him. Graham's diet reform came out of the temperance movement of the early and mid-1800s. He and his contemporaries believed that a healthy body, free of pernicious substances (alcohol, tobacco, meat, and spices) was essential to living a righteous Christian life. Other characteristics of this particular diet include drinking a lot of water, chewing food very slowly, and having a cheerful attitude when eating. Although the philosophies of Graham and his contemporaries are similar in many aspects, there are differences which could form a potential topic for research. For example, some of the cook books by his followers include dairy, eggs, and sugar, foods of which Graham did not entirely approve. Of particular interest to those who may be researching Graham is box 2 of the Graham family papers, which contain manuscripts written by Sylvester Graham himself. Included in these are writings which eventually came to be used in his book Lectures on the Science of Human Life.

The following materials pertain to this Sylvester Graham and his contemporaries:

Sylvester Graham writings
Clements Library, Manusripts Division: Graham Family Papers, Box 2

A Defence of the Graham System of Living; or, Remarks on Diet and Regimen
Clements Library: C2 1835 De

Nature's Own Book
Clements Library: C2 1835 Ni

A Treatise on Bread, and Bread-making
Clements Library: C2 1837 Gr

Lectures on the Science of Human Life
Clements Library: C2 1839 Gr

Diet Reform, Disease, and Longevity

The outbreak of disease (particularly cholera) in the 19th century exerted an influence on Graham's followers when they chose to adhere to his vegetarian diet. Many of the books in the JBLCA or at the Clements Library include testimonials from individuals who adopted the "Graham diet" and stayed healthy during an outbreak, as well as those who had an illness but believed they became well through eating as Graham prescribed. Much of the diet reform movement focused on dyspepsia, which reformers claimed was caused by excessive eating, as well as eating those substances which they deemed harmful, such a fried foods, hot breads, spices, sauces, etc. Another disease which reformers claimed their diet helped to prevent was gout, which some seemed almost fanatical about curing and preventing.

Reformers believed that diet was the best pathway to disease prevention. There is potential research topic material in the relationship between diet reform and disease of this time period. Similarly, many of the materials espousing this diet also mention a longer lifespan as a reason for choosing to forgo alcohol, tobacco, and meat. There are examples of longevity given in many of these books, some of which are far too fantastical to be believed.

One of the most well-known books amongst health reformers about the connection between diet, longevity, and good health is Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life, written in the 16th century by an Italian named Luigi Cornaro. Cornaro is typical of many who wrote testimonials to the benefits of a good, moderate diet: he was quite ill by the age of forty, but then revised his eating habits and suddenly became the healthiest he had ever been. He allegedly lived past the age of one hundred, and his writings became important in the diet reform community as an example of the benefits of moderation. Researchers may be interested in investigating the obsession many diet reformers had regarding longevity, and how it tied in with disease prevention and the Graham diet.

Materials relevant to this topic include:

Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life [Translated and with notes by Sylvester Graham]
Clements Library: C2 1833 Co

The Aesculapian Tablets of the Nineteenth Century
Clements Library: C2 1834 Gr

Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men and by Experience in All Ages
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1849 Al

Fruits and Farinacea: The Proper Food of Man
Clements Library: C2 1854 Sm

John Harvey Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium

Of potential interest to Michigan researchers are the works of John Harvey Kellogg, whose sanitarium in Battle Creek is well known for its unorthodox practices. The sanitarium was originally established by Ellen G. White and the church she helped co-found, the Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian group of diet reformers. Kellogg's family were members of the church. At a young age, Kellogg worked for James White, husband of Ellen, and came to be influenced by their teachings on diet and health. Kellogg believed in a diet similar to that of Graham: no alcohol, spices, salt, or anything that could potentially upset the stomach. While he was a trained physician and skilled surgeon, Kellogg was also a great believer in hydropathic medicine. Kellogg employed his beliefs in the diet and treatments used at the sanitarium.

It was through attempts to improve the sanitarium's food that he developed cornflakes, various cereals, and other foodstuffs which were later sold as part of the Kellogg's line of products. Those interested in researching Kellogg may want to explore this journey of food products from sanitarium meal to processed food for public consumption.

Kellogg also followed the teachings of Horace Fletcher, who taught that chewing food slowly not only prevented indigestion, but also filled the stomach without eating large portions. This slow chewing was one of the main principals taught to patients at the sanitarium, as one of the goals of the sanitarium was to teach patients how to eat better.

The Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Food and Drinks, Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, and Useful Hints and Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1875 Ke

Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Food, and Diet: Treatment of Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, and Healthful Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1882 Ke

Practical Manual of Health and Temperance: Embracing the Treatment of Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, the Alcohol and Tobacco Habits, Useful Hints and Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1885 Ke

The Household Monitor of Health
Clements Library: C2 1891 Ke

Science in the Kitchen
Clements Library: C2 1892 Ke

The New Glutton or Epicure
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1906 Fl

The Simple Life in a Nutshell
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1910 Ke

More information on Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium can be found at UM's Bentley Historical Library, which houses a large collection of Kellogg's writings, as well as biographical content. This resource guide is a good place to start.

Early American Vegetarian Cooking

While many of the books on vegetarianism found in the JBLCA and the Clements give reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet, nearly all of the books contain recipes, usually found in the last chapters. However, there are many books which contain only recipes. Those who are interested in researching the type of foods vegetarians in the 19th and early 20th centuries ate will want to look at these books. One possible study could be to compare vegetarian diets then and in modern times, looking at what types of fruits and vegetables were commonly used during this time period, and how earlier vegetarians compensated for a lack of meat in cooking.

The earliest books contain recipes using fruits, vegetables, and grains. Many of these early books name the potato as the most nutritious of vegetables, and place a large amount of importance on bread and cereals. Some follow the strict diet reform guidelines and do not call for salt or condiments of any kind, and adhere to what would now be termed a vegan diet. Others utilize those substances forbidden by diet reformers, and also use eggs and dairy products. Those written during and after Kellogg's popularity include the meat substitutes he developed at the sanitarium and later sold under the Kellogg brand, such as Protose and Nuttolene. These cookbooks have a more recognizable meal structure, with the meat substitute or beans filling in for meat. This is in contrast to the recipes from Graham's time period, which focus on simple foods and meals, and do not appear to attempt to substitute for lack of meat in the diet or the meal plan.

Some of the vegetarian cookbooks available in Special Collections and the Clements include:

Health Reformer's Cook Book, or, How to Prepare Food from Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1867 Ja

Practical Vegetarian Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1897 Wa

The Practical Naturopathic-Vegetarian Cook Book: Cooked and Uncooked Foods
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1907 Lu

The Golden Rule Cook Book: Six Hundred Recipes for Meatless Dishes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1910 Sh

The New Cookery: A Book of Recipes, Most of which are in Use at the Battle Creek Sanitarium
Clements Library: C2 1914 Co

The Unity Inn Vegetarian Cook Book: A Collection of Practical Suggestions and Receipts for the Preparation of Non-flesh Foods in Palatable and Attractive Ways
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1924 Un

From Hand to Mouth: Vegetarian Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1942 Se

Vegetarian Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1948 Ro

Finding Materials

If you are interested in researching this topic further with either primary or secondary sources, try using the suggested search terms at right in Library Catalog Search.

Suggested search terms:
"vegetarian cookery"
"vegetarianism"
"diet in disease"

Special Collections Library and William L. Clements Library primary source holdings on diet reform and vegetarianism, listed chronologically:

Sylvester Graham writings
Clements Library, Manusripts Division: Graham Family Papers, Box 2

Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life
Clements Library: C2 1833 Co

The Aesculapian Tablets of the Nineteenth Century
Clements Library: C2 1834 Gr

A Defence of the Graham System of Living; or, Remarks on Diet and Regimen
Clements Library: C2 1835 De

Nature's Own Book
Clements Library: C2 1835 Ni

A Treatise on Bread, and Bread-making
Clements Library: C2 1837 Gr

Lectures on the Science of Human Life
Clements Library: C2 1839 Gr

Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men and by Experience in All Ages
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1849 Al

Water and Vegetable Diet in Consumption, Scrofula, Cancer, Asthma, and Other Chronic Diseases
Clements Library: C2 1850 Wa v. 5 no. 1

Fruits and Farinacea: The Proper Food of Man
Clements Library: C2 1854 Sm

The New Hydropathic Cookbook
Clements Library: C2 1854 Tr

Health Reformer's Cook Book
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1867 Ja

The Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Food and Drinks, Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, and Useful Hints and Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1875 Ke

Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Food, and Diet: Treatment of Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, and Healthful Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1882 Ke

Practical Manual of Health and Temperance: Embracing the Treatment of Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies, the Alcohol and Tobacco Habits, Useful Hints and Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1885 Ke

Food, Home and Garden v.1 (1889)
Special Collections Library: Cookery Periodicals Fo
(Special Collections only has v.1; other volumes available electronically)

The Household Monitor of Health
Clements Library: C2 1891 Ke

Science in the Kitchen
Clements Library: C2 1892 Ke

Practical Vegetarian Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1897 Wa

The Golden Age Cook Book
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1898 Dw

Ralston Gardens of Life
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1900 Sh

Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1904 Ch

Healthful Cookery: A Collection of Choice Recipes for Preparing Foods, with Special Reference to Health
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1904 He

The New Glutton or Epicure
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1906 Fl

The Practical Naturopathic-Vegetarian Cook Book: Cooked and Uncooked Foods
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1907 Lu

The Simple Life in a Nutshell
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1910 Ke

The Golden Rule Cook Book: Six Hundred Recipes for Meatless Dishes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1910 Sh

The Reason Why
Special Collections Library: Cookery 191- Re

The New Cookery: A Book of Recipes, Most of which are in Use at the Battle Creek Sanitarium
Clements Library: C2 1914 Co

Good Food, How to Prepare it: The Principles of Cooking and Nearly Five Hundred Carefully Selected Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1920 Co

The Unity Inn Vegetarian Cook Book: A Collection of Practical Suggestions and Receipts for the Preparation of Non-flesh Foods in Palatable and Attractive Ways
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1924 Un

Natural Foods: The Safe Way to Health
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1926 Ca

Radiant Health Cook Book
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1934 Do

From Hand to Mouth: Vegetarian Recipes
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1942 Se

Vegetarian Cookery
Special Collections Library: Cookery 1948 Ro

Secondary Sources

Sex, Diet, and Debility in Jacksonian America: Sylvester Graham and Health Reform
Hatcher Graduate Library: RA 418.3.U6 N72
Shapiro Undergraduate Library: RA 418.3.U6 N72

Crusaders for Fitness: The History of American Health Reformers
Shapiro Undergraduate Library: RA 418.3 .U6 W51

Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-Day Adventist Health Reform
Hatcher Graduate Library: BX 6193 .W46 N86 1992

The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism
Hatcher Graduate Library: TX 392 .S7411 1993
Also, a later edition in Shapiro Undergraduate Library: TX 392 .S7411 1995

Vegetarianism: A History
Hatcher Graduate Library: TX 392 .G731 1994

"For the Good of the Whole": Vegetarianism in 19th Century America
Available through ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Online

Vegetarian America: A History
Hatcher Graduate Library: TX 392. I231 2004
Shapiro Undergraduate Library: TX 392. I231 2004

The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times
Shapiro Undergraduate Library: TX 392 .S86 2007

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Last modified: 06/28/2018