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Sylvester Graham

Born: 5-Jul-1794
Birthplace: West Suffield, CT
Died: 11-Sep-1851
Location of death: Northampton, MA
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Buried, Bridge Street Cemetery, Northampton, MA

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist, Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Graham crackers

Christian minister and early health-food guru Sylvester Graham is best remembered today for the flatbread he baked and sold, called "graham crackers", although Graham's original recipe has almost nothing in common with the kindergarten cookies sold under his name today. He advocated a diet including plenty of unsifted, coarsely ground wheat (a style that came to be called Graham wheat), and warned of the dangers of increasing sugar consumption. He wrote and spoke about the benefits of temperance and vegetarianism the latter being a concept he often had to explain, as the idea of choosing not to eat meat was widely considered not just odd but incomprehensible. His preferred lifestyle included eating no meat or spices, no white bread, nothing but cold water to drink, meals at exactly the same time every day, sleeping on very hard mattresses, and sex only for procreation, never just for fun. His bread recipes became the most widely used of his era, and after the publication of his pamphlet Treatise on Bread and Bread Making, which explained in detail the chemistry and cooking of homemade bread, Graham was reportedly attacked by a mob of angry bakers in Boston.

He was the 17th son a minister who died when Graham was an infant, and his mother was declared insane and institutionalized three years later, leaving Graham to be raised by a local farmer. He frequently claimed that his "Grahamite" lifestyle could enable ordinary people to live to 100, but Graham spent his last years in deteriorating physical and mental health, and died at the age of 57 after receiving several opium enemas per his doctor's instructions. After his death a friend explained to the New York Tribune that Graham "was of a constitution and temperament that predisposed him to nervous and scrofulous (moral) maladies", and that "it does not appear that he was always true to his own [Grahamite] system".

Father: John Graham, Jr. (minister, b. 1722, d. 1796)
Wife: Sarah Manchester Earle Graham (b. 27-Feb-1799, m. 19-Sep-1824, d. 7-Jan-1868)
Daughter: Sarah Graham (b. circa 1828)
Son: Henry Earle Graham (b. 18-Oct-1833, d. 18-Nov-1873)

    High School: Amherst Academy, Amherst, MA

    American Vegetarian Society Co-Founder (1850)
    Pennsylvania Society for Discouraging Use of Ardent Spirits
    Ordained 1826 (Presbyterian)
    Scottish Ancestry (Paternal)
    Risk Factors: Opium

Author of books:
Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making (1837)
Lectures on the Science of Human Life (1839)
Lectures to Young Men on Chastity: Intended Also for the Serious Consideration of Parents and Guardians (1840)
The Philosophy of Sacred History Considered in Relation to Human Aliment and the Wines of Scripture (1855, posthumous)

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