April 15, 2006
    Hopedale History
    No. 58
    Sylvester Graham

    Former Hopedale selectman, Leo Lovely, died April 7. He was 64.

    George Mongiat died on April 9 at the home of his daughter in Pennsylvania. He was 94. He operated
    the Hopedale Pharmacy for more than 40 years, retiring in 1992.

    The Lions’ Club and the Boy Scouts are sponsoring a town cleanup on April 22. Meet at the parking lot
    across from the post office at eight.

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    “In the early days of the Community many persons were interested in its establishment; and reformers
    with varied causes came to present their "isms" and secure a following.  It was their custom to receive
    all who came courteously, to give a patient, candid hearing to whatever cause or progressive idea they
    advocated, provided always that Mr. Ballou should question, review and confute the whole matter, not
    only at the time presented, but when discussed for approval or rejection.  No hotel received the
    stranger, - they were entertained at private houses and treated as guests.  Mr. Ebenezer Draper's
    house was oftenest their headquarters.  Many were honest, earnest men, but some were cranks. …  
    Here came Graham.  I well remember the trouble my aunt took sending to Boston to procure graham
    flour for his cooking, though at supper he astonished her by declining the graham flour and choosing
    white biscuit, saying he had plenty of graham bread at home.  ‘Consistency, thou art a jewel.’” Anna
    Thwing Field, Hopedale Reminiscences.  

    The following article about Graham is from the website of Sylvester’s Restaurant in Northampton.

                                      Sylvester Graham: genius or humbug?

                                                By Daniel Lombardo, Jones Library Curator

    Back in 1823 Amherst Academy expelled a young man when he was accused, but not convicted, of
    assaulting a woman. He went on to found the first movement to fully recognize the benefits of fruits and
    vegetables and the harm of meat and white flour.

    This was Sylvester Graham, remembered now mainly for the cracker that bears his name. But was
    Graham an "eccentric and wayward genius," as one contemporary thought? Or was it true, as one 19th-
    century newspaper put it, that a "greater humbug or a more disgusting writer never lived"?
    Born in West Suffield, Ct. in 1794, Graham attended Amherst Academy at the late age of 29. His
    arrogant personality alienated the younger students, who quickly got him thrown out on a false charge
    of criminal assault. From Amherst he went to Rhode Island, where he had a nervous breakdown, and
    married the daughter of a sea captain.

    At the age of 36, after a failed attempt to become a minister, Graham became a professional reformer.
    He first attacked alcohol, and he himself refused to drink anything stronger than water. Graham did
    allow his wife to drink wine and gin, which he considered beneficial when she was ill and nursing an
    infant.

    Graham sought to revolutionize the diet and sexual behavior of the country. By 1835, his lectures in
    Philadelphia and New York had become so popular that he moved to Northampton, a base from which
    he could conquer the Northeast.

    At this point, his views on sexuality caused such controversy that some lectures got out of hand. He
    believed sexual desires irritated the body and caused disease, and that the remedy was to marry, get
    the urge out of one's system, and let it fade.

    It was reported that so many women were fainting at his lectures that Graham dropped the sexual
    focus and concentrated on vegetarianism. This was hardly an improvement, for his views on food led
    to riots in Boston.

    By the 1830s the American diet was based largely on meat and white bread. Fruits and breads weren't
    thought to contain much nutrition. Graham turned that around, became a vegetarian and trumpeted the
    benefits of homemade bread made with whole-grain wheat, which became known as Graham flour.

    What seems logical today led to a very bad year for Graham in 1837. He was scheduled to speak in
    Boston at Armory Hall, but the owners feared the place would be burned down. Boston butchers were
    angry at Graham for telling people they ate too much meat, and bakers were after him for advocating
    making one's own bread. No other Boston hall would book Graham, so he turned to the Marlborough
    Hotel, the first temperance hotel in America.

    When the mayor warned that there were not enough constables in Boston to protect the hotel, the
    owners barricaded the first floor against an angry mob. Meanwhile, Graham's followers took over the
    third floor, from which they poured buckets of lime down on the protestors. Harper's Magazine reported,
    "The eyes had it, and the rabble incontinently adjourned."

    Though there were so many Grahamites that some hotels served only a Graham diet, many
    newspapers were skeptical and often cruel. In 1851 the Northampton Courier wrote, "Dr. Bran - his
    dignity and consistency. The people of Northampton were amused one day last week by seeing this
    philosopher of sawdust pudding trundled on a wheelbarrow from his house to the barber's house, he
    being infirm and unable to walk the distance...The doctor stands a chance to recover and will be able
    before long to do without the wheelbarrow...his best physician is the keeper of the hotel hard by his
    dwelling with whom he luxuriates on beef and mutton."

    Graham died less than a month later at the age of 58. The Amherst newspaper was kinder to Graham
    when it printed its obituary: "He has left behind him several works on physiology, hygiene, theology,
    etc., ably and powerfully possessed great clearness of perception and vigor of intellect."

    Graham's home can be visited by stepping into Sylvester's, Northampton's Pleasant Street restaurant.

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