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.

                                                    *********************************

    “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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