​Almanac: Graham crackers

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: July 5th, 1794, 221 years ago today ... the day Sylvester Graham was born in West Suffield, Connecticut.

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Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) Library of Congress

He became a Presbyterian minister in Northampton, Mass., and achieved fame far and wide for his dietary beliefs.

His 1837 book, "A Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making," championed the virtues of coarse flour, and of bread baked at home, ideally by the woman of the house.

He also promoted the plain, no-frills cracker that came to bear his name.

It was all part of his teachings on health and longevity (as in the 1839 book, "Graham System of Health and Longevity"), which included such edicts as:

"Eat no flesh nor fish nor fowl."

"Avoid butter, vinegar, pepper, cinnamon, sweets, soups, mustard, ginger, and gravies."

And, above all, he said:

"Practice connubial monogamy ... and limit congress to once a month."

His strictures on diet and abstinence won Graham both devoted followers (called Grahamites) as well as plenty of skeptics. In 1851 a local newspaper mocked Graham as "Dr. Bran" and "the philosopher of sawdust pudding."

Despite his claim to the secrets of longevity, Sylvester Graham died in 1851 at just 57 years of age.

Still, graham crackers live on, though sweeter now than he ever imagined.

And toasted with marshmallows over a campfire, Graham's creations are transformed into 'smores ... that signature treat of summertime.

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Smores: Graham crackers with melted marshmallows and chocolate. Newscom

For more info:

  • Sylvester Graham images and writings courtesy of the Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass.