January 1, 1841
With the absorption of the Graham Journal , Library of Health shifted from a generalized physiological journal to one focused on meatless dietary reform. Library of Health supported the continued growth of a meatless, proto-vegetarian community
Nutritive Properties of Various Kinds of Food
The Graham Journal , in contrast, focused on dietetics as a vehicle for healthy living rather than as a product of a better lifestyle. At the center of the Grahamite journal was a structured reform regimen that hinged on avoiding meat. With the absorption of the Graham Journal , Library of Health shifted from a generalized physiological journal to one focused on meatless dietary reform. Library of Health supported the continued growth of a meatless, proto-vegetarian community, in the process pushing meat abstention further away from the sole terrain of Grahamites.
The new focus on meat abstention was quickly and readily apparent by 1840. The year’s first issue advocated for the use of a vegetable diet for children. The article opened with a conversion story, relaying the life of “J. B.,” a three-year-old boy afflicted with large scabs all over his face. With the adoption of a vegetable diet, the author wrote, “a great change was manifest in the appearance of the child,” and the scabs “entirely disappeared.” The long-term benefi ts of dietary change were even more impressive, as the child seemed “to have known nothing about sickness or pain” since adopting the meat-free diet. This development was all the more remarkable given that J. B. had been “living, for the last year, in a region of the West, where, for months, almost all others were sick and dying.” The child enjoyed better teeth, smoother skin, and a general increase in mental capabilities.
In another article, the author tackled the difficulties faced in challenging meat culture and the lack of thought average Americans gave to their dietary choices. The writer argued that the majority of the population believed “that flesh-meat is not only the kind of food on which they were intended principally to subsist, but . . . it is indispensably necessary to preserve their strength, and to enable them to perform their various avocations in life.” In order to gain converts it was essential to impress on the public that a “vegetable diet . . . by its mild but nutritive qualities, keeps the circulation in the human system regular and cool.” The legacy of the need to keep the humoral body in balance was clearly still apparent. When properly executed, a meatless diet prepared the body to “become an appropriate temple of the mind, and leads man to a more perfect mode of being.” Throughout 1840 the journal increased its coverage of dietary issues, even reprinting William Beaumont’s digestive experiments that had appeared in the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity. Library of Health made the connection between dietary choice and scientifi c discovery explicit.
By the middle of 1840, Library of Health started featuring vegetable diet stories at the beginning of each issue, proof that the publication’s conversion to a natural dietetic journal was complete. The first volume of the year featured an article titled “Nutritive Properties of Various Kinds of Food,” where vegetables, grains, and fruits were presented as easily digestible and nutritious, whereas meat was difficult to assimilate into the bloodstream and thus of little dietary value. Of the fifty most nutritive food products listed, forty were vegetables, grains, or fruits. By including flesh foods on the list—though farther down in the rankings—the journal hoped to illustrate its scientific accuracy and rigor, advocating for a vegetable diet through study and observation. The same issue advocated for the use of vegetable foods to ensure productive work, relaying the story of a young laborer who gained mental and physical strength from his dietary change. With the new meatless diet, the article claimed, it was possible to work “on an average, twelve hours a day at hard labor.” Physical labor had previously made the worker unable to “relish for close study” because his “mind would shrink from it.” However, with the support of a meatless diet, the young man reported becoming “perfectly calm, my mind clear, and delighted with close study and patient thought.” Dietary conversion made him not only a better worker but also a sharper, more complete citizen, a model of the republican self-made man.