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The Vegetarian Crusade

The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921

Adam D. Shprintzen

Publication Year: 2013

Vegetarianism has been practiced in the United States since the country's founding, yet the early years of the movement have been woefully misunderstood and understudied. Through the Civil War, the vegetarian movement focused on social and political reform, but by the late nineteenth century, the movement became a path for personal strength and success in a newly individualistic, consumption-driven economy. This development led to greater expansion and acceptance of vegetarianism in mainstream society. So argues Adam D. Shprintzen in his lively history of early American vegetarianism and social reform. From Bible Christians to Grahamites, the American Vegetarian Society to the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Shprintzen explores the diverse proponents of reform-motivated vegetarianism and explains how each of these groups used diet as a response to changing social and political conditions.
By examining the advocates of vegetarianism, including institutions, organizations, activists, and publications, Shprintzen explores how an idea grew into a nationwide community united not only by diet but also by broader goals of social reform.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Work on this project began innocently enough nearly seven years ago, after I noticed a brief mention of the existence of vegetarians in the antebellum United States. Having recently converted to a vegetarian diet, I was intrigued to find out more about the history of this movement in the United States. ...

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pp. 1-9

In December 1988, Vegetarian Times—a popular national magazine devoted to vegetarian living, food, and culture—reflected on the growth of vegetarianism in the United States. The cover of the magazine noted the increasing number of vegetarian celebrities, including former Beatle Paul McCartney, “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, ...

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Chapter One: Proto-vegetarianism

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pp. 10-38

It was the early morning of March 29, 1817. A cool breeze wafted through the foggy Liverpool air along with an overriding sense of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. The Reverends William Metcalfe and James Clarke gazed out on their gathered flock, surveying the situation before them. ...

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Chapter Two: Transitional Years

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pp. 39-58

In a January 1841 editorial focusing on the United States’ growing population of meat abstainers, the article’s author reflected on the current state of meatless dietetics in the United States. The writer proclaimed that “if the public choose to call us . . . Grahamites . . . we care very little. . . .

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Chapter Three: The American Vegetarian Society

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pp. 59-92

“In England the advocates of dietetic reform, some time ago, instituted an association,” reported William Metcalfe. The new organization interested Metcalfe because of its stated goal of spreading information about the “abstinence from the consumption of animal food.” ...

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Chapter Four: Vegetarianism and Its Discontents

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pp. 93-114

“He was the strictest Vegetarian of the community, and the most intolerant of the flesh-eating barbarians of the outer world,” claimed New York Tribune reporter Thomas Butler Gunn. “He never used the words meat, beef, pork, or mutton; employing in lieu of them such denunciatory terms as dead flesh, cow’s corpse, butchered hog, and the like.” ...

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Chapter Five: Looks Like Meat, Tastes Like Meat, Smells Like Meat

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pp. 115-146

Beginning in the 1880s, vegetarians around the United States eagerly examined their mail, anticipating receiving their new catalog from the Battle Creek Sanitarium Health Food Company. Health reformers were anxious to see what new meat substitutes were available from the country’s center of healthy living. ...

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Chapter Six: Would You Like to Be a Successful Vegetarian?

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pp. 147-182

Although American vegetarianism shifted significantly with the development of Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, the movement was not wholly disconnected from its past. The new movement vegetarianism of the late nineteenth century attracted adherents thanks to a growing vegetarian population whose members transformed their diet ...

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Chapter Seven: Muscular Vegetarianism

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pp. 183-203

Writing in 1898 in his book documenting the history of worldwide vegetarianism in the nineteenth century, vegetarian and World’s Vegetarian Congress speaker Charles Forward commented on the state of physical fitness in the vegetarian movement. “In the earlier days of Vegetarian propaganda,” he wrote, ...

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pp. 204-212

The active years of the Vegetarian Society of America (VSA) helped shape the development of modern movement vegetarianism. While the group disconnected vegetarianism from its politically oriented past, it also ensured that the movement remained relevant in a rapidly changing world. ...


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pp. 213-244


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pp. 245-264


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pp. 265-268

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612690
E-ISBN-10: 1469612690
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469608914
Print-ISBN-10: 146960891X

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013