Thacker was a friend of Sylvester Graham whose "Graham flour" he advocated, and was a pioneer and advocate of alternative medicine and gymnastics (Nissenbaum 1980). He believed that allopathic drugs made people weaker and that rest, vegetarian diet, and exercise, combined with treatments like massage and hydro-therapy ("water cure") were the proper means of achieving and maintaining health ("Pioneers of the North American Natural Health Movement"). Diet was at the center of his concern. As with most of the early nineteenth-century reformers in the age of the evangelical movement's millennialist message, he advocated diet reform in order to reform society as well as the individual. Thus, in his Hydropathic Cook-Book (1863), he condemned the diet suggested by Catharine Beecher as "the wine and brandy she commends in her cakes, and pies, and pudding sauces are better calculated to make men drunkards, than to render them wise in choosing" (Trall i863: ix). His views match those of other health and moral reformers (interchangeable categories in nineteenth-century America) who advocated for the abolition of alcohol.
Trall published over a dozen books, opened a health institute offering natural treatments including vegetarian meals in i844 in New York City, established the New York Hydropathic School in 1853 and served as vice president of the American Vegetarian Society. At the Hygeio-Therapeutic College, which he created, he trained Willie and Edson White, the sons of the founders of the Seventh-Day Adventists movement as well as Merrit and John Harvey Kellogg, two sons of John P. Kellogg. In his published works, he places special emphasis on "dietetics" and notes that "simple, natural food is most conducive to the recovery or preservation of health" (Trall 1854: 397). His critique of medicine and passionate advocacy of vegetarianism made him an important figure in the health reform and naturopathy movements of the twentieth century.
Yet, it is clear that his views rested on a rejection of "civilized" food ("the beef steak is too dry to swallow without the gravy, the bread will not go down smoothly without butter" [Trall 1854: 398]). Instead, he advocates eating "natural food" as revealed in the word of God in Genesis, "the vegetable kingdom is the ordained source of man's sustenance" (Trall 1854: 400). Trall links his biblical command for natural food to the science of the day, citing the French anatomist Cuvier and Lord Monboddo the British naturalist as well as Sylvester Graham. Food becomes the means of defining the link between the Bible as a source for rules of "hygiene" and the developing sciences of the time.
See also Alternative Medicine; Beecher; Bodybuilding; Graham; Kellogg; Vegetarianism; White
Anon. "Pioneers of the North American Natural Health Movement," Alive.com, available online at <http:// www.alive.com/2541a8a2.php> (accessed May 9, 2006).
Iacobbo, Karen (2000) "Russell Trall: A Visionary Doctor," The VivaVine: The Vegetarian-Issues
Magazine, November/December. Available online at <http://www.vivavegie.org/vvi/vva/vvi42/index-.html#trall> (accessed June 23, 2007).
Nissenbaum, Stephen (1980) Sex, Diet, and Debility in Jacksonian America: Sylvester Graham and Health Reform, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Trall, Russell (1854) The Hydropathic Encyclopedia: A System of Hydropathy and Hygiene, New York: Fowler & Wells.
-(1863) The Hydropathic Cook-Book, New York:
Fowlers & Wells.
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