Manuscripts Division William L. Clements Library University of Michigan
Finding aid for Graham Family Papers, 1731-1849
Finding aid created by Clements Staff and Philip Heslip, November 2009
Title: Graham family papers Creator: Graham, John, 1722-1796 and Graham, Sylvester, 1794-1851 Inclusive dates: 1731-1849 Extent: 1.25 linear feet Abstract:
The Graham family papers contain an assortment of letters, documents, and diaries relating to John Graham, Sr., and Jr., and to Sylvester Graham. Each man was a prominent physician and minister, though Sylvester was the more famous of the two for his Grahamite philosophy. The papers of John Graham, Jr., document his role in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
1999, 2003. M-2937.1, M-3139, M-4320.1.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Graham Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
This collection is organized into seven series:
Series I: Correspondence
Series II: Diaries and Journals
Series III: Documents
Series IV: Printed Writings
Series V: Manuscript Writings
Series VI: Genealogy
Series VII: Newspaper Clippings and Miscellaneous
Each series is ordered chronologically with undated items at the end.
John Graham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1694, and was educated in medicine at Glasgow University. At the age of 24, he emigrated to Exeter, New Hampshire, where he entered the ministry. On May 25th, 1723, Graham was ordained and became the first minister of the Congregationalist church at Stafford, Connecticut, a town settled only four years previously. The congregation, however, proved unable to support him and he was dismissed in 1731. After a two-year residence in Lebanon, Connecticut, Graham accepted the call of the 2nd Congregational Church in Southbury, Connecticut, in January 1733, where he remained until his death in 1774. Graham was one of the great promoters of the revivals that swept the Connecticut River Valley in 1740, and was considered to be earnest, faithful, and intelligent as a preacher.
Graham married Love Sanborn in 1719 in Kingston, New Hampshire, and they had three children: Elizabeth (1720-1775), John (1722-1796), and Robert (1724-1793). Love died in 1726, and John married Abigail Chauncey (1701-1784) six months later; they had seven children: Chauncey (1727-1784), Andrew (1728-1785), Alexander (1728-1785), Love (1732-1820), Sarah (b. 1735), Richard Crouch (1739-1771), and Abigail (1741-1795). John Graham, Sr. died in 1774.
John Graham, Jr., eldest son of John and Love Graham, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1722. A graduate of Yale College (class of 1740), Graham followed his father into the ministry and was called to the Second Church of Christ at West Suffield, Connecticut. Graham volunteered for service in the French and Indian War, where he was a chaplain in the 2nd Regiment at Camp Half Moon and Fort Edward in 1756, and a chaplain in the 1st Regiment during the Siege of Havana in 1762. His ministry in West Suffield was interrupted a second time by military service, when Graham volunteered as chaplain in the 1st Connecticut Regiment stationed at Fishkill, New York, in 1777. He, like his father, was a proponent of the fundamentalist religious revivals that swept through northeastern America in the mid-18th Century, later referred to as the Great Awakening, or the First Great Awakening. He married twice, first to Mary Shelden in 1748 and then to Ruch King Smith in 1778. In all he had 10 children.
John Graham, Jr., fathered his last child, Sylvester, at the age of 72, and died shortly after in 1796. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) was raised by a succession of relatives and worked as a farm hand, a clerk, and a teacher, before chronic ill health led him to choose the ministry as a less stressful profession. In 1826, after graduating from Amherst College, Graham became a preacher in the Presbyterian Church, and was called to Newark, New Jersey. He lectured for the Pennsylvania Temperance Society during the early 1830's, during which time he began to advocate his distinctive reformist ideas on diet and health.
Grahamism stressed the benefits of complete abstention from alcohol, tobacco, and meat, and advocated the consumption of coarse-grained bread more than 12 hours old, fruits, and vegetables. In addition to diet modification, he recommended hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, chastity, cold showers, loose clothing, pure water, and vigorous exercise. He became a well-known, if controversial, lecturer on not only the Grahamite philosophy, but also on physiology and anatomy, and on Biblical interpretations of consuming wine and meat. He also directed a special series of lectures for African-Americans. The most widely read among his many publications were his Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making (1837) and the journal he edited, the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity (1837-39). Grahamism, the fad of the 1830's, waned in the 1840's, and Graham devoted himself increasingly to his Biblical lectures. His health declined steadily, and he died in Northampton, Massachusetts, after a round of failed Grahamite cures.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Graham Family Papers contain 96 letters, 12 diaries and journals, 11 documents, 3 printed items, 59 miscellaneous writings, 7 genealogical items, and 8 newspaper clippings, relating to John Graham, Sr., John Graham, Jr., and Sylvester Graham.
Items concerning John Graham, Sr., are a religious copybook, begun c. 1724; three printed items (A Platform of Church Discipline , A Few Remarks on the Remarker , and the Sermon at the Ordination of Mr. Bradner ); two manuscript biographies; and 12 letters between his son, John, Jr., and him, written during the French and Indian War.
John Graham, Jr.'s life is well represented through letters, journals, and documents. The Correspondence series holds 32 letters written by and 2 received by Graham. The earliest items are materials from the time of his installment and ministry in West Suffield (8 letters and 5 other items, plus a manuscript record book of baptisms, marriages, deaths, and meetings at the 2nd Church of Christ) and his service in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Particularly interesting are the 12 letters (incoming from his father and outgoing to his wife) written while he was at Camp Half Moon and Fort Edwards; they provide details on one engagement with Indians, information on troop movements, camp life, and his duties as chaplain. The 4 letters and 50-page diary kept by Graham while he accompanied the 1st Regiment during the Siege of Havana in 1762 provide useful information of the military operations there. The Revolutionary War materials consist of 10 letters between 1767 and 1779, including 3 written to his son Narcissus, and 7 from his half-brother, Chauncey Graham, from Fishkill. Chauncey also contributed 10 letters dated before the Revolution. He mentioned “Brother Robert," who was a member of the General Assembly meeting in Poughkeepsie (March 11, 1778), and seeing General Washington pass before establishing new headquarters (September 22, 1777). On February 15, 1779, he wrote that he was confident that the time of subjugation by Great Britain is near an end.
The collection holds 8 diary and journal items relating to John Graham, Jr. One item is a small bound volume of manuscripts, sermons, and copied letters, 1756-1780, that were collected and annotated in 1877. The  and 1776-1785 journal contains a 21-page, four-chapter essay "Upon the Image of God and Man " that analyses original sin and "The Impossibility of Man's Recovery. " The bulk of the book consists of brief entries, often only one sentence, some of which describe soldiers' general movements. The entry from October 30, 1781, records that intelligence reports have confirmed the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown. The item entitled "Chronology of John Graham" duplicates some of the content of the previous journal, including notes on family and local events and holidays (1777-1785), but contains additional dates and synopses of his grandfather's letters (1746-1782). Also included in this series are John Graham's diary and religious notes (1749-1792), and a published book of extracts from his 1762 journal, published in 1896.
The Sylvester Graham material is very heterogeneous, with much relating to his lectures on health and the Bible. Of particular interest are the Sylvester Graham letters, which include: an 8-page letter to John Marshall on philosophy and politics (January 9, 1830), a 10-page letter to Henry Clay (1847) on politics and the presidential elections, a letter to the Citizens of Northampton (1850) outlining his personal history and reasons for leaving the city, and two letters relating to Graham's work with the American Sunday School Union. Among other items are letters from T. D. Weld, and Francis Condie, and 12 letters from attendees at Graham's lectures (1831-1844 and 1 undated).
The Writings Series holds 59 items from Sylvester including chapters from his book on Biblical Chronology, essays on American History, tea, coffee, opium, wines, experimental diets, the history of medicine, fruits and flowers, and a Fourth of July address, probably delivered by Graham.
The Documents Series (9 items) contains Reverend John Graham’s commissions as chaplain in the Connecticut State Militia, dated April 5, 1756, March 15, 1762, and October 14, 1777; John Graham, Sr.'s power of attorney (1756); Sylvester Graham's declaration of membership into the Vegetarian Society; and the marriage certificate for Sylvester Graham and Sarah M. Earl.
The Genealogy series (7 items) contains a 47-page biography of John Graham, Jr., written by Sylvester Graham, along with miscellaneous genealogy notes covering all three generations of Grahams.
Newspaper Clippings and Miscellaneous series (8 items) contains 3 newspaper clippings, a small metal button, an empty envelope, 2 auction descriptions of part of the collection, and a 9-page booklet entitled "The Direful Epidemick: A Loose Pindaric By Reubin Kitzinwinger Esqr."
American Sunday-School Union.
Havana (Cuba)--History--Siege, 1762.
United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Graham, John, 1694-1774.
Container / Location
1741-August 11, 1746
September 15, 1746-March 11, 1748
February 17, 1749-March 28, 1751
November 25, 1751-June 29, 1756
July 6, 1756-September 11, 1756
November 17, 1760-September 16, 1763
January 3, 1764-January 27, 1779
February 22, 1779-January 28, 1801
January 21, 1830-April 20, 1832
April 25, 1832-October 9, 79
5 Undated items
Diaries and Journals [series]
1724, 1756-1780 (annotated in 1877)
1762 (published in 1896)
1762, 1762, 1777, 1804
April 5, 1756-March 4, 1851, plus 2 Undated
Folder : Oversize Manuscripts
Amherst Academy List of Instructors, Trustees, and Students; and Land Document for the sale of land in Palmyra, Missouri, to Sylvester Graham, April 1, 1839
Printed Writings [series]
“A Platform of Church Discipline…”
“Remarks on the Remarkers”
“Mr. Graham’s Sermon…”
On Coffee and Opium
Butter and Cheese Diet
Fruit and Flower Diet
Water Cure and Diet
2 Lectures on Diet
History of Health Introduction
History of Health, Part I
History of Health, Part II
History of Health, Part III
History of Health, Part IV
Lecture on Medicine
[4th of July Speech]
Beaumont & Voisin
Everand Howe Supplement
Edwards on the Influence…
Sylvester Graham Political Notes [series]
September 17, 1842
Unsigned Physiology Notes
Notes on Physiology
Notes on Lectures
Unsigned Health and Religious
Unsigned Medical Notebook
Biography of John Graham, Jr.
[Note: first two pages are located in oversize manuscripts]
Folder : Oversize Manuscripts
Biography of John Graham, Jr., pages 1 and 2
Miscellaneous Genealogy Notes
Newspaper Clippings and Miscellaneous [series]
8 Undated Items
Additional Descriptive Data
The following four pamphlets, located in the Clements Library Book Division, concern John Graham: