You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

The Seriously Unsexy Origins of the Graham Cracker The dry, plain crackers were invented to cool certain urges. You know the ones.

By Kim Lachance Shandrow

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shutterstock

Graham crackers are wholesome, whole grain and bland as all hell. They're anything but sexy and that's no accident. It's by design.

The story behind them might surprise you. As it goes, a hotheaded New Jersey Presbyterian minister by the name of Rev. Sylvester Graham invented the boring snack staple around 1829. His mission: to save people's souls from eternal damnation. The idea was to repress their sexual desires, their deepest carnal urges -- mainly the temptation to masturbate -- all with a crunchy, little biscuit. Well, mostly.

We know. You'll never think of mom's s'mores the same way again.

Related: The Fasten-ating History of the Humble Zipper

"Thousands in civic life will, for years, and perhaps as long as they live, eat the most miserable trash that can be imagined, in the form of bread," Graham wrote in his Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making, "and never seem to think that they can possibly have anything better, not even that it is an evil to eat such vile stuff as they do."

You see, Graham was adamantly opposed to factory-produced white bread. The "vile stuff," sometimes filled with chalk and clay in his day, replaced home-baked bread for many amid the peak of the industrial revolution. To fight back, and to push his killjoy religious agenda, Graham introduced the world's first graham wafer product. It was a dull, unsifted flour "health food" baked by Graham himself. The sugarless wafers were a key component of the zealot's eponymous diet.

Graham's strict vegetarian food and lifestyle regimen, a radical reflection of the greater reformist movement of the time, shunned sinful indulgences like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, white bread, spices and meat. Salvation, Graham believed, was the ultimate holy reward for clean eating and living -- and not having sex more than once a month. Sounds like pure bliss, right?


Related: Lessons for the New CEO From 5 Great Leaders of History

Apparently it was. So many people bought into the controversial fanatic's tame, two-meal-a-day diet that the pioneering "food nut" amassed a cult-like following. Thousands became devoted Grahamites. Others, mostly bakers and butchers, hated him enough to attack him in public, and not just verbally.

Whackjob fanatic or not, almost two centuries after his prudish ah-ha moment, we still have staid Sylvester Graham to thank for the graham cracker, the salty-sweet crumbly crusts to our cheesecakes and the sturdy tops and bottoms to our ooey, gooey s'mores.

We wonder what Graham -- who died at only 57, so young for such a supposedly healthy fellow -- would have thought of today's ubiquitous honey- and sugar-sweetened graham crackers...or of these busty "Mammo-grahams." They're sheerly sinful. Aren't we all?

Related: Lobster Went From Prison Food to Delicacy. Your Product Can, Too. (Infographic)

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Resumes & Interviewing

Build a Better Resume with This $35 Subscription

AI Resume Builder promises to help you apply to jobs twice as fast.

Side Hustle

He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: 'Sweet, Sweet Irony'

When Scott Goodfriend moved from Los Angeles to New York City, he became "obsessed" with the city's culinary offerings — and saw a business opportunity.

Marketing

I Got Over 225,000 Views in Just 3 Months With Short-Form Video — Here's Why It's the New Era of Marketing

Thanks to our new short-form video content strategy, we've amassed over 225,000 video views in just three months. Learn how to increase brand awareness through short-form video content.

Business News

Samsung Makes 6 Day Workweeks Mandatory for Executives as the Company Enters 'Emergency Mode'

Samsung said its performance "fell short of expectations" last year. Now executives are required to work weekends.

Productivity

6 Habits That Help Successful People Maximize Their Time

There aren't enough hours in the day, but these tips will make them feel slightly more productive.

Leadership

You Won't Have a Strong Leadership Presence Until You Master These 5 Attributes

If you are a poor leader internally, you will be a poor leader externally.