Horace Fletcher

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Horace Fletcher

Horace Fletcher (1849–1919) was an American health food enthusiast of the Victorian era who earned the nickname "The Great Masticator," by arguing that food should be chewed about 100 times per minute before being swallowed: "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate." He made elaborate justifications for his claim.

Fletcher and his followers recited and followed his instructions religiously, even claiming that liquids, too, had to be chewed in order to be properly mixed with saliva. Fletcher argued that his mastication method will increase the amount of strength a person could have while actually decreasing the amount of food that he consumed.[1] Fletcher promised that "Fletcherizing", as it became known, would turn "a pitiable glutton into an intelligent epicurean."

Fletcher also advised against eating before being "Good and Hungry", or while angry or sad. Fletcher would claim that knowing exactly what was in the food one consumed was important. He stated that different foods have different waste materials, so knowing what type of waste one was going to have in one’s body was valuable knowledge, thus critical to one’s overall well being (The New Glutton, 1906, 132-133). He promoted his theories for decades on lecture circuits, and became a millionaire. Upton Sinclair, Henry James and John D. Rockefeller were among those who gave his ideas a try. Henry James and Mark Twain were visitors to his palazzo in Venice. He lived in the Palazzo Saibante with his wife, Grace Fletcher, an amateur painter, who studied in Paris in the 1870s and was influenced by the Impressionists, and her daughter, Ivy. Ivy, later to become a journalist at the Daily Express in the 1930s, was often a guinea pig for Horace's experiments, which she described in her unpublished memoirs "Remember Me".

Although many people believed Fletcher’s laboratory reports, the more important eye-opener to doctors and laymen was his series of experiments at Yale University. It was here that he participated, at the age of fifty-eight, in vigorous tests of strength and endurance versus the college athletes. The tests included: “deep-knee bending,” holding out arms horizontally for a length of time, and calf raises on an intricate machine. Fletcher claimed to lift “three hundred pounds dead weight three hundred and fifty times with his right calf.”[2] The tests claim that Fletcher outperformed these Yale athletes in all events and that they were very impressed with his athletic ability at his old age. Fletcher attributed this to following his eating practices, and ultimately these tests, whether true or not, helped further endorse “Fletcherism” publicly.[3]

Fletcher saw many similarities between humans and functioning machines. He posited several analogies between machines and the human body. Just some of the comparisons that Fletcher drew included: fuel to food; steam to blood circulation; steam gauge to human pulse; and engine to heart.[4]

Along with "Fletcherizing", Fletcher and his supporters advocated a low-protein diet as a means to health and well-being.

Fletcher had a special interest in human excreta. He believed that the only true indication of one’s nutrition was evidenced by excreta (Fletcher 142). Fletcher advocated teaching children to examine their excreta as a means for disease prevention (Fletcher 143). If one was in good health and maintained proper nutrition then their excreta, or digestive "ash", as Fletcher called it, should be entirely "inoffensive". By inoffensive, Fletcher meant that there was no stench and no evidence of bacterial decomposition.[5]

Fletcher was an avid spokesman for Belgian Relief and a member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium in World War I.

By 1919, when Fletcher, 69, died of bronchitis, his diet plan was already being replaced by the next approach to dieting championed by Irving Fisher and Eugene Lyman Fisk: counting calories.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Menticulture or the A-B-C of True Living (1896)
  • Happiness as found in forethought minus fearthought (1898)
  • The Last Waif, or Social Quarantine: A Brief (1898)
  • The New Glutton or Epicure (1906)
  • "The A.B.-Z. of Our Own Nutrition" (1908)
  • Fletcher, Horace. Fletcherism : What It Is or How I Became Young at Sixty (1923)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fletcher, 1913, 20
  2. ^ Fletcher, 25
  3. ^ Fletcher, 27-31
  4. ^ Fletcher 136, 137
  5. ^ Fletcher 145

External links[edit]

  • Christen, AG; Christen, JA (Nov 1997). "Horace Fletcher (1849-1919) "The Great Masticator"". J Hist Dent 45 (3): 95–100. PMID 9693596.