Ralstonism was a minor social movement in 19th century USA. It claimed about 800,000 followers. Ralstonism was the brainchild of Webster Edgerly (1852 – 1926). In Edgerly's words, "Ralstonism is the grandest movement that man is capable of establishing".
Ralstonism began as the Ralston Health Club, which published Edgerly's writings. It was a hierarchical organization where members were ranked according to the number of "degrees" they had, which ranged from 0 to 100. Members advanced five degrees at a time, and each Ralston book that a member purchased counted as five degrees.
Although Edgerly claimed in the 1900 edition of The Book of General Membership of the Ralston Health Club that the letters for the word RALSTON came from Regime, Activity, Light, Strength, Temperation, Oxygen and Nature, earlier editions of the same book are credited to Everett Ralston, a pseudonym of Edgerly, with the implication that Ralstonism is named after this fictitious person.
Edgerly saw his followers as the founding members of a new race, based on Caucasians, and free from "impurities". He advocated the castration of all "anti-racial" (non-Caucasian) males at birth.
Edgerly wrote eighty-two of what would today be called self-help books under the pseudonym "Edmund Shaftesbury". They covered subjects like diet, exercise, punctuation, sexual magnetism, artistic deep breathing, facial expressions and ventriloquism. Although Edgerly publicly claimed that the Ralston Company had no goods for sale, he did sell his books through mail order. Many of these books are still available through old-books dealers.
In addition to advice like brushing your teeth, the books recommend things like every young man should engage with a form of probationary marriage with a woman old enough to be his grandmother. Edgerly also created his own language, called the "Adam-Man-Tongue" with a 33-letter alphabet.
The Magnetism Club of America, another Ralstonite organization, was founded to give its members control over the minds of others.
Ralstonites were to follow strict dietary guidelines. For example, watermelons were supposed to be poisonous to Caucasians. Correct diet and proper physical exercise would help readers attain "personal magnetism", which would give them control over the thoughts of others. Much of the physical regime demanded moving in graceful curves and arcs and walking exclusively on the balls of one's feet. Because sudden starts and stops and sharp angular movements caused a "leakage of vital force", Ralstonites were to even pick marbles in continuous circles. There was a proper way to bathe (dry bath), gesture, sit, stand, sleep, talk and have sex. Edgerly claimed a scientific basis for all this.
In 1900 Edgerly joined forces with the founder of Purina Food Company, which took the name Ralston Purina Company (now Nestlé Purina PetCare). It made whole-wheat cereal that Ralstonites were to consume. The food company Edgerly founded evolved into what is now called Ralcorp, and was the original owner of the cereal brands Chex and Cookie Crisp.
Between 1894 and 1895 Edgerly bought large areas of farmland along the northern slope of Hopewell Valley, New Jersey. There Edgerly founded Ralston Heights in 1905, a house built to his own design to contain a community of Ralstonites he meant to be a core of a future City of Ralston. The contours of the estate followed Edgerly's conviction that sudden stops and walking in straight lines would cause leakage of vital force.
Edgerly planned to expand to hundreds of lots, sixteen small farms, seven palaces and a Temple of Ralston. This community did not materialize, at least not in the form Edgerly intended. Much of the estate still stands today, in ruined condition.
- Janet Six - Hidden History of Ralston Heights (Archaeology Magazine May/June 2004)