Elmer Lee

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Elmer Lee
Portrait from Empire State Notables, 1914
Born(1856-03-12)March 12, 1856
DiedJune 13, 1945(1945-06-13) (aged 89)
Occupation(s)Physician, natural hygiene and vegetarianism advocate

Elmer Lee (March 12, 1856 – June 13, 1945) was an American physician and advocate of natural hygiene and vegetarianism. He was the founder and editor of the health magazine Health Culture.


Elmer Lee was born in Ohio in 1856;[1] he graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, in 1877, with an A.B.; Lee received his A.M. in 1880.[2] He then moved to St. Louis, where he taught in public schools and worked in newspapers.[3] Lee earned his M.D. from the Missouri Medical College (now the Washington University School of Medicine) in 1880 and his Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in 1886.[2] He then moved to Chicago, where he lived for ten years.[3] Lee studied cholera in Germany and Russia, living for a time in Saint Petersburg.[4]

Lee started the healthy living magazine Health Culture in 1894;[5] it heavily promoted a plant-based diet.[6] Lee remained as editor for 23 years,[3] before being succeeded by Arthur Vos;[7] the magazine continued publishing until 1964.[8]: 504  Lee moved to New York City in 1898.[3] He was acting Assistant Surgeon in the Spanish–American War.[1] On November 23, 1898, he testified before a commission investigating conduct in the war.[9] In 1902, Lee patented a reservoir for dispensing liquid soap.[10]

In 1908, Lee authored an article in The New York Times about the founding of a "Hospital of Hygiene".[11] Lee started working as a naturopath in 1910 and developed a health movement known as the "hygienic system", inspired by Russel Trall.[12] In the same year, Lee was the subject of an article by The New York Times, entitled "Dr. Lee pleads for better foods", in which he advocated for curing disease through a diet of "live organic plant-foods" and asserted that societal maladies, such as drunkenness, were due to people not following a sufficiently nutritious diet;[13] this article has been described as the first known use of the phrase "plant-foods" to describe a vegetarian diet.[14]

In 1910, Lee reprinted Rupert H. Wheldon's No Animal Food and Nutrition and Diet with Vegetable Recipes, one of the first British vegan recipe books; it included a quote from Lee, stating that a "Plant diet with butter, cream, milk, cheese, eggs, lard, fat, suet, or tallow added to it, is not vegetarian; it is mixed diet; the same in effect as if meat were used."[14] Around 1921, Lee invented a plant milk, derived from oats and peanut meal.[8]: 236 

Lee served as the Vice-President of the American Academy of Medicine[15] and held offices in the American Medical Association and the American Social Science Association;[4] he was on the advisory committee of the American Super-Race Foundation[16] and worked as a lecturer for the New York Board of Education.[17]

Lee retired around 1935 and donated his medical books to Ohio Wesleyan University.[4] He died at Cincinnati Sanitarium, College Hill, Cincinnati, on June 13, 1945.[18]

Selected publications[edit]

  • "Hydro-therapeutic Principles in the Treatment of Typhoid Fever". Medical Record. 53 (9). New York. 1891-02-26.
  • Lee, E. (September 1894). "The Treatment of Typhoid Fever". The American Journal of Dental Science. 28 (5): 223–228. PMC 6115018. PMID 30757396.
  • Lee, E. (October 1895). "Treatment of Asiatic Cholera". The American Journal of Dental Science. 29 (6): 250–258. PMC 6118763. PMID 30757708.
  • "Diphtheria and its antitoxin". The Laryngoscope. 1 (2): 105–106. August 1896. doi:10.1288/00005537-189608000-00011. S2CID 221920462.
  • Lee, Elmer (1900-02-24). "Food and Drink" (PDF). JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. XXXIV (8): 465. doi:10.1001/jama.1900.24610080017001g. ISSN 0098-7484.



  1. ^ a b Behncke, F. H. (1996). Pioneer Teachers. Health Research Books. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-0-7873-0087-6.
  2. ^ a b Alumni directory of the Ohio Wesleyan University; 1846-1901. Delaware: Ohio Wesleyan University. 1902. p. 33.
  3. ^ a b c d "Who Remembers Him?". Piqua Daily Call. 1935-07-30. p. 4.
  4. ^ a b c Newdick, Anna (1944-06-14). "Grad of 1877 Reviewed". The Ohio Wesleyan Transcript. Delaware, OH. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  5. ^ Adams, Aubrey Taylor (2014). Hygieia's Feast: The Making of America's Health Food Culture, 1870-1920 (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of California, Irvine.
  6. ^ Davis, John. "Hygiene cleans up - naturally of course". International Vegetarian Union. Archived from the original on 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  7. ^ Todd, Jan; Roark, Joe; Todd, Terry (March 1991). "A Briefly Annotated bibliography of English Language Serial Publications in the Field of Physical Culture" (PDF). Iron Game History. 1 (4–5): 26.
  8. ^ a b Shurtleff, William (2013). Aoyagi, Akiko; Shurtleff, William (eds.). History of Soymilk and Other Non-Dairy Milks (1226-2013): Including Infant Formulas, Calf Milk Replacers, Soy Creamers, Soy Shakes, Soy Smoothies, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Peanut Milk, Rice Milk, Sesame Milk, etc. Soyinfo Center. ISBN 978-1-928914-58-7.
  9. ^ Congressional Serial Set. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1900. pp. 2305–2317.
  10. ^ US US708652A, Lee, Elmer, "Reservoir for dispensing liquid soap", published 1902-09-09, issued 1901-05-17 
  11. ^ Lee, Elmer (1908-03-29). "Dr. Lee Would Found a Hospital of Hygiene". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  12. ^ Pizzorno, Joseph E.; Murray, Michael T., eds. (2012). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4557-4014-7.
  13. ^ "Dr. Lee pleads for better foods; Insanity, Drunkenness, Immorality Are Some of the Results of Poor Food, He Declares. Wants Clean, Liberal Diet and Health, Strength, Refinement, and Other Estimable Attributes Will Follow" (PDF). The New York Times. 1910-11-06. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  14. ^ a b Davis, John (2011). "A History of Veganism from 1806" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-02-23. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  15. ^ "Expert's Declaration on Cooking Evokes Various Comments". The Charlotte News. 1912-10-07. p. 7.
  16. ^ The American Super-Race Foundation; an organization preparing the way for the selection and education of superior human beings, each race separately, for the evolvement of a super race. New York City—Rochester, New York: American Super-Race Foundation. 1923. p. 12.
  17. ^ "Oatmeal and Beefsteak". The Bulletin of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. XXXI: 162. 1927-01-15.
  18. ^ "Ex-Piquad Gives Entire Estate to Ohio Wesleyan U". Piqua Daily Call. July 26, 1945. pp. 14.