Today celebrates the flour-filled cracker and the interesting flavor and texture it brings to pies, cakes and a number of other dishes. Many, however, are unaware of the origins of this unassuming snack.
Believe it or not, graham crackers were invented to stop people from masturbating in the 1800s. A man named Sylvester Graham believed that human lust caused a wide number of diseases such as epilepsy and cholera and thus made it his mission to help others suppress sexual desire
Graham, a Presbyterian minister, claimed that masturbation "inflame[s] the brain more than natural arousal" and could result in insanity. According to him, the more immoral the sexual act, the more harm inflicted on the body and that the only way for people to dampen their sexual urges is to follow a strict diet completely free of meat, spices, condiments and fat.
He also promoted having a regular exercise regimen, taking cold baths, sleeping on hard mattresses with the windows open and avoiding alcohol and tobacco as some of the ways to get rid of carnal urges.
Reverend Sylvester Grahams diet was vegetarian and also required abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and refined white flour. His graham crackers were made with graham flour, a coarsely ground and unsifted whole-wheat flour. The flour is brown and slightly nutty and sweet, and Graham used it to make graham bread and graham crackers. The crackers were biscuit-like and somewhat bland, as they didn't include any spices or sugar.
By the turn of the twentieth century, graham crackers were a staple in bakeries. In 1898, the National Biscuit Company—currently known as Nabisco—formed, and in 1925 they began producing Honey Grahams, which look like the graham crackers of today. The crackers were renamed Honey Maid in 1976. Although they have the name "cracker," graham crackers are sweet, not salty, and are similar to the American cookie or British biscuit. They are not made of the same coarsely ground and unrefined whole-wheat flour that Sylvester Graham used but are made with refined, bleached flour. They also have more sweeteners like honey and sugar compared to the original recipe.
Graham crackers of today are sometimes made with cinnamon and chocolate. For example, Honey Maid added a cinnamon variety in 1986. Still, there have been moves to make them healthier as well. Low-fat Honey Maid crackers debuted in 1995, and the whole grain in each serving was doubled in 2006. Graham crackers are celebrated today, on National Graham Cracker Day, regardless if they are healthy or unhealthy. Why on July 5? It's Sylvester Graham's birthday, of course!