Celebrity Interviews/ vegan history/ Veganism/ vegetarian history

American Vegetarian Society 1850 & Remembering Rynn Berry – by Martin Rowe


Daily Evening Transcript ~ Boston, Massachusetts ~ Monday, May 20, 1850



The editorial is a journalist’s ‘take’ on the inaugural meeting of The American Vegetarian Society of Wednesday 15th & Thursday 16th May 1850!

Quite a cutting / sarcastic piece of journalism! ……but we are are very glad that it was written.

Prior to today, this has appeared nowhere else on the Internet. This is the last item which we were discussing with our friend Rynn Berry, before he  recently left us.


Rynn Berry discussing the veg history of –

New York, the US

– & also this 1850 meeting.

Veggie Pride Parade NYC 2012

~ The Next Veggie Pride Parade NYC
will take place Sunday, March 30, 2014 – click HERE for more details ~

Underneath this we are posting Martin Rowe’s piece in which he remembers Rynn.

We have embedded several links into this post, to assist scholars.

The Ernest Bell Library has original books & papers by several of the people who attended this 1850 meeting.

They all had very strong links with the London, UK ‘vegans’ of the period.

The original newspaper was found in the collection of a US dealer – it only arrived at the Ernest Bell Library last week.

Shortly after the meeting ‘Dr. Nichols’ – Thomas Low Nichols & his wife Mary Gove Nichols moved to London. There they opened London’s first ever vegetarian restaurant in 1879, ‘The Alpha’, (In future posts we will share copies of some of the first reviews & the menu cards of  ’The Alpha’.)

Our Ernest Bell switched to vegetarianism in 1874 after reading about one of Dr. Nichols’ pamphlets.



The 1850 article transcribed –

The latest “wrinkle” here, in the way of meetings, since the Anti-Slavery assemblage, which was broken up by Rynders and his merry men, has been a Convention of “Vegetarians,” as they called themselves, who met at Clinton Hall on Wednesday and Thursday last. At first I supposed this must be a gathering of enterprising agriculturists for the improvement of the breed of pumpkins, cabbages and turnips. But it seems a “vegetarian” is one who confines himself to vegetable diet, and denounces all meat-eaters in the same terms of frantic denunciation that Garrison & Co. employ towards the slaveholders. The Vegetarians hail chiefly from the city and State “of notions.” The leaders appear to have been Sylvester Graham, the bran-bread man, Dr. Alcott, who presided, Dr. Joel Shew and Rev Messrs Metcalf and Wellington. At one time the harmony of the meeting threatened to be seriously disturbed. Dr. Wieting, the physiological lecturer, ventured to express his dissent from the theory of the Vegetarians, and remarked that a purely vegetable diet was not conducive to the development of a full-grown man.

Hereupon Mr. Graham, the ardor of whose temperament does not seem to have been cooled by his cauliflowers, rose and flatly told Dr. Wieting, that, in a certain statement, he lied. For a vegetarian this was certainly rather hot-blooded! Dr. Wieting rose to retaliate, where-upon great confusion ensued, in which the vegetarians by no means displayed that “paradisaical temperance, purity and peace,” which they had been vaunting in their resolutions as the infallible effects of a vegetable diet. On the contrary the beef-eaters seemed decidedly the meekest people present. Even the female vegetarians (ancient vestals in bonnets of slate-colored silk) displayed far more excitement than was warranted under presumption of confinement to parsnips and potatoes in their diet. The Vegetarians adopted a string – not of onions – but of resolutions, by which it appears they are determined to agitate; and not to allow us to eat our hot steaks in quiet.

The Boston Evening Transcript was a daily afternoon newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts, published from July 24, 1830, to April 30, 1941.

Mentioned in the 1850 editorial piece – 

Rynders and his merry men, –  Rynders = Isiah Rynders –

By the end of the decade, he was considered to be the de facto leader of the Five Points street gangs and was often requested by authorities to use his influence to cease rioting and gang-related violence which the police were unable to stop. He was a particularly important figure in civil disturbances against abolitionists during the period encountering such people as Frederick Douglass and Abby Gibbons. On one occasion, Wendell Phillips was stopped from speaking at the Broadway Tabernacle when Rynders publicly threatened that he and his men would “wreck the building and mob the audience”. Henry Ward Beecher invited Phillips to speak at Plymouth Church and, when a mob led by Rynders followed Phillips, he and his followers were met by a group of well-armed men who defended the building. It was during this meeting that Phillips not only spoke out against slavery but also of the corruption of Tammany Hall.

Garrison & Co.  Garrison = William Lloyd Garrison

A prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, which he founded in 1831 and published in Massachusetts until slavery was abolished by Constitutional amendment after the American Civil War. He was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He promoted “immediate emancipation” of slaves in the United States. In the 1870s, Garrison became a prominent voice for the woman suffrage movement.

‘the city & State of notions’ – ‘City of Notions’ was a nickname for Boston.

Sylvester Graham, the bran-bread man,  The Reverend Sylvester Graham (July 5, 1794 – September 11, 1851) 

Dr. Alcott, who presided, – William Andrus Alcott (August 6, 1798 – March 29, 1859)

Dr. Joel Shew –  (13 November 1816 – 6 October 1855)

Rev Messrs Metcalf and Wellington. –  Rev.William Metcalfe (1788-1862) & Rev. O.H. Wellington of Manchester, N. H. & Boston.

Dr. Wieting, the physiological lecturer – Dr. John M. Wieting  (1817-1888) a medical doctor, made his fortune in real estate, but achieved fame as a lecturer.

The Ernest Bell Library.

Click for a post about London’s vegans meeting together in the 1850s.


Additional background information about the 1850 inaugural meeting of the American Vegetarian Society. 
TO JAMES SIMPSON Esq., and his coadjutors of the VEGETARIAN SOCIETY
BRETHREN, – In the judgement of Mr. Metcalfe, of Philadelphia ; Dr. Shew, Messrs. Fowler and Wells, of New York; Dr. Jennings, of Ohio; and myself, – with sundry others who have been consulted on the subject, it is expedient to hold an American Vegetarian Convention, in the City if New York, on the 15th May next, for the purpose of originating an American Vegetarian Society; and, as the time is not very far distant, we beg officially to invite you, or your delegates, to attend the same, if convenient. Mr. Metcalfe and myself have plans to present to the Convention; and it would doubtless forward the cause of Vegetarianism, if a delegation could attend from the mother country.
We are, dear sirs,
Yours with esteem and love,
William A. Alcott. William Metcalfe.
After much consultation, therefore, it has been thought advisable to call a convention of these scattered friends of vegetarianism. They are to meet in May, 1850, in the city of New York, for mutual deliberation. Individuals from all parts of the Union are expected there, and it is fondly hoped from foreign countries, especially from the flourishing vegetarian society in England, that now numbers 500 members. The writer of the above, though unauthorised, except by a general understanding among the few who must be the prime movers of such a meeting, would be happy to have this regarded as an invitation to vegetarians everywhere to attend the said convention, either as delegates, or on their own responsibility.
These resolutions were adopted:
Dr. Grimes and Nichols, and Mr. Edward Lyons, were appointed as a committee, to nominate officers.
On motion, the Preamble and Constitution were considered, consecutively, and after some remarks by P. P. Stewart, of Troy. objecting to the term “Vegetarian,” which were replied to by Dr. Alcott and Dr. Nichols, both were finally adopted, as follows:-
The objects of this Association are to induce habits of abstinence from the flesh of animals as food, by the dissemination of information upon the subject, by means of verbal discussions, tracts, essays and lectures, exhibiting the many advantages of a physical, intellectual, and moral character, resulting from Vegetarian habits of diet; and thus to secure, through the association, example, and the efforts of its members, the adoption of a principle which will tend essentially to true civilization, to universal brotherhood, and to the increase of human happiness generally.
  1. This Association shall be called the American Vegetarian Society
  2. The Officers of this Society shall consist of a President, nine Vice-Presidents, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, and Treasurer. These Officers shall form an Executive Business Committee of the Society, any four of whom shall form a quorum.
  3. Any person desirous of promoting the objects of this Society, may become a member by registering his or her name on its rolls, and paying to its funds the sum of twenty-five cents.
  4. The annual subscription of members shall be one dollar, payable when the roll is called at the commencement of each annual general meeting.
  5. The payment of twenty dollars at once shall constitute the individual a life member of this Society.
  6. Persons residing in foreign countries, desirous of joining the society may be enrolled as Honorary Members, without the payment of any subscription, though not entitles to vote.
  7. Members who are in arrears for their annual subscription, shall not be entitled to vote until such arrers are paid.
  8. The Annual Meetings of this Society shall be held in the autumn of each year, at such time and place as shall be determined by the Executive Committee, Speical Meetings may be called at any time, also, by the Executive Committee.
  9. The officers shall be elected at each annual meeting; they shall have the entire management of the Society, and be authorized to raise voluntary subscriptions for the Objects of this Society.
  10. The President, or in his absence the Vice-Presidents in order, or in their absence, such persons as the meeting shall appoint, shall preside in all meetings. The Recording Secretary shall keep a true record of all proceedings and report annually, or oftener if required. The Corresponding Secretary shall act as general financial agent in collecting subscriptions, and donations, and perform the correspondence between this Society and other associations and individuals; and shall make a full report at each annual meeting; and special reports at any time when called upon. The Treasurer shall keep all the monies of the Society, and disburse them only on a draft signed by the President, and attested by the Corresponding Secretary.
  11. The Correponding Secretary shall be entitled to twenty five per cent. on all subscriptions for his services.
  12. This Society shall have power to make any by-laws not consistent with this Consitution This Consitution may be amended by a vote of two-thirds of its members present at any regular meeting; due notice having been given at a previous regular meeting.
The Committee for the purpose, reported the following names as Officers for the ensuing year of the American Vegetarian Society. The report was adopted and the Society organised accordingly, viz:-
Dr. William A. Alcott, West Newton, Massachussets
Vice Presidents
    1. Dr. R. D. Mussey, Cincinnati, Ohio
    2. Sylvester Graham, Northampton, Massachussets
    3. P. P. Stewart, Troy, New York
    4. H. H. Hite, Middleton, Frederick County, Virginia
    5. Dr. David Prince, St. Louis, Missouri
    6. Joseph Wright, A.M., Camden, New Jersey
    7. Dr. Joel Shew, New York
    8. William C. Chapin, Tiverton, Rhode Island
    9. Joseph Metcalfe, Frankford, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
Recording Secretary
Dr. R. T. Trall, 15, Laight-street, New York
Corresponding Secretary
Rev. William Metcalfe, Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Samuel R.Wells, New York




Permission to repost this article has been given by Martin Rowe.

Q – May I post it on our blogs Martin – in full – with some additional images – with links to your profiles at Lantern Books and / or Satya?

A –  Yes, I have no interest in making this proprietory.



~ Remembering Rynn ~

by Martin Rowe

“Trencherman.” That’s the word I associate with Rynn Berry. Not because, as my Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, he “play[ed] a good knife and fork,” although I’ve no doubt he loved his food, or because he was “good, stout, valiant,” although he was those things, too, but because he used the word in one of his books and it stopped me in my literary tracks. The word was so deliciously dental; almost onomatopoeic in its appetitiveness. Here, clearly, was someone who loved words as much as I did; who relished and savored them and wanted his readers to digest them with as much delight as well. We were logophiles, as Rynn would have put it, and we wanted to people to read them and change.


An independent scholar who translated texts from the Ancient Greek for pleasure and preferred to use “anthropophagy” when “cannibalism” would suffice, Rynn was a human John Soane Museum—full of recesses, nooks, and alcoves where antiquities nestled, painstakingly labeled and precisely catalogued, to be dusted off and displayed for an audience who might not appreciate them as much as the curator, but who were nonetheless irresistibly drawn to his house of curiosities. Both of us were a little out of our times, I fancy. We each enjoyed it when, in his wheezy and sussurant voice, Rynn would offer to “inscribe my tome” rather than “sign my book.” Why do the latter when the former was so much more fun to proffer?


I met Rynn more than twenty years ago, and he contributed many articles and interviews to “Satya,” the magazine I cofounded with Beth Gould shortly afterwards. Over the years, as we, writers and publishers both, circled each other (sometimes warily, but I like to believe, with mutual respect) Rynn took in stride my suggestion that he supply an introductory chapter for each interview in “Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World Religions”—thus doubling his workload. When he asked me to write an introduction to “Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover,” and I produced a long piece designed to bulk up the monograph, he didn’t complain that I questioned whether it really mattered whether Hitler was or wasn’t a vegetarian. He was a gentleman and a pragmatist. Like all good author-publishers, he knew that survival entailed moving copies—and lots of them—pettifoggers and naysayers be damned!


And, boy, did he sell ‘em! For the first seven years of its existence, my publishing company’s offices overlooked Union Square. Every Wednesday and Saturday at the greenmarket, there was Rynn, standing at his table, his headcovering appropriate to the weather, purveying to the public “The Vegan Guide to New York City” and other works, and offering to append to their purchase an elegantly cursive dedication in best Indian ink. I loved that other aspect of Rynn: the reticent hustler, the retiring individual absolutely dedicated to promoting his research, to demonstrating that vegetarianism had a long and august history, its arguments on behalf of compassion formulated through the millennia by men and women of courage and conviction. He wanted to show that we weren’t alone, that our words weren’t the first or the last on this vital subject, and that we all had something to contribute.


Photo Credit –  Pamela Rice (Veggie Pride Parade 2013) – Pamela also introduced Rynn in the video of Veggie Pride Parade NYC 2012 which is posted above this.

These days, of course, as illustrated by the many pages of “The Vegan Guide to New York City” (admirably compiled by Rynn and his good friend Cristina), veganism is no longer the practice of ascetics or oddball visionaries, but mainstream, chic, almost a cliché—a mark not of restraint or denial but pleasure, even extravagance. Rynn helped that come about, even though he didn’t walk the red carpets at the New York and LA galas, host his own cooking show on cable, present the keynotes at the big conferences, or front his own column in “Edible” [wherever]. He made it possible by bearing witness, week in week out: whether in the greenmarket, or lugging his titles in his enormous backpack around bookshops and health-food stores and veggie restaurants, or attending the Vegetarian Summerfest and potlucks and raw food conferences. Who knows how many tens if not hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of people encountered this shy, amused, and eloquent man and began to think about their diet for the first time? His influence is, quite literally, incalculable.


In one way, Rynn was one of a kind: the kind of singular personality that New York City welcomes and allows to thrive. In another way, however, Rynn was like so many other activists who remain unsung and unsalaried, but to whom all of us who follow them owe a great debt. We owe them for their writings and their perseverance. We owe them for their refusal to be cowed or browbeaten or diverted from their mission. And we owe them for the dedication and time it took to stand out in all weathers in the hopes that someone would be stopped short (as I was with “trencherman”), would pick up some literature (inscribed or no), and allow nothing else to be the same again.


Rynn Berry left us Jan 9 2014 in New York City

Interviews, Videos & Other memories of Rynn – http://www.happycow.net/blog/rynn-berry/



Martin Rowe is Publisher and Vice-President of Booklight Inc. He is the author of The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation, The Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation, and Nicaea: A Book of Correspondences, and editor of The Way of Compassion. He co-founded the magazine Satya. He is also the author (with Evander) of Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life. His website is http://martin-rowe.com/. He blogs regularly at http://rightoffthebatbook.com/.

Martin Rowe at Lantern Books – http://www.lanternbooks.com/about.html



How do we secure these items? – The Ernest Bell Library is in touch with more than 300 specialist dealers around the world.

……so we have at least 300 pairs of eyes continuously looking for examples of quirky ephemeral material such as these!

Books & metal items often survive fairly well.

Magazines, posters, booklets & leaflets rarely survive.

The Ernest Bell Library

The Ernest Bell Library is actively building a collection of examples of marketing activities related to: –

  1. veg(etari)an products.
  2. veg(etari)an books & other publications.
  3. veg(etari)an organisations.
  4. veg(etari)an businesses.
  5. animal rights organisations.
  6. animal rights publications.
  7. humanitarian organisations.
  8. humanitarian publications.
  9. rambling clubs run by members of the above groups & related publications.

Our collection of veg(etari)an & animal rights related magazines is being referenced by scholars almost every day – starting with Sylvester Graham’s Journal of Health and Longevity – Vol 1 No. 1 – 1837.

We also have a fine & growing collection of –

‘art created by humans – primarily for the benefit of animals’

– both original artwork & printed / manufactured items.

If anyone would like to help by either Adopting or Sponsoring items in the library, please be in touch.

humanitarianleague(at)outlook(dot)com – is our emal address.

We are working seriously on cataloging the collection, as & when funds are available.


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