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Vegetarian Societies in the USA

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The founding of the Vegetarian Society of America

From the Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), September 1886, p279-281:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - The following paragraph, headed "A Vegetable Pic-nic : Two Hundred Persons who do not eat Meat or Fish Celebrate (sic) at Alnwick Park," appeared in the Times (Philadelphia) of Friday, June 26th : "In a cluster of stately poplars at Alnwick Grove, in Montgomery County, about two hundred Philadelphia Vegetarians gathered in annual meeting yesterday to feast and celebrate. The spot chosen for the event is a delightful one, nestling between the hills eleven miles out on the Newtown branch of the Reading Road, with Pennypack Creek winding irregularly through woods and foliage, and completing a romantic and picturesque scene. It was not a day to heartily enjoy such surroundings, as the intermittent showers compelled all hands to remain under cover most of the time. Three Italians, with a harp and two violins, furnished the music in the dancing pavilion, but as there were only two gentlemen on the floor to some thirty ladies, this branch of the festivities was rather tedious.

The first real signs of life and activity were visible when the matrons and misses of the party spread a half-dozen rustic tables and invited all present to a bountiful supply of vegetables, fruits and nuts, and pie in great variety. The Vegetarians are, with hardly an exception, teetotalers, and the regulation libation was lemonade without any embellishments. The appetites of young and old appeared to be whetted for the occasion, and the absence of animal food did not seem to divest the guests of a hearty relish for the other good things liberally provided. One of the lady managers remarked to the Times reporter: 'You see it is a mistake to suppose, as many people do, that we Vegetarians starve ourselves. On the contrary, we draw without reserve on nature's storehouse for pure and healthful food, rejecting meat and fish.'

After dinner a meeting was convened in one of the pavilions, with the Rev. Henry S. Clubb, a Pastor of Christ Church (Bible Christians), as chairman and director general, and Miss Belle Smith as secretary. Mr. Clubb opened the proceedings by briefly explaining the true meaning and purpose of Vegetarianism. Dr. J. Harvey Lovell followed, and indorsed all the preceeding speaker said, both from his observations as a physician and experience as a Vegetarian. In the course of his remarks he said: 'Vegetarianism promises more help towards reform, more for the advancement of truth, the elevation of humanity, the eradication of disease and the preservation of health, the accumulation and enjoyments of wealth, for longevity and comfortable old age, more for the moral and sipritual elevation of mankind and general happiness, than any ism with which I am acquainted.'"

- We have also received the following report of the proceedings from the Rev. H. S. Clubb: On Thursday, June the 24th, 1886, a convention of the friends of food reform took place at Alnwick Park, near Philadelphia, in the pavilion. Every seat was occupied, and quite a number were present who had been life-long Vegetarians. After a musical selection by the band, on the motion of Mr. Fell, the Rev. Henry S. Clubb was elected president. He called on the Rev. Edwin W. Rice, D.D., who invoked the divine blessing in an appropriate and fervent prayer. Letters from the following friends were read : Jas. Crutchet, C.E., New York; J. S. Galloway, Montgomery, Ohio; J. Lundy Brotherton and A. L. Morrison, Philadelphia; J. H. Kellogg, M.D., Battle Creek, Michigan; James C. Jackson, Dansville, N.Y.; Caroline H. Spear and Sarah T. Rogers, both M.D.'s, Philadelphia; Seth Ely, 1st National Bank, Trenton, N.J.; and Joseph Knight, Sec, Vegetarian Society, Manchester, England.

On the motion of Wilmer Atkinson Miss Belle Smith was elected secretary. The Rev. Henry S. Clubb, on taking the chair, briefly explained Vegetarianism, and said: [a verbatim copy of his 'brief' speech followed]. J. Harvey Lovell, M.D., then read an able paper on a Vegetarian diet. Pusey Heald, M.D., of Wilmington, Delaware, fully concurred in the statements of Dr. Lovell, and enlarged upon them at length.

A discussion followed as to the form of resolution to be adopted by the meeting, remarks being made by the Rev. Dr. Rice, and Messrs. Fell and Atkinson, of Philadelphia, and Mr. Pickles, of Wilimington, Del.; when on the motion of Dr. Lovell, it was resolved that a committee of seven, three of whom shall be ladies, be appointed by the chair to prepare a plan of organisation to submit to a meeting to be called by the said committee at an early date, in Philadelphia. The chairman appointed on the said committee J. Harvey Lovell, M.D., Wilmer Atkinson, The Rev. E. W. Rice, D.D., Henry M. Taylor, Mrs. Mary C, Metcalfe, Mrs. Isabella Caress, and Mrs. Annie Koenig. The names of nineteen persons, mostly not hitherto known as Vegetarians, were received by the secretary for membership.

It was later reported, see below, that the above committee formally became the Vegetarian Society of America on November 30, 1886.

Henry S.Clubb (1827-1922) was a migrant from England and had been involved with the first few years of the Vegetarian Society in Britain before moving to the USA in 1853 and becoming actively involved with the Bible Christian Church in Philadelphia. A detailed biography is on the Kansas Collection website at:

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), June 1887, p182:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - The Philadelphia Enquirer of Tuesday, March 22nd, gave a repor of the Vegetarian Society's meeting, from which the following is abridged: The Vegetarians met last night. The parlour of Dr. H. J. Lovell's residence, No.936, Franklin Street, was the scene of the gathering, which was not large, though intellectual. Dr. Lovell introduced the orator of the evening, Rev. Henry S. Clubb, the president of the society. Mr. Clubb is a hale, hearty man, in the sixties, born in England, but an inhabitant of this country since 1853. He admits of no compromise with the opponents of the gentle turnip or the complacent cabbage [a slighly abridge text of Rev. Clubb's talk was given]. A letter was read from William Penn Olcott [sic], brother to Bronson Olcott [sic], in which he said that during fifty years spent in every climate from Greenland to Nubia, though he had sometimes been forced to eat greasy vegetable food, he had never eaten meat. He said he didn;t know the taste of fish, flesh or fowl, butter, alcohol, or coffee; that he could work better and harder, and was never sick. The letter closed by stating that there were more Vegetarians in Philadelphia and its vicinity than anywhere else, and that " as sure as God reigns the future belongs to the Vegetarians."

Dr. Heald, of Wilmington, an ascetic-looking gentleman, who was evidently of the Vegetarian militant order, made a short address [details were given]. A vote of thanks was tendered to Mr. Clubb for his eloquent lecture, and to Dr. Lovell for his hospitality. The Vegetarian Society was organised November 30, 1886, with Henry S. Clubb as president; J. Harvey Lovell, treasurer; Robert J. Osborne, secretary, and with the following executive committee: Mrs. A. L. Morrison, No. 122, South Thirty-third Street; Henry M. Taylor, No. 1,607, Chestnut Street; William Atkinson, Germantown; Mrs. Brotherton, No. 553, North Sixteeth Street; Charles M. Stiles, Camden, N.J.; Mrs. Metcalfe, No. 1,219, North Third Street; Harrison C. Sellers, No. 2,000, North Twentieth Street; Charles F. Koenig, No. 1,714, North Twentieth Street.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), April 1889, p105:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - The following is a list of the officials of the Vegetarian Society of America, organised 1886, incorporated 1887.
President: Rev. Henry S. Clubb, 2,915, Fairhill Street, Phila.
Vice-presidents: Pusey Heald, M.D., Wilmington, Del.; Dr. J. S. Galloway, Montgomery, Har. Co., O.; Elder F. W. Evans, Mt. Lebanon, Col., Co., N.Y.; Elder Robert Aitken, Shaker Station, Conn,; F. P. Doremus, 499, Carlton Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. ; Rev. William Penn Alcott, Boxford, Mass.; Susanna W. Dodds, M.D., St. Louis, Mo.; J. C. Jackson, M.D., Dansville, N.Y.; M. L. Holbrook, M.D. 15 Laight Street, N.Y.; James Crutchett, C.E., Cooper Union, N.Y. Dr. W. H. Van Swartout, Box 248, New York City; Henry L. Fry, 70 W. 40th Street, Cincinatti, O.; M. Augusta Fairchild, M.D., Hannibal, Mo.; F. Wilson Hurd, M.D., Experiment Mills, Monroe Co., Pa.; Lewis S. Hough, A.M., Media, Pa.; Wilmer Atkinson, E. Coulter Street, Germantown, Ohila.; Rachel Swain, M.D., 334 N., New Jersey Street, Indianapolis, Ind.; Dr. C. S. McKinney, 30 N., College Street, Nashville, Tenn.; R. L. Lamb, Ransomville, Niag. Co., N.Y.; A. S. Macbean, Lakewood, Ocean Co., N.J.
Secretary and Treasurer: Dr. J. Harvey Lovell, 936, Franklin Street, Phila.
Executive Committee (for term of three years): Miss A. L. Morrison, 122 S., 33rd Street, Phila.; Rev. Henry M. Taylor, M.D., 1,607, Chestnut Street, Phila.; Wilmer Atkinson, Germantown, Phila.; for term of two years, Robert Osbourne, 136 N., 17th Street, Phila.; Charles M. Stiles, Camden, N.J.; for term of one year, Mrs. Metcalfe, 1,219 N., 3rd Street, Phila.; Harrison C. Sellers, 2,002, Norris Street, Phila.; Charles F. Koenig, 1,174, N., 20th Street, Phila.;
The names of Dr. Jackson and Dr. Holbrook will be familiar to our readers, the former as the venerable head of the Dannsville Sanatorium, and the latter as editor of a journal devoted to hygienic subjects.

[same issue] : The American Vegetarian Society, Philadelphia, U.S.A. - This society has just establishedan official journal called Food, price 50 cents a year, and published monthly. The February number records a social meeting of the society to receive Miss Lucy Edwards, an English Vegetarian of eight years standing. The Rev. Henry S. Clubb ( a Pastor of the Philadelphian Bible Christian Church, and formerly member of the Bible Christian Church at Salford) was the first to address the meeting. Mrs. Brotherton, who had recently returned from a visit to England, also spoke.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), July 1889, p208:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - The Vegetarian Society of America continues its work wth vigour. The official organ of the Society, Food, Home and Garden, reports a meeting at which the Rev. H. S. Clubb gave an address. Among the other speakers was Mr. J. H. Bradford, of Connecticut. This gentleman, who is a professional juggler, known to the public as Nelton the Juggler, afterwards gave a very entertaining exhibition of his professional skill. The next meeting is to welcome Mr. Williams Thorn, a practical farmer of Blackhorse Pa., who writes: [detailed article reprinted].

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1889, p306:

America. - Food, the journal of the American Vegetarian Society, reports a successful social meeting of the Society at Dr. Kellogg's Sanatorium, Battle Creek.

In October or November 1889 a Chicago Vegetarian Society was founded by Mrs. Le Favre, apparently unaware of the VSA at the time, but they soon became affiliated to the national society.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), March 1890, p87:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - Food, Home, and Garden, the journal of the American Vegetarian Society, appears in an enlarged and improved form. Mrs. Le Favre, of Chicago, has undertaken to edit the home department of the magazine.

In early 1890 a Kansas City Vegetarian Society was formed, which was also apparently affiliated to VSA.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester), July 1890, p.194:

THE AMERICAN VEGETARIAN SOCIETY AT THE WORLD'S FAIR. - The World's Fair, which is to be held at Chicago in 1892 (sic, it was 1893), is not to be without representatives of Vegetarianism. A correspondent of Food, House, and Garden says:- "I hope that as many of our vice-presidents as can will try and meet one another at a certain specified time. We should doubtless have great pleasure in meeting and obtaining a better knowledge of each other. It would be well if we could secure some home for the reception of our members and securing for them proper food and other necessities. Many stranger might be attracted thereto, and know more of our ways and the manner in which we live." "This idea," adds the editor, "is worth considering. Of course it is and we have been considering and working toward it for some time. We hope the V.S.A. will be so strong by that time that it can have a good Vegetarian restaurant in the principal building of the Fair, and a large hotel secured for its adherents." We trust that there will be some representatives of European Vegetarianism present also at the World's Fair to make acquaintance with its American representatives.

From The Vegetarian (London), September 20, 1890 (also reprinted in The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) October, 1890, pp294-297) [Report of the International Vegetarian Congress, held in London, September 1890]:

The Rev. Henry S. Clubb, chairman of the Vegetarian Society of America, sent over a short paper, in which he stated that Vegetarianism was receving support from persons connected with many of the various religious denominations of the country, proving that it was in no way sectarian in its character.

From The Vegetarian (London) September 6, 1890 [report of a meeting of the Vegetarian Federal Union on September 10, during the above Congress] :

The Hon. Sec. reported that since their last meeting five societies had applied for affiliation with the Union, viz. : The Vegetarian Society of America, The Irish Vegetarian Union of Belfast, the Bolton and Norwich Vegetarian Societies, and the Dover Food Reform Society. These Societies were thereupon duly elected into the Union.

The Vegetarian Federal Union was an early attempt at creating an international federation, but was mostly just all the local groups that had set up in Britain since the first Vegetarian Society in 1847.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester), February 1892, p.51:

Philadelphia, U.S.A. - A Roman Catholic priest has joined the Vegetarian Society of America. Food, Home, and Garden prints the following very interesting communication from the Rev. Luigi Paroli (Pastor of Italian R. C. Church of the Holy Ghost, Providence, R.I.). It was a very happy day for me when I read a sample copy of that sterling paper Food, Home, and Garden and the articles of incorporation of the Vegetarian Society of America, and found that, having been from childhood a convinced and experienced Vegetarian myself, but privately, I could now become also a courageous and public holder of Vegetarian principles. [his personal story coniued at length].

In 1893 there was an International Vegetarian Congress in Chicago, at the World's Fair, with delegates from Britain, Germany and India as well as America.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1893, 419 [extracts]:


To the Vegetarian Society [UK], at its forty-sixth anniversary.

. . . I believe I express the sentiment of every Vegetarian on this side of the Atlantic when I say that the visit of the delegates from Europe to the World's Vegetarian Congress has created a new bond of sympathy and affection between teh Old and new World.

. . . A movement is on foot to carry the Vegetarian movement, thus fortified, to the Midwinter Exposition at San Francisco this winter. A restaurant at the Exposition and a Vegetarian Convention are contemplated, to which your hearty co-operation is invited. I only regret that the expense of the long overland journey will prevent the attendance of the Vegetarians of the Eastern States, except such as other business may call there. But there are many adherents to our cause in California, Oregon, and Washington, who can make quite a respectable Convention. - Henry S. Clubb, President Vegetarian Society of America.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), February 1899, p68:

Our Postscript. - The Vegetarian Society of America, has in addition to continuing Food, Home, and Garden, started a four-page quarterly, entitled, Our Postscript, and intended for enclosing in letters. The number before us consists of an excellent "Vegetarian synopsis" by the Rev. Henry S. Clubb.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), July 1899, p227:

A Vegetarian Census. - The Vegetarian Society of America is attempting to make a census of American Vegetarians. It has issued a form of which we reproduce below the essential features. A similar census of English vegetarians would be useful if it were even approximately complete. [reprint of the form followed]

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester), May 1900, p.141/2:

"Vegetarian Magazine." - Food, Home and Garden, which the Rev. H. S. Clubb has conducted for ten years, has been incorporated with the Chicago Vegetarian Magazine, which was established three or four years since as the Vegetarian. The Vegetarian Magazine describes itself as "an illustrated magazine of better living, an authority on foods, their selection and preparation," and it "discountenances the use of flesh, fish and fowl for food, upholds the right of life for the whole sentient world, advocates justice, humanitarianism, purity, hygeine, temperance, stands for a stronger body, a healthier mentality, a higher morality." This is a worthy programme. The Vegetarian Magazine shows that Chicago is not given over entirely to slaughter-houses.


In 1908 VSA sent a letter of support to the first meeting of the International Vegetarian Union in Dresden, Germany.

At the 2nd IVU Congress, in Manchester, England, 1909, there was a report from an American delegate:

... Mr. Scott spoke for the "Battle Creek Idea," and explained how from very small beginnings Dr. Kellogg's movement had now grown to what one might fairly call gigantic dimensions. Vegetarianism is not their only tenet, but it is a very important one. ...

The above quote is from the Vegetarian Messenger (VSUK magazine) December 1909. The full text of Mr Scott's talk was printed early in 1910 and should be added here later. 'Battle Creek' refers to the sanitorium run by Dr John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan, since 1876, in conjunction with the Seventh Day Adventists.

We know that Henry S. Clubb was still the President of VSA in 1909, when he was 82 years old. At that time he was also a Vice-President of the original British Society in Manchester - this was a purely ceremonial role but Clubb was sending occasional letters from America. He was still president in 1913 when the Vegetarian Messenger printed: 'The Vegetarian Principle, by Rev. Henry S. Clubb, President of the Vegetarian Society of America'. In 1909 Clubb was the pastor of the only remaining Bible Christian Church in the USA, in Philadelphia. This church appears to have become the focus of VSA and there is little indication of much VSA acitivty further afield for many years.

The 1913 IVU Congress was held at The Hague in the Netherlands. The subsequent report in the Vegetarian Messenger, gave a a list of 34 papers presented at the Congress, including:

Mrs. Wright-Sewall, of America, "Vegetarianism and the Great Moral Reforms."
Dr. Kellogg, of Battle Creek (U.S.), "Recent Scientific Discoveries confirming the Principles of Natural Food Reform."

It appears that neither of these speakers presented their papers in person. The report also said:

Mrs. Wright-Sewall, who came to The Hague to attend the Peace Congress and also the Vegetarian Congress, was prevented by an unfortunate accident from attending the meetings, but I had the pleasure of an interview with her in the Hotel Pomona, and believe that she has since been able to return to her home in the States. Mrs. Wright-Sewall is the Hon. President of the International Council of Women, Hon. President of the National Council of Women of U.S.A., and Chairman of the International Council's Committee on Peace and Arbitration. She has been a Vegetarian for eight years, and stands in close touch with the movement in America. Mrs. Sewall was the bearer of an invitation from the President of the Committee of the International Exposition to be held in San Francisco in 1915 to the International Vegetarian Union.

... 'close touch with the movement in America' presumably meant the VSA and the Battle Creek Sanitorium as we're not aware of much else at that time. Reports from a later Congress say that the IVU Committee had decided that it was 'not found practicable to accept this invitation [to San Francisco]' and the next Congress was planned for Paris, France in 1916.

Henry S. Clubb had already been President of VSA for a very long time by 1913, at least 23 years, possibly much longer, but this needs clarifying. It is rather likely that the society died when he did, in 1922.