The history of vegetarianism in the United States has long been shrouded in myth, assumption and obfuscation. Vegetarianism as a vital ideological and political movement has often been presented—even by its proponents—as a product of twentieth century modernism, reflecting a rise in ethical consumer awareness. The historical record of the nineteenth century, however, tells a very different story. The notion that dietary choices could be connected with larger social and political goals was formulated during, and changed dramatically in the nineteenth century. This dissertation charts the rise and evolution of vegetarianism in the United States from 1817 until 1917. This project will present the first complete analysis of vegetarian activities in the United States during this time period. Through analysis of health and reform journals, personal papers, vegetarian society administrative papers, newspaper accounts and popular culture references, it is possible to chart distinct changes in the ways that vegetarians reacted to rapid socio-political change. Dividing the vegetarian movement in the United States into two distinct time periods gives insight into the changing nature of reform, gender roles, health care, consumerism and individualism. During this time period vegetarianism shifted from a method aimed at conquering social ills and injustice, to a path for personal strength and success in a newly individualistic, consumption-driven economy.