Paul Bragg's Tarnished Legacy

By Wade Frazier

First published in June 2007, revised in August 2014

 

Introduction

Bragg’s Claims – His Health Advice

Bragg’s Claims – His Life’s Story

The Documentary Evidence

Conclusion

Footnotes


Introduction

When I was twelve, my father discovered a booklet that saved his life, which prescribed a live food diet to reverse hardening of the arteries, and it did.  That booklet was later banned in the United States.  When I was seventeen, my father brought home a book that prescribed a holistic health regimen that was based on live food, pure water, exercise, sunshine, and fasting.  The book was Paul Bragg’s magnum opus, The Miracle of Fasting.  It was generally my final influence in matters of holistic health.

I recently encountered allegations that Bragg lied about his age, claiming that he was fourteen years older than he actually was.  I was shocked, but it resolved several aspects of Bragg’s life’s story that made me wonder over the years.  In addition, I had doubts about how his legacy was being handled. 

 

Bragg’s Claims – His Health Advice

When I first read The Miracle of Fasting in 1975, Paul Bragg was still alive and living in Hawaii.  He died the next year.  There are two lines of Bragg’s claims that this essay will address:

  1. The validity of the health regimen that Bragg promoted;

  2. The validity of his life story, which he used as proof that his regimen worked.

The validity of Bragg’s regimen, in light of what appear to be fabrications about this past, should only be verified by independent means, and is somewhat beyond the scope of this essay, but not entirely.  As I recently reread parts of The Miracle of Fasting, much is consistent with alternative and (increasingly) mainstream health literature, as well as with my experiences and those of others. 

I began a fasting regimen after reading The Miracle of Fasting, but abandoned Bragg’s water fasting advice after six years, and have done juice fasts ever since.  Other parts of Bragg’s regimen did not work for me.  One Bragg Empire bestselling products has long been Bragg Liquid Aminos, which is a soybean solution.  I had some in the 1980s, got sick from it, and have never had it since.  I dare not even consume soy sauce. 

To revisit the booklet that saved my father’s life, live food is obviously what all animals are ideally designed to eat, including humans, although humans have also adapted to freshly cooked food.  Humanity’s ancestors began evolutionary adaptations as they left the trees and learned to walk erect.  The dietary adaptations of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle were highly significant, including the addition of more flesh and cooking food.  The Domestication Revolution introduced radical changes in the human health regimen, including the development of seed and root crops and milk products, sedentary living, new diseases, and the beginning of economic, political, and social hierarchies – in short, civilization.  The Industrial Revolution introduced even greater divergence from our evolutionary heritage, and obesity has become epidemic in the West.  Americans are history’s fattest and most sedentary humans, with two-thirds of us dying of easily preventable degenerative diseases, with arterial disease and cancer being the most prominent. 

Bragg was far from alone in advocating live food, fasting, and exercise as preventives and cures for civilization’s diseases.  Bragg’s most impressive pupil was Jack La Lanne, who died at 96 and and vigorously exercised and weight trained for two hours each morning until the day before he died.  If Bragg was not living proof of the validity of exercise and nutrition, La Lanne was. 

I first read about how fluoride was a poison by reading Bragg’s The Shocking Truth about Water.  I have largely consumed purified water since the 1970s, and was very strict in my late teens, when I went years without drinking tap water.

The water fasting, sunshine, vinegar, soybean, and other aspects of Bragg’s regimen I have my doubts about.  They may have validity, but people should independently investigate such health practices, and in fact all health practices, both orthodox and alternative, to see what works best for them. 

 

Bragg’s Claims – His Life’s Story

Bragg made a set of claims to support his health advice’s validity, which comprise this essay’s central focus.  The story repeatedly told in Paul Bragg’s books and interviews, and promoted by Patricia Bragg for many years, is related below.

Bragg was born in 1881 and raised on the family homestead in Virginia.[1]  His great grandfather was Confederate Civil War General Braxton Bragg.[2]  Bragg said that his diet was “terrible,” with about 90% of it coming from a frying pan.[3]  At age sixteen, Bragg developed tuberculosis.  After being given four months to live by his doctors, Bragg was taken by his nurse to the Swiss tuberculosis clinic founded and run by Dr. August Rollier.  Bragg was cured by Rollier’s treatment, which was based on live food, sunshine, fasting, and exercise, with many health miracles attending his recovery.  Bragg then devoted his life to what cured him and became a real-life superman.  He was able to help his sister, Louise, attain glowing health after she had been sickly for her entire life.  She then led a “fairy-tale” existence after Paul improved her health with his regimen.[4]   He wrestled in the Olympics in 1908 and 1912, fought in all the major battles of World War I, played tennis with Teddy Roosevelt and taught Teddy’s sons boxing, met most of the USA's presidents since then, and founded the first American health food store in Los Angeles in 1912.[5]

Bragg then became the health consultant to the stars, with clients such as Gloria Swanson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Clint Eastwood, and Elizabeth Taylor.  In his later years, his daughter Patricia was his assistant.  Bragg moved to Hawaii in the 1960s and promoted his longevity, saying that he planned to live to be 120 years old.  He swam and exercised for hours each day, and was living proof of his regimen’s validity.  There are numerous newspaper articles on Bragg in his later years.[6]  In them, Bragg made many claims, including his 1881 birthday.

Six months before he died, Bragg was injured in a drowning incident in Hawaii.  His health declined after the incident, while he kept up his speaking tours.  While in Miami on tour, he collapsed and died of a heart attack on December 7, 1976, at age 95.[7]  On his death certificate, on which Patricia Bragg is listed as the informant, Paul’s birthday is documented as February 6, 1881, and his state of birth as Virginia.[8]

That is quite a story.  Unfortunately, research into Bragg’s past reveals that very little of the above story appears to be true.

 

The Documentary Evidence

I began having nagging doubts about Bragg’s legacy when I read some Bragg Empire literature published not long after he died.  When Bragg was still alive, I read an article about him in People magazine, published in 1975 (August 11).  Bragg was asked at what age sexual activity ended, and he replied, “You’ll have to ask somebody else.  I am only 94.”  In the early 1980s, I read a reproduction of that article published by the Bragg Empire.  That memorable quote instead read, “You’ll have to ask somebody else, because I am ageless.” The pictures that Bragg produced of himself in his books showed somebody who looked remarkably young for his age, perhaps too remarkably young.  In a picture that Bragg said was taken in 1932 in Los Angeles, he looked like a Greek god: a deeply tanned, muscle-bound man in his thirties, although he was allegedly in his fifties.[9]  Pictures like that were impressive evidence that Bragg’s regimen worked, turning himself from a dying tuberculosis victim into a superman.  In pictures from his books, taken in his last years, the photos appeared to have been airbrushed, to presumably give him a more youthful appearance. 

Patricia Bragg, who calls herself Paul’s daughter, began using the word “crusade” to describe Paul’s life’s work.  I did not recall Paul ever using that term while alive, but Patricia said “crusade” in his obituary, so maybe Paul called it that, but virtually none of the books I have, some published when Paul was alive, mention the word “crusade,” although there is plenty of Bible-quoting in them.  It appears that Patricia began using the term “Bragg Crusades” in the books around a decade after Paul died.  Also, Patricia would imply in updated versions of Paul’s books, published years after his death, that he was still alive.  Patricia has disguised her age for many years. 

Researchers have investigated Bragg’s claims and have located census records, Bragg’s draft card, immigration records, and numerous newspaper articles, stretching from 1910 to his death in 1976.  In light of the documentation, few of Bragg’s life’s story claims appear genuine.  According to the U.S. Census of 1900, Paul C. Bragg was born in Indiana in February 1895, not in Virginia in 1881.[10]  See the image below:

braggcn1.jpg (356680 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

In the 1910 U.S. Census, Bragg’s birthplace of Indiana and birth year of 1895 is repeated.[11] 

braggcn2.jpg (371195 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

When this information came to light, some challenged it and suggested that it was a different Paul C. Bragg.  Below is Bragg’s 1917 draft card, signed by Bragg himself.  Bragg presented his birthday as February 6, 1895, in Batesville, Indiana, and his profession as a life insurance salesman.[12] 

braggdft.jpg (430229 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

Bragg’s application for his social security number has also been obtained.  It is reproduced below, and I have redacted his Social Security number from it.[13] 

braggssn.jpg (239756 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

The signatures on the draft card and Social Security Number Application are virtually identical to the signature in Bragg’s books.  See a comparison, below.  It is the same Paul C. Bragg. 

braggsig.jpg (114090 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

On the draft card, Bragg wrote that he had been a private in the National Guard for the previous three years, and he requested exemption from the trenches in World War I and cited his dependent wife.  His story about being in all the “major battles” of World War I seems doubtful.

Bragg’s birth certificate has been discovered on microfilm in a public library in Batesville, Indiana, where Bragg’s draft card indicates he was born.  The birth certificate confirms Bragg’s 1895 birthday, and the birth certificate’s details are presented at this footnote.[14]  His birth was also announced in the local paper.[15] 

It appears that Paul Bragg began lying about his age in the 1920s, when he began crafting his image as a health guru whose youthfulness was evidence of his message’s validity. 

Paul’s heritage has been traced to Indiana since the mid-1800s, when his great grandfather, Andrew Bragg (not Braxton), moved there from Tennessee not long before Paul’s grandfather, James H. Bragg, was born.[16]  The “family homestead in Virginia” claim appears false.  Paul’s father was not a farmer, but a printer who worked for the USA's government and moved to Washington D.C., where Paul was raised, in about 1898. 

Paul’s claim of being cured of tuberculosis at August Rollier’s Swiss clinic also conflicts with his claim of being born in 1881.  Rollier founded his clinic in Leysin, Switzerland in 1903, which is about five years after Paul would have allegedly been cured there.  Rollier was an MD born in 1874, so would have been only 24 years old when he treated Paul, if Paul’s tale is true, which is a bit young to be an MD founding a clinic. 

Paul began making the news as early as 1910, when he was involved in resolving a New York City jewelry theft.[17]  In 1913, he allegedly rescued two men from drowning.  Not long after the rescue incidents, Paul left his home in Washington, D.C., and passed through Indiana on the way to a short-lived job in Missouri.  In September 1913, Paul Bragg came to Indianapolis and bet $1,000 that he could outwrestle anybody in his weight class.  He was reported as being eighteen at the time.[18] 

At age eighteen, instead of recovering from tuberculosis and learning to fast under Dr. Rollier’s instruction, Bragg was rescuing drowning victims and challenging all comers to a wrestling match.  There is also no record of Paul in the USA's East Coast immigration archives during those years.  It appears that Bragg may have never had tuberculosis, and so was never treated at the Swiss clinic for TB.

Where an eighteen-year-old boy could get $1,000 in 1913 to bet on his wrestling skill is another mystery.  In 1918, at the peak of World War I's industrial activity, American family income was about $1,500 and USA's government workers made an average of $0.49 per hour, up from $0.28 in 1901.  To have $1,000 to wager (which was probably more than his father’s income for the entire year) on his wrestling prowess is impressive, but in light of these revelations, I doubt that he had the money to wager.  Paul’s claim of founding the first health food store in Los Angeles in 1912 also appears unlikely, as does a different claim, when Bragg said that he founded the store in New York City in 1912. 

Bragg was apparently an accomplished wrestler and swimmer, but in 1908 he was only thirteen years old, which was a little young to make the Olympic team.  According to the available records, Bragg was not on the 1908 or 1912 Olympic teams.[19]

None of the genealogical investigation performed so far has discovered any record of Paul having a sister; he appears to have been one of three boys born to his parents, although his mother was in a marriage previous to the one in which she gave birth to Paul, so Paul may have had some half-siblings.  However, according to Paul’s story of his sister’s health miracle, it happened soon after Paul’s stint at Rollier’s clinic, which we now know is probably a fictional event.  Paul’s sister might well have led a “fairy-tale” existence. 

After his National Guard and life insurance salesman days, Paul became the physical director of the Frederick, Maryland YMCA in 1919, where he worked for a year.  He was 25 years old when he resigned, apparently partly due to the YMCA’s financial difficulties.  For the next decade, the documentary trail is a bit sketchy, but newspaper articles say that he moved around between South Carolina, New York, and California, and apparently took a couple of trips to Polynesia in the early 1930s.  In an interview in the Dallas Morning News, on April 12, 1929, Bragg gave his age as 49.  He was really 34.  His given age of 49 was not even consistent with his alleged 1881 year of birth.  Paul also had some trouble with the authorities, as well as patients who sued him.[20] 

From 1929 onward, Bragg kept to the story of his 1881 birthday until he died, unless he was dealing with American officials.[21]  Patricia Bragg is not Paul’s daughter.  Patricia is Paul’s former daughter in-law.  Paul’s son Robert E. Bragg married Patricia Pendleton.  Patricia was born in Alameda County, California, on April 29, 1929.  In 1955, Robert and Patricia divorced, with the divorce being final in 1956.[22]

This is not the only instance of American health pioneers having inflated claims of age.  Many sources have claimed that Norman Walker, a juice fasting pioneer, lived to be well over 100 years old.  Recent research showed him to be 99 when he died, a ripe old age, to be sure, but far less than the claims made for him.  In addition, some of Walker’s claims regarding his credentials are dubious, such as the number of autopsies he attended and the degrees that he held. 

 

Conclusion

Throughout Bragg’s literature, he called himself a “life extension specialist.”  Lying about one’s age is one way to “extend” one’s life, but it is a fraudulent method of amassing life-extension credentials.  Throughout Bragg’s many publications, the author’s biography began with, “Paul C. Bragg is himself the best testimonial for the value of his teachings.”  Today, that claim appears ironic.  The author’s biography I am citing then stated what feats of endurance that he was still capable of, even though he had been dead for years when that edition of his booklet was published.[23]

In light of this essay’s information, it is legitimate to question everything about Bragg’s health advice, as well as his life’s story.  Many of the miraculous healing events that he cited in his own life, such as being cured of TB or passing mercury at his family homestead, do not jibe with when and where he was in those days.  Did Bragg even fast all that much?  He still looked pretty good at age eighty, but not that good.  How much of his image was genuine?  Did people following Bragg’s advice damage their health?  While the message may have been worthy, the messenger was dubious. 

Bragg apparently crafted a saleable life’s story from some fact and large doses of fantasy.  Being a life insurance salesman during World War I seemed an appropriate profession for him, as the entire industry was viewed as a scam in those days.  I was raised in Southern California and worked in Los Angeles for five years.  About half of my friends in LA were either in the entertainment business, used to be in it, or were trying to break into it.  In LA, everybody wants to be somebody, people adopt stage names and forget their pasts, or invent more marketable ones.  For Bragg to gravitate to LA, making a name for himself as a “life extension specialist,” with fabricated credentials, is a typical Hollywood story.  On a side note, while the California medical authorities were persecuting genuine alternative cancer doctors, Bragg received a free ride (although the AMA attacked him early in his career).  I saw a similar dynamic during my free energy days.

Bragg’s books continue to be sold today, as the Bragg Empire barrels along.  I see little potential harm and great potential benefit from the regimen that Paul promoted, but Bragg’s lies were greater than little white ones.  Caveat Emptor

 

Footnotes

[1] His claims about being raised on the family “homestead” in Virginia are many.  See, for instance, Paul Bragg’s The Miracle of Fasting, 1976 edition, p. 64, 78.

[2] See William Helton’s “Bragg’s Motto: to rest is to rust” in Honolulu’s Sunday Star-Bulletin & Advertiser, August 24, 1969. 

[3] See Paul Bragg’s The Miracle of Fasting, 1976 edition, chapter 3, p. 28. 

[4] See Paul Bragg’s The Miracle of Fasting, 1976 edition, chapter 17, pp. 102-103. 

[5] Those stories are found throughout articles written on Bragg before he died.  On his founding America’s first health food store in 1912, see Ron Staton’s “Bragg Could Brag About His Fitness,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, p. A-17, November 29, 1972.

[6] See also: Dave Koga’s “Nonagenarian Has Lots to “Bragg” About,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, May 6, 1975; Alston Vizzini’s “Bragg and his diet are tied to be fit,” Honolulu Advertiser, April 6, 1972.

[7] See The Miami Herald, p. 10-B, December 10, 1976. 

[8] The State of Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Statistics issued the death certificate, file number 76-084611, and it presents the same Social Security number that is on Paul’s 1949 application.  It can be obtained by contacting the Florida Department of Health. 

[9] See Paul Bragg’s The Miracle of Fasting, 1976 edition, chapter 22, p. 121.

[10] The census records are in the public domain, and can be obtained from the USA's government, through The National Archives. 

[11] Spence M. Grayson enumerated that census record, on April 19, 1910.

[12] A copy of the public domain draft card can also be obtained through The National Archives. 

[13] A copy of the public domain social security number application can be obtained from the U.S. Social Security Administration. 

[14] Below is the information obtained from Paul Bragg’s birth certificate, which has the same birthday and birthplace information that is on Bragg’s draft card.

# Child of this mother: 2

Sex: M

Color: W

Date of Birth: Feb 6, 1895

Place of birth: Ripley county

Born alive: yes

Legitimate: yes

Natural Labor: yes

Difficult Labor: no

Mother’s Maiden Name: Carrie J. Chappies

Mother’s age: 29

Father’s name: Robert E. Bragg

Father's age: 29

Father’s occupation: Printer

Father’s place of birth: US

By whom return is made: J.R. Davies

Post Office address: Batesville

[15] See the Batesville Tribune, February 14, 1895, p.1, under the local news heading, which reads, “To R.E. Bragg and wife on Wednesday night, February 6th, a boy.” 

[16] According to recent military history research, Braxton did not have children.  Also Braxton was a native of North Carolina, while Paul’s great grandfather (Andrew) and great grandmother (Mary) with the Bragg surname were born in Tennessee, according to the 1850 census.  Andrew and Mary’s eldest child was born in Tennessee, and their second child, James H., was born in Indiana.  

[17] See the New York Times, April 8, 1910, “Former Servant Takes Detectives to a Cache Containing Part of $25,000 Booty.”  It is a strange story, as far as Paul is concerned.  The article can speak for itself, as it relates to how the jewel thief was caught, apparently with Paul’s assistance.  The article states, “Reaching the hotel two hours later he showed the detectives where he had registered on April 1 and 2 as ‘William A. Moses and son.’  The ‘son,’ he explained, had been fifteen-year-old Paul Bragg, a singer in a moving picture show, whom he had met in Baltimore, and who had accompanied him to New York.  At Baltimore, he said, learning that an alarm was out for him, he had been frightened into confiding his identity to the boy.  Later, after they reached New York, the boy left him, returned to Washington, and told the police.”  A Washington Times (not today’s Washington Times, but a defunct newspaper) article, on April 8, 1910, sheds more light on the issue.  The thief was a boarder at Bragg’s home, and he took Paul along, offering him work running errands and the promise of getting him a job in a moving picture show.

[18] See “Amateur, in City Few Hours, Offers $1,000 Side Bet He Can Defeat Any in Class,” Indianapolis Star, September 18, 1913.

[19] Via USA Wrestling in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the below lists of American wrestlers on the Olympic teams of 1908 and 1912 were obtained from Mike Chapman’s Encyclopedia of American Wrestling.  For the 1908 games held in London, freestyle was the only style contested.  The USA's team had six members, who were:

Name

Weight Class

Results

George N. Mehnert       

119

Gold Medal

George S. Dole            

132.5  

Gold Medal

John H. Krug               

146.5   

Eliminated in the second round

John Craige                 

160.5   

Eliminated in the second round

Frank Narganes           

160.5  

Eliminated in the second round

Lee J. Talbot                

160.5+

Eliminated in the second round

For the 1912 games held in Stockholm, Greco-Roman was the only style contested.  There were only two American wrestlers on the team, who were:

Name

Weight Class

Results

William J. Lyshon         

132

Eliminated in the second round

George W. Retzer Jr.    

132 

Eliminated in the second round

[20] On the East Coast, Paul had trouble for practicing medicine without a license, and in California, he was found guilty of the “betrayal” of one of his eighteen-year-old clients.  The judgment was $4,000, and after Bragg reportedly told the woman that he would leave the state to avoid paying the judgment, and employ a legal gambit in order to shield his assets from attachment, he was jailed.  Bragg reportedly admitted that it was not the first judgment that he had evaded in that manner, and that his evasion techniques were justified, as “all is fair in love or war.”  See “Betrayal Case Decided for Girl,” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1934 and “Judgment Case Figure Put in Jail,” April 14, 1934.

[21] See, for instance, the immigration record for the voyage of the S.S. President Roosevelt, sailing from Bermuda on June 24, 1940, to the Port of New York.  Paul C. Bragg was passenger 30, and the record stated that he was born on February 6, 1895 in Batesville, Indiana, which is consistent with his draft card

[22] See “Son Accuses his Wife and Father in Court,” Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1955.  See “Son Drops his Charge Linking Wife, Father,” Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1956.  The articles can be obtained online from the Los Angeles Times, for a nominal fee.  In the accompanying photographs, the Patricia Bragg who was married to Robert is obviously the same person who calls herself Paul’s daughter today. 

More evidence of Patricia’s true ancestry was her probate filing in Alameda County superior court, case number 153571, filed on December 14, 1998.  The filing was related to land that she inherited from her biological father, Harry C. Pendleton.  The initial filing text reads, “Patricia Bragg alleges as follows: Petitioner Patricia Bragg is the same person as Patricia Pendleton…”  Patricia’s signature on the court filing is the identical signature as the signature in her books, leaving no doubt that it is the same Patricia Bragg.  Patricia's birth certificate has been obtained.  It is certificate number 29-026962, local registered number 1408, at Peralta Hospital in Oakland.  She was born on April 29, 1929, to Harry and Nettie Pendleton. 

[23] That quote is from the back page of Bragg’s Super Brain Breathing for Health and Energy, in the 1980 edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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