Raw foods, raised fists, and children without names

May 30th, 2012 § 2 comments

On December 26, 1938, Time magazine ran this item in its wonderfully succinct Milestones column:

Born. To Dr. St. Louis Estes, 73, famed California food faddist (nuts, raw foods), and his wife: their seventh son, twelfth child; in San Francisco. Like all the other Estes boys, this one will be called St. Louis. Estes daughters have no first names.

This follows an earlier mention of Mrs. St. Louis Estes (whose own first name is Esther) in Time after the birth of her eleventh child, a girl, in1937, in which she is quoted as saying:

“Names are really inconsequential so we have not taken the time to name them. They respond to Dimple and Chickadee so why bother?”

Some  years earlier, however, when the family had only eight children, Mrs. Estes dedicated her book Raw food menu & recipe book to them by name:

To My Eight Adorable Children

Suzanne (Honey Baby, my first), St. Louis II (Sonny), Dixie Lou Medora, St. Louis III (Howie), the twins, St. Louis IV (Fatty), St. Louis V (Sugar Plum), Natacha Moraine (Twiddledewinks) and St. Louis VI, my youngest.

Whatever their names, the UCLA Digital Library has some lovely photographs of them, as well as their eccentric parents.   The photographs are all part of the Bartlett collection, taken by Santa Monica-based commercial photographer Adelbert Bartlett between 1928 and 1936, when Dr. St. Louis Estes, who must have had both admirers and detractors, was in the Los Angeles area promoting his version of a healthy lifestyle.

cabbage kids





Dr. St. Louis Albert Estes claimed to be “the cripple who rebuilt himself”—choosing a diet of only raw and natural food to bring himself back from ill health, paralysis, blindness, and baldness.  Esther Estes was his second wife (his first, Clara Estes, sued him for desertion), and seems to have been in agreement with his philosophy, raising all the children, from birth, on only raw foods.   Perhaps they were a visionary family, ahead of their time, seeming as if they might have been more at home in the 1960s than the 1930s.  Perhaps they were charlatans, selling their ideas about health to a gullible public.


Dr. Estes wasn’t, of course, the only one selling health in the early 20th century.  Health fads have a long history in the United States, and the UCLA Digital Library also includes a collection of  patent medicine trade cards.

Carter's backache plasters

The true motivation of the Estes family may never be known—nor the reason Dr. Estes likes to be photographed with his fist raised—but the story told by the photographs seems to be a determined and nonconformist sincerity.


Dr. St. Louis Estes


child and dad


Dr. St. Louis Estes, still strong

Becky Spiro
UCLA Library Cataloging and Metadata Center


§ 2 Responses to Raw foods, raised fists, and children without names"

  • Lauren McDaniel says:

    Becky, this and your Shirley Temple posts are great! Wonderful collection showcases. Keep it up! Martha too!

    Lauren McDaniel
    Nitrate Negative Digitization Project
    UCLA Library Special Collections

  • sandra black says:

    I have many of Dr. Estes magazines called “Back To Nature” dated 1923 they 1933. I also have master course of instruction in the science of rebuilding health through the use of chemicalized food materials for purchase. Would UCLA be interested?

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