The Health Food that Changed America's Breakfast Habits: The Kellogg Brothers

Early advertisement for Corn Flakes

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A bit of genius and a bit of craziness led to a major food discovery.

A number of ironies accompany the invention of corn flakes and subsequently dry breakfast cereal. John Harvey Kellogg thought there might be a relationship between nutrition and health. He was a doctor and an important member of the medical community in Michigan. He was also a vegetarian due to the fact that he was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Nutrition science was starting to be known at the turn of the 20th Century. Some studies found that good nutrition might prevent a number of common ailments of the time. These discoveries also led to food fads. It seems that some indications of health improvements led to unproven conclusions about health and how it was affected by food. Even the reputable experts such as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg were convinced of it.

Vegetarianism Influence

He was born in Tyrone, Michigan in 1852. The family converted to the Seventh day Adventist religion in 1864.  Thus the family moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, which was the world headquarters for the church. Among their beliefs was vegetarianism and they abstained from meat, poultry, and fish. Some groups used eggs and milk products.

John went to work in printing at the age of twelve and worked his way up to editorial assistant in the Adventist publishing house.

At sixteen, he taught school in rural Michigan. After high school he enrolled in a teacher-training program at Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti. In 1872 the church sent him to Dr. Russell Trail’s Hygeio-Threrapeutic College in Florence Heights, N.J. He was disappointed in the teachings there and enrolled in the Medical school at the University of Michigan. In 1875 at the age of 23 he received his M.D. His senior thesis was based on disease being a natural defense system of the body.

John Harvey Kellogg

co-founder of Kelloggs
co-founder of Kelloggs | Source

The Big discovery

He continued working with the Adventist publishing house and became editor of their monthly magazine Good Health. A year after getting his degree he became superintendent of the western Health Institute, which he later changed to the Battle Creek Sanatorium. He was able to ably his ideas there.

John and Will Kellogg came across their process for corn flakes in a serendipity manner. Will left some cooked wheat to sit while they took care of something important in the sanatorium. Upon return they found the wheat had gone stale. The processed it anyhow hoping to   obtain long sheets of dough by forcing it through the rollers. Instead of sheets of dough they found flakes, which they decided to toast and found it appropriate to feed to patients. It proved popular with the patients. On May 31, 1894 they filed a patent for “Flaked cereals and Process of Preparing Same’ under the name Granose.

John Harvey Kellogg

Inventor of Corn Flakes
Inventor of Corn Flakes | Source
Breathing exercises at Battle Creek Sanitarium (c. 1900). Postcard of Battle Creek Sanitorium, Breathing Exercises, circa 1900
Breathing exercises at Battle Creek Sanitarium (c. 1900). Postcard of Battle Creek Sanitorium, Breathing Exercises, circa 1900 | Source

Healthier Breakfast

In 1897 the brothers started the Sanitas Food Company for the production of whole grain cereals. . At that time those who could afford it ate eggs and meat while the poor ate porridge, farina, gruel and other boiled grains.

John had worked with his brother Will for several years but started to disagree on policies, for example Will   used sugar in the process in browning the flakes and make it more appealing to customers.

  Will, the business manager of the sanatorium   decided to try mass marketing the new food. He was the one that started the Kellogg Company.

Will’s marketing included offering a premium with two boxes of cereal. The Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures booklet was offered for the next twenty-two years.

 

Adventist disagreements

 John got overwhelming support for his work from the Adventist until they started questioning some of his programs twenty years later. There was a split and the Adventist excommunicated him in 1907. There was conflict over control and ownership of the sanatorium He had developed a food laboratory and that is where the process for preparing cornflakes was developed and use as breakfast cereal encouraged.

John advocated vegetarianism, favored low protein, and high fiber diets. These are popular now. He also favored calisthenics and open air sleeping.

He wrote a number of books and articles, which was one means of support along with his work as a surgeon. He was a highly thought of surgeon even admired by the Mayo brothers.. His best-known book is The Miracle of Life in 1904.

Competition

C.W. Post who started a rival company was a patient at the Battle Creek Sanatorium. There are other brands now, store brand and generics. But it all started with an accidental discovery.

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Comments 26 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Fascinating! I didn't realize that Kelloggs was responsible for "inventing" breakfast cereal.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

He was a very good doctor but even today doctors are not the best experts on nutrition.Thanks for being the first to comment.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I had some inkling that Kellogg was a doctor, but I had never known about the Adventist connection! What an interesting history to what is now an every day food.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Oddly there are very many pioneers in food who had strange backgrounds.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Very interesting Hub as usual.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for those kind words.


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Interesting. You are full of information.

Keep on hubbing!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the compliment and the comment.


Barbara_tenBroek profile image

Barbara_tenBroek 5 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

This was very interesting and well researched, thank you


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I appreciate the comment.I am glad you liked it.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

It is so much fun learning things like this about the Kellogg Brothers and how flaked breakfast cereal came about as an accident. Very interesting! This gets an up and useful rating and I'll tweet this as well as other people should be interested in learning about this. Thanks!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I ran across this stuff along time ago in a book "Nuts among the berries" Surprising how much of our common foods were once "health" foods. If John Kellogg had hsiiway we would be eating them dry.


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 5 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you dahoglund for your hub on breakfast cerel, great information. Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

How interesting. Loved it : ). I learn so much on hub pages. I wonder how the adventists feel about the evolution of cereal leaning towards the not so nutritious with all the sugar and white flour


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

creativeone

I appreciate your commenting. thanks for visiting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Tamarajo

Thanks for commenting. Since John Kellogg didn't even want sugar used for processing he would obviously object to all the sugar. But he was no longer an Adventist. It was more his medical theories that objected to the sugar, I think.


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hiya dahoglund, very interesting read! So that's how breakfast cereal got started. Thanks Dr. Kellogg!

Have a nice day!

Rosie


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes, that's where it started although not exactly they way he intended.Thanks for the comment.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

I didn't know that he was a doctor but sort of thought that Kellogg's might have had something to do with inventing cereal.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading. The thing is probably nobody would have eaten it the way it was intended.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Isn't it interesting how so many of those old-time people discovered things by accident? The floating feature of Ivory soap was an accident, too!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I agree. Inventors are usually people who like to tinker and probably hit on ideas that they were not necessarily planning on.Thanks for commenting.


Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 5 years ago from Canada

I never knew Kellogg's was first! Interesting story.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Glad you like it. thanks for commenting.


kentuckyslone profile image

kentuckyslone 5 years ago

I have a box of Corn Flakes on top the fridge right now. We eat quite a bit if cereal around here


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

We also eat a lot of cereal but we like a variety.Thanks for commenting.

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