Page 20 - Volume 70 Number 1
P. 20

Book Review
by Richard E. Burney
It is common knowledge that
the Kellogg Company, which
manufactures Kellogg’s Corn
Flakes and other breakfast cereals
consumed around the world, was
started in Battle Creek, Michigan –
it was originally named the Battle
Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company
– and perhaps less well-known
today is that there was at one time a
famous medical institution in Battle Creek, the Battle Creek Sanitarium, known as “the San,” which catered to the rich and famous from across the United States at the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. The former business lives on as a multinational corporation; the latter institution withered in the 1940’s and finally died in 1957.
Howard Markel tells the fascinating history of these two institutions and the brothers that led them, John Harvey Kellogg, MD, and Will Keith Kellogg (whose iconic signature appears on every box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes) in his new book, The Kelloggs. This is a marvelous book, the product of five or more years of meticulous historical research. It illuminates not just the lives of the two main characters, but also the gives insight into the way people lived and worked in the latter half of the 19th century in Michigan, as well as the state of medical practice at the time. The book is also a good read, written in an engaging style that propels you from one discovery to the next. We also learn, in passing, about the inventors and origins of Graham crackers, shredded wheat and granola, among other dietary inventions.
Both the Kellogg brothers were brilliant. The older brother, John Harvey, was a manic overachiever who dedicated himself to “human service” by inventing plant-based dietary remedies to improve health.
He continuously experimented to develop grain-based food products, which he served the patients at the San, while decrying the toxic effects of eating meat, alcohol, smoking, and the common medical practices of the day, which included blood-letting, cupping, and prescription of toxic drugs and purgatives. He was a charismatic showman, prolific author, humanitarian, and innovator who played a role in the invention of granola, flaked cereals, soy milk, and peanut butter. He courted celebrity but had no interest in personal profit from his inventions.
Will Kellogg was eight years younger and suffered for over 20 years under the thumb of his dominating brother. He learned management skills while directing the operations of the San. He helped with the experi- mentation that led to the processes for making flaked grain-based cereals, starting with wheat and later moving to corn. He saw the potential for marketing and selling flaked cereals and argued to expand the business, as C. W. Post was doing after having stolen Kellogg recipes. Will’s older brother had no interest in moving beyond his rewarding role as a physician working at the San and eventually their relationship broke down completely. Will Kellogg broke away started his own company manufacturing corn flakes, albeit with some help from his brother. He emerged on his own as a cold, domineering industrialist, who became immensely wealthy and successful, but he suffered many personal tragedies and never recon- ciled with his brother. They both lived to the age of 91. Their lives remained separate, yet intertwined. The older brother would have no legacy today, were it not for the younger one. The legacy of the younger one is the multi-billion dollar Kellogg Foundation, which would never have existed but for the older one.
Howard Markel tells this story beautifully.
The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek
by Howard Markel, M.D.
20 Washtenaw County Medical Society BULLETIN JANUARY / FEBRUARY / MARCH 2018

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