John Harvey Kellogg was an influential spokesman for vegetarianism, a leader in the invention of nut- and soy-based meat substitutes, a surgeon, and, for over fifty years, the director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. In partnership with his brother Will, he made the Kellogg name famous. By studying food chemistry, Kellogg learned that an early step in indigestion is the conversion of starch to dextrin, or sugar. Cereal grains have a high starch content, and Kellogg discovered that prolonged baking almost completely dextrinized the starch in multigrain biscuits. He ground these up and served them to his patients, calling the creation "granola." In 1889, Kellogg invented the first flaked breakfast cereal, which was made from wheat. He later devised a method of producing corn flakes.
Many entrepreneurs, including C. W. Post, the man most responsible for instigating Battle Creek's food "gold rush," came to make riches from breakfast cereal.
Born and raised near Battle Creek, the birthplace of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Kellogg became intimately involved with the religious-medical-health doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventists. Yet, tragically, before his death he and his brother had split their business, he had given up the rights to use the Kellogg name, and he spent the final third of his life outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which expelled him in 1907 due to his divergent views on the Bible and his belief in pantheism, the belief that there is a divine presence in all living things.
Born to John Preston Kellogg and his second wife, Anne, on February 26, 1852, John Harvey Kellogg's family lived on a 160-acre farm in rural Tyrone Township in Livingston County, Michigan. When he was four years old, his family moved to Battle Creek. John Preston Kellogg invested money toward the building of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. However, it was the early church leaders, James and Ellen White, who encouraged Kellogg's ambition and steered him toward a career in medicine. He graduated in February 25, 1875, from Bellevue Hospital Medical School with an M.D. degree, after first spending twenty weeks in Florence Heights, New Jersey, at Dr. Russell Trall's Hygeio-Therapeutic College. Trall was a founding member and officer of the American Vegetarian Society and the author of The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism (1860). He was also a leading figure in American hydropathy, an alternative system of medical practice that treated medical conditions with applications of water.
As a young man, Kellogg would often sit in on meetings concerning the Battle Creek Sanitarium during his visits home from school, and it soon became evident that he should work there. Four major Seventh-day Adventist leaders were situated in Battle Creek, James and Ellen White, Uriah Smith, and Professor Sidney Brownsberger, president of Battle Creek College. At the age of twenty-four, Kellogg agreed to be medical director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium for one year starting in 1876. At that time the institution had twenty patients.
By force of personality and hard work, Kellogg put Battle Creek Sanitarium on the map as the place for the wealthy to recuperate and rejuvenate. And he remained at the Battle Creek Sanitarium long after corn flakes had made Battle Creek the cereal center of the world. The sanitarium burned to the ground in 1902, and the boom in cereals helped to finance its rebuilding.
After initiating the production of granola in 1877, Dr. Kellogg organized the Sanitarium Food Company as a subsidiary of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1901. This company marketed a variety of oatmeal, graham and fruit crackers, and whole grain cereals and breads. In 1908 it became the Kellogg Food Company. After a long contentious dialogue, Kellogg and his brother parted ways, and in 1920 the rights to manufacture cereal went to Will along with the commercial use of the Kellogg name.
Unable to have children, Kellogg and his wife, Ella (née Eaton) were active in aiding children, many of whom were raised in their home. Together, they established the Haskell Home for Orphans in 1894, and at one time they together helped as many as thirty individuals in one year. They assumed responsibility for forty-two children, legally adopting four or five of them. They hired private tutors for the children and provided them with jobs. Their efforts were not completely successful, however, as one of the children later became a drifter and blackmailed Kellogg with threats of embarrassment. At the age of seventy-eight, Kellogg moved to Florida and renovated the Country Club Hotel—which was donated by a previous patron, the pioneer aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss—and opened the Miami–Battle Creek Sanitarium, a 100-bed establishment, which ran at capacity for his remaining thirteen years of life.
Louise E. Schneider
Graybill, Ron (1992). "The Whites Come to Battle Creek: A Turning Point in Adventist History." Adventist Heritage. Loma Linda, CA: Department of Archives and Special Collections with the Department of History and the School of Religion.
Sabate, Joan (2001). Vegetarian Nutrition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Schwartz, Richard W. (1970). John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association.
Stoltz, Garth (1992). "A Taste of Cereal." Adventist Heritage. Loma Linda, CA: Department of Archives and Special Collections with the Department of History and the School of Religion.