John Harvey Kellogg- Cornflakes & Controversies

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John Harvey Kellogg is a man remembered for his famous surname. Yes, he is the inventor of corn flakes. Along with that, he was a wellness guru and health activist. However, little do people know of his bizarre and complicated past. Read the below text to find out more.

Let us take a look at John Harvey Kellogg- Cornflakes & Controversies.

1) John Harvey Kellogg was born on February 26, 1852, to a family of staunch Seventh-day Adventists. The Church was essentially known for its emphasis on hygiene and diet and was opposed to alcohol and sex. These views heavily influenced Kellogg’s theories on health and wellness.

A portrait of John Harvey Kellogg

2) He was not formally educated 

The Kelloggs essentially believed in the Second coming of Christ. As a result, neither John Harvey nor his siblings got formal education. However, John Harvey Kellogg saw to it that he completed his education. He subsequently went on to earn a medical degree in 1875.

A picture of a young John Harvey Kellogg

3) John Harvey Kellogg became director of the Western Health Reform Institute

In 1877, Kellogg took over the Adventist-inspired Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek and renamed it to Battle Creek Medical-Surgical Sanitarium. The term “sanitarium” implied both hospital care and emphasis on personal hygiene and health. At the time, America was just understanding its importance, thus the Sanitarium merged as a beacon of wellness. 

A picture depicting an advertisment of the Sanitarium
A 1916 advertisment of the Sanitariumn

4) John Harvey Kellogg wanted to invent a breakfast food that was very bland in taste 

Hence over the years, he and his brother William worked tirelessly to perfect low-maintenance, grain-based breakfast cereal. Their first attempt was essentially a dough that was a mixture of wheat, oats, and corn which after baking broke into little pieces. This was called ‘Granola’. The product was usually eaten by members of the Sanitarium and former patients.

5) The discovery of the flaked cereal

Cornflakes is said to be an accidental discovery. And there are many varied stories regarding its invention. One popular instance tells that John Harvey accidentally kept a batch of wheat out overnight. The next day they went stale. 

However, instead of disposing of them, he sent them through the rollers and was surprised to obtain fine flakes, which could then be baked. He asked his brother William to perfect the recipe and they called it Granose. Subsequently, in 1902, they remanufactured the commodity out of maize and called it corn flakes.

A picture of Granose biscuits

6) John Harvey Kellogg’s brother William subsequently brought his brother’s share of corn flakes and started his own company the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company

At the same time, John Harvey continued to manufacture and sell Granose out of his own company named “Kellogg’s”. Later the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company renamed itself, Kellogg. John Harvey sued his brother over who got the right to use their last name and William sued him back. Thus ensued a decade’s long legal battle between the two. William eventually won the right as corn flakes became more popular. Thus William’s company came to be known as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1920.

A picture of toasted cornflakes

7) John Harvey Kellogg’s main battle was against masturbation

Yes, you read that right! Kellogg considered sugary and spicy food as the gateway to sin. And in his opinion bland foods like cereal prevented masturbation. In fact, he intended for corn flakes to rid people of their carnal desires.

Kellogg had numerous extreme ideas to battle masturbation. These involved sewing up penises of young boys and pouring carbolic acid on young girls’ clitorises. Of course, these methods were too grisly so he instead opted to use corn flakes as a method of controlling children’s sexual desire. Additionally, he himself abstained from sex all his life and despite being married for 40 years he never consummated his marriage.

A picture of J.H with a bird on his shoulder

8) Additionally, John Harvey Kellogg was an ardent eugenicist and was one of the founders of the first Race Betterment Conference, which was essentially a fair for eugenicists. 

9) The bizarre medical treatments at the Sanitarium 

John Harvey Kellogg was hell-bent on trying anything to cure his patients’ illnesses. Some of these treatments were prescient however others were plain bizarre. Some unusual practices included:

Multiple enemas

John Harvey Kellogg encouraged his patients to get multiple enemas in a day. He essentially invented a device that could run 15 quarts of water through an individual’s bowels within seconds. He also advised they consume a daily pint of yoghurt— partly through the mouth and the rest through the anus. 

Vibrating chairs

Kellogg invented numerous contraptions, one of them being the vibrating chairs. These chairs were essentially designed to send shockwaves that would make the occupant defecate themselves. He also invented slapping and flogging machines for the same purpose.

A picture depicting vibrating chairs


Kellogg implemented several hydrotherapy procedures. One of them included continuous baths. These were regular bathtubs however they could last “for several hours, days and months”. With the only break being for using the toilet. According to Kellogg, these treated various skin conditions and even mental maladies including delirium, hysteria and mania.

A picture depicting hydrotherapy procedures

10) At its peak, the Sanitarium was treating tens of thousands of patients

The Sanitarium was a huge success in the United States and was deemed as one of the “premier wellness destinations”. It had a wealthy and famous clientele, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart, and President William Howard Taft.

11) His Legacy

Along with his wife Ella Ervilla Eaton, John Harvey fostered 42 children, seven of whom they legally adopted. Additionally, he never mended his relationship with his brother. Although on his deathbed, he tried making amends by writing a heartful apology to his brother, the letter ultimately did not reach William until it was too late. 

John Harvey’s legacy is complicated and his life was controversial. However, he was instrumental in providing America with one of its most beloved breakfast foods. Subsequently, in 2006, John Harvey Kellogg was initiated into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the discovery of tempering and the invention of the first dry flaked breakfast cereal. 

Furthermore, although his ideas on health might seem unusual, he might have been doing something right because he passed away at the ripe age of 91. 

A picture of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg sitting on a chair


Enjoyed the above article? You may also enjoy 9 Bizarre Facts about Nikola Tesla that you won’t believe are true!

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