Christina Neumeyer, M.A. 8:30 a.m., May 6
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- Vista Blues
When "Wellville" Became "Hellville."..
"It's easy to lead people on a leash. I just hold up a dazzling campaign poster--and they jump right through it!" --Dr. Josef Goebbels (1899-1945) Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany
Have you often wondered why Kellogs' Corn Flakes are made in Battle Creek, Michigan? Well, folks, gather 'round for a history lesson that involves food faddism, a sanitarium in the Upper Midwest, and a breakfast food that turned brother-against brother.
Here we go...
There really was a "Wellville" that the movie spoke of. It was orginally called the "Battle Creek Sanitarium," and was in operation until about the 1940's. Originally run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, it was what the Europeans would call a "cure" home for those suffering from gastrointestinal issues.
The folks at Battle Creek had a "cure-all" in the form of a diet rich in unbleached flour and fiber, plus fruits and vegetables. One did not go to Battle Creek for the food, natch. Add to that "high colonics" and other fun stuff, and you might wonder why anybody in their right mind would bother shelling out their cash to be treated like trash?
But, they did come. For this was the high-gloss era of "food faddism." Nobody knew that better than Sylvester Ghraham, inventor of "Graham Flour" and the attendant biscuits often made from them. Now, Ghraham Flour Biscuits are not like the Ghraham Crackers that kids seek to like so much. Ghraham Flour is unsweetened, coarse, whole-grain flour. Said "biscuits" (how they said "crackers" back in the day) tasted pretty nasty.
Then there were the Kellogg Brothers, who took over Battle Creek Sanitarium. Dr. John Kellogg was the medical director, while Roy Kellogg ran the business end. They continued the same diet, but looked for new ways to put people "on the Road To Wellville," so to speak.
Rich swells with gastrointestinal issues were the primary income source of the sanitarium--for in order to afford what Dr. John was selling, you had to be able to pony up the dough for two weeks at Battle Creek. No money, no trip to "Wellville." However, many of the paitents comnplained about the breakfast offerings at the sanitarium. Boring, bland, and as tasteless as you can get!
Well, a employee at the sanitarium was trying to develop a new breakfast food. Shredded wheat was already "on the scene," but Dr. John wanted to try something with the more abundant corn grains that grew in the region. Through a little trial and a lot of error--the first "corn flakes" came to be.
However, the rest of the story became thec undoing of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. When the new "Kellogg's Corn Flakes" proved to be an overnight sensation, every cereal huckster interested in the new product hitched up their wagons and made tracks for Battle Creek. Dozens of imitators were threatening to put Kelloggs out of business. This is why you see the mark "None Geniune Without My Signature" on a box of Kellogs Corn Flakes, along with the signature of Dr. John Kellogg. This way, you were sure that you were getting "The Real Deal" from Kelloggs.
However, there was trouble brewing in the Kellogg camp as well. It was caused by one thing--GREED! The Kellogg's brand was turning very lucrative, and soon the brothers were in Civil Court as to who was to keep the profits. For although it was Dr. John's signature on the cereal box--it was brother Roy who came up with the idea in the first place.
Eventually, Roy won the litigation wars--but lost his brother to disownment. Also, the original owners of the Battle Creek Sanitarium heaved both Kellogg's brothers from the property for "not taking care of business."
Dr. John Kellogg died heartbroken, his wealth used up to pay for the eventually losing effort to keep control of the Kellogg's brand. Roy died soon afterwards, a rich man with a factory that outlived both of them, still churning out corn flakes (and other cereals) in Battle Creek to this very day.
Still, the Road to Wellville took a detour to Hellville...and all over a cereal flake that would soon sweep the world!
More like this:
- Baja & Border News Translations: Kellogg Cereal is a Health Risk; "Linea Joven" Program Assists Teens — Oct. 15, 2012
- Antiques Roadshow Needs to Appraise the Appraisers — Jan. 19, 2011
- It's Called a What? — May 7, 2009
- No Grapes, No Nuts — March 1, 2006
- What's so corny about corned beef? — March 21, 2002