It happened in 1894 during an experiment to make healthier food for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium or the “San.” A batch of cooked wheat accidentally was left out and dried. Rather than throw it away, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, director of the San, and his brother, William Keith (better known as W.K.), passed the wheat through rollers, creating thin flakes. These early wheat flakes, called Granose, were tough and rather tasteless, but they were a hit.
On May 31, 1894, Dr. Kellogg applied for a patent on “flaked cereals” made from wheat, barley, oats, corn and other grains.
The Kelloggs discovered the wheat flake, but it took Charles W. Post to make Battle Creek the cereal city. After a less-than-satisfying stay at the San, this Illinois businessman opened his own spa in Battle Creek where he experimented with health foods. In 1895, Post introduced Postum Cereal Food Coffee, a caffeine-free coffee substitute created from wheat, bran and molasses.
One of the first entrepreneurs to use extensive retail promotion to sell a food product, Post placed advertisements in magazines and newspapers. The results were startling. Formed in 1896, the Postum Cereal Company was a multimillion-dollar operation by the turn of the century.
Others followed Post. In June 1902 a reporter visiting Battle Creek noted, “everyone has gone daft over [the] food cereal business.” At that time, there were more than thirty cereal firms offering a variety of breakfast foods whose claims often greatly exceeded their product.
One exception was W.K. Kellogg’s Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which was formed in 1906. Although a cautious man, W. K. was fearless when it came to advertising. Kellogg’s advertising campaigns proved legendary, most notably the Sweetheart of the Corn. The healthy, pretty, country girl (modernized over the years), along with Kellogg’s signature (“none genuine without this signature”) quickly moved Kellogg’s to the top of the breakfast cereal industry where it has remained for a century.
- John Harvey Kellogg from the Battle Creek Historical Society JH Kellogg coined the term “Sanitarium” and promoted the “Battle Creek Idea” ¬≠ that good health and fitness were the result of good diet, exercise, correct posture, fresh air and proper rest.
- Information on John Harvey Kellogg and W.K. Kellogg in Wikipedia
- Michigan Walk of Fame (WKK was an inaugural inductee)
- 2006 is the Kellogg Company’s 100th Anniversary and their commemorative site has a very cool Kellogg’s timeline (really, some grat old pictures and documents!)
Photo credit: Dr. J.H. Kellogg, LC-B2- 2939-15[P&P] (Print quality image in the Library of Congress)
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