The Kelloggs

The Kelloggs

The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"What's more American than Corn Flakes'" -Bing Crosby From the much admired medical historian ("Markel shows just how compelling the medical history can be"-Andrea Barrett) and author of An Anatomy of Addiction ("Absorbing, vivid"-Sherwin Nuland, The New York Times Book Review, front page)-the story of America's empire builders: John and Will Kellogg. John Harvey Kellogg was one of America's most beloved physicians; a best-selling author, lecturer, and health-magazine publisher; founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium; and patron saint of the pursuit of wellness. His youngest brother, Will, was the founder of the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which revolutionized the mass production of food and what we eat for breakfast. In The Kelloggs, Howard Markel tells the sweeping saga of these two extraordinary men, whose lifelong competition and enmity toward one another changed America's notion of health and wellness from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, and who helped change the course of American medicine, nutrition, wellness, and diet. The Kelloggs were of Puritan stock, a family that came to the shores of New England in the mid-seventeenth century, that became one of the biggest in the county, and then renounced it all for the religious calling of Ellen Harmon White, a self-proclaimed prophetess, and James White, whose new Seventh-day Adventist theology was based on Christian principles and sound body, mind, and hygiene rules-Ellen called it "health reform." The Whites groomed the young John Kellogg for a central role in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and sent him to America's finest Medical College. Kellogg's main medical focus-and America's number one malady: indigestion (Walt Whitman described it as "the great American evil"). Markel gives us the life and times of the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his world-famous Battle Creek Sanitarium medical center, spa, and grand hotel attracted thousands actively pursuing health and well-being. Among the guests: Mary Todd Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Johnny Weissmuller, Dale Carnegie, Sojourner Truth, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and George Bernard Shaw. And the presidents he advised: Taft, Harding, Hoover, and Roosevelt, with first lady Eleanor. The brothers Kellogg experimented on malt, wheat, and corn meal, and, tinkering with special ovens and toasting devices, came up with a ready-to-eat, easily digested cereal they called Corn Flakes. As Markel chronicles the Kelloggs' fascinating, Magnificent Ambersons-like ascent into the pantheon of American industrialists, we see the cast changes in American social mores that took shape in diet, health, medicine, philanthropy, and food manufacturing during seven decades-changing the lives of millions and helping to shape our industrial age.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307948373
Characteristics: 1 online resource

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Dec 28, 2019

I really enjoyed this book by medical historian, Howard Markel. It was lively, and it explains so much about our cultural story in America. He creates a colorful narrative of both famous Kelloggs in a way that appreciates both their many quirks as well as the serious contributions they made. While Will moves out of the shadows of his dynamic brother to become the captain of America's brand new convenience food industry, John Kellogg builds a health empire that draws to his Sanitarium nearly every person of importance in the early 20th century.

Usually we hear about the considerable flaws and eccentricities of Dr. Kellogg, but it's also true that he was likely the father of the modern fitness movement, health food industry, vegetarianism, and also was on the cutting edge of medical sciences like surgical technique. Don't let anyone tell you that Hippies invented health food...these guys were at it many decades beforehand.

Markel studied the personal writings of these men and writes a balanced narrative, in my opinion. He also does not shy away from discussing their roots in the brand new Seventh Day Adventist religion, nor of his personal rivalries with its co-founder, Ellen White, and he does so with sensitivity but candor.

All in all I think the book provides fascinating insights into multiple dimensions (medical, religious, industrial, sociological) of this time in history, along with a real appreciation for the influence left behind to this day by both of these men.

Apr 12, 2019

This book was about a fascinating, but sad, story of two very talented siblings. The author did a very poor job of editing the copious amount of material about their lives down to something that would make a compelling read. It was one of the most boring books I've ever read.

Sep 23, 2017

I have a much better appreciation of what it takes to put "simple" things like breakfast cereal on a store shelf.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SCCLD

To Top