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Battle Creek and Health Reform
by Richard A. Schaefer,
Excerpt from LLUMC Legacy: Daring
John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., influenced the worldwide development and
philosophy of Seventh-day Adventist medicine more than did anyone except
G. White. He also provided early scientific evidence to document
much of Mrs. White's counsel on health. One of America's first bio statisticians
and greatest health educators, Kellogg made major contributions to
the health of the nation over the years.
Kellogg, the Speaker
To promote "biologic living," Kellogg spoke to hundreds of
thousands of Americans throughout the nation in over five thousand
public lectures. He spoke in Chicago's Central Music Hall. He addressed
in the open air in the Toledo, Ohio, municipal park at the request
of reform Mayor Samuel M. "Golden Rule" Jones. He lectured
at Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, Tuskegee Institute,
Stanford University, Boston College of Physicians and Surgeons, and
numerous other places. He outlined health practices to seven thousand
in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City at the request of Mormon
President Wilford Woodruff. This led to lectures at the Salt Lake City
Club and the University of Utah. 1
Mrs. Mary F. Henderson, a prominent Washington hostess and wife of
Missouri Senator John Brooke Henderson, was one of Kellogg's converts
living. "Following a Kellogg lecture in the nation's capital,
Mrs. Henderson poured all the contents of her famous wine cellar, reputed
to be the finest in the city, into the gutter. Later she sent her chef
to Battle Creek to learn how to cook the proper kind of vegetarian
foods. " 2
Kellogg coined the phrase "biologic living" to sum up the
system of healthful living he spent his life promoting—a system
that, generally speaking, reflected the influence of the health counsels
of Ellen White and of the era's most sensible health reformers. To
people stay well and prevent disease he taught obedience to natural
law as a moral duty, necessary to physical and mental health. Biologic
also required total abstinence from alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco,
and animal flesh. It included proper diet, adequate rest and exercise,
air, healthful dress, and (in case of illness) simple, natural remedies.
Around 1891 Kellogg told Dr. David Paulson how the Battle Creek Sanitarium
was able to keep five years ahead of the rest of the medical profession.
If something new was advocated, he instantly adopted it if, from his
knowledge of Mrs. White's writings, it was sound. When other physicians
finally accepted it, after slowly feeling their way, Kellogg had a
five-year head start. On the other hand, Kellogg rejected some of the
fads because they did not measure up to the light given Mrs. White.
When other doctors finally discovered their mistake, they wondered
had not been caught as they had. 4
Kellogg, the Author
Because Kellogg realized that his spoken words could be forgotten,
for seventy years he also promoted his views in print. During that
published nearly fifty books, one of them 1,680 pages in length. His
most comprehensive book on nutrition was The New Dietetics. Henry T.
Finck, an editor of the New York Evening Post, said that in his opinion
Kellogg's research for the book qualified him for a Nobel Prize as
saver." Philosopher Will Durant, himself a Pulitzer Prize winner,
wrote that the book was one of the one hundred best books ever published.
Kellogg's books had a circulation of over a million copies. Some were
the first authoritative scientific works ever published in America
in their respective fields and were used as textbooks in public schools.
Kellogg, the Surgeon
Kellogg came to be recognized as one of the nation's leading surgeons.
He studied with a number of American and European specialists. In 1889
he spent about five months assisting Dr. Lawson Tait in Birmingham,
England. At the time, Tait, whose specialty was abdominal and gynecological
had performed a record 116 successive surgeries without a single fatality.
This record was unusual in a day when physicians expected 15 to 20
percent of patients undergoing abdominal surgery to die. Tait's record
in the United States for five years until Kellogg, using Tait's methods
plus his own distinctive biologic regimens (special pre- and post-surgery
diet and aftercare), set a new record: 165 successive abdominal surgeries
without a fatality. 7
Kellogg also visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which
was at the time the chief center for experimental surgery in America.
he won the friendship of Drs. Will and Charles Mayo. The Mayos quickly
recognized Kellogg's abilities. Charles Mayo amazed one of his patients
during an examination by saying, "I see that Dr. Kellogg performed
an earlier operation for you."
You are right," was the startled reply, "but how could you
know who had done the operation?"
That's easy," replied Mayo. "The scar is small and neat,
just like a signature." 8
The Mayo brothers spent several days observing the methods used at the
Battle Creek Sanitarium. By that time Kellogg's surgical skills had been
officially recognized by his election to the American College of Surgeons.
Some of Kellogg's surgical skills resulted from the manual dexterity
he cultivated throughout his career. In odd moments and while traveling
by train, he often practiced making small stitches on a piece of cloth,
to improve his speed and accuracy in closing a wound. 9
After the turn of the century Kellogg limited his career almost entirely
to gastrointestinal surgery. By so doing, he performed the complicated
procedures much faster than did most surgeons of his time. He was
careful, however, that speed did not interfere with precision. After
Kellogg perform nine surgeries in rapid succession, Dr. Howard A.
Kelly remarked that Kellogg had just performed some of the most skillful
he had ever seen. Kelly himself was one of America's foremost abdominal
surgeons, a member of the renowned surgical team at Johns Hopkins
University Medical School.
During his lifetime Kellogg performed more than 22,000 operations,
the last when he was eighty-eight years of age. 10
Kellogg, the Dress Reformer
Throughout his career, Kellogg insisted that optimum health and proper
dress are closely associated. He took particular exception to the
corset, which he firmly believed displaced the internal organs and interfered
with their healthy function. Some nineteenth-century physiologists,
observing that men breathed with their entire chest while women used
only the upper part of the chest, concluded that perhaps this was
due to an inherent difference between men and women. Kellogg strongly disagreed,
saying that it was the corset that prevented women from breathing
Kellogg persuaded many of his female patients to ignore fashion and
discard their corsets.
One evening Mrs. Kellogg's beautiful collie came to walk Kellogg
home from work. Deciding to perform a little experiment, Kellogg
brand new pink corset discarded by one of his patients and tightly
around the dog's big chest. Just as Kellogg began observing the effect
on the animal's respiration, someone knocked on the door. Not wanting
his visitor to see the pet in its new garb, Kellogg stepped into
the outer office. When he returned, the collie was gone. Kellogg
great believer in breathing fresh air, and his office windows were
on that warm summer evening. The dog, not entirely devoted to the
advancement of medical science, had jumped out a window and had run
all the way
from the Sanitarium to Kellogg's home wearing the pink corset. Kellogg
mounted his bicycle and rode home, where he was met by a reproachful
Mrs. Kellogg. "He soon decided it was the better part of wisdom
to abandon the experiment." 11
Kellogg on Vegetarianism
One of Kellogg's greatest contributions to healthful living was his
emphasis on a vegetarian diet. "Of all the factors necessary
to maintain health, Kellogg believed that a proper diet was the most
" No food came under more sustained attack by Dr. Kellogg than meat of
any kind. He argued that, contrary to public opinion, its free use
lessened rather than promoted physical strength. To help persuade
were] unaffected by fear of the physiological risks of meat-eating,
Dr. Kellogg added moral and religious arguments.
He contended that the taking of any kind of life tended to brutalize
human instincts and, in effect,
accustomed man to 'murder and violence.' A careful study of the early
chapters of Genesis, he maintained, should convince sincere Christians
and Jews that God had not intended for men to eat meat originally,
but had only allowed its use after the Noachian flood." 12 when
all vegetation was destroyed. Kellogg often emphasized that God's
to eat meat was granted on the condition that it be free from blood.
Basing his ideas on certain Scriptures (Leviticus 7:26-27; Deuteronomy
12:16, 23; 15:23), Kellogg said a person should eat no meat until
he had washed out all the blood (thus, of course, also removing most
The increase of disease in domestic animals gave Kellogg additional
evidence against meat. To dramatize his point, Kellogg sent for a
from the Post Tavern, Battle Creek's most exclusive restaurant. He
then directed a Sanitarium bacteriologist to subject the steak—and
also some fresh barnyard manure—to microscopic examination.
There were more harmful germs in the beefsteak. Kellogg also demonstrated
cooking did not destroy all the germs. 13
However, in those days most people did not know the meaning of the
word "germs." After
looking through a microscope one woman asked Kellogg, "How large
Trying to help her appreciate the size of a germ, he answered, "If
we were to lay twenty thousand of them in a row, they would measure
approximately one inch."
Oh," replied the woman, "I am not afraid of them little fellers. " 14
The Jungle Supports Kellogg
Shortly after the turn of the century, muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote
his famous novel, The Jungle, which exposed unsanitary practices
of the meat-packing industry. Public pressure for governmental inspection
many people, that with more careful inspection, meat would soon become
acceptable for human consumption. To enhance its image and to reassure
the American public, the packing industry circulated a jingle entitled, "And
He Ate Meat!"
Methuselah ate what he found on his plate,
And never, as people do now, Did he note the amounts of the calorie
He ate it because it was chow. He wasn't disturbed as at dinner
[Devouring] a roast or a pie,
To think it was lacking in granular fat,
Or a couple of vitamins shy.
He cheerfully chewed every species of food,
Untroubled by worries or fears,
Lest his health might be hurt by some fancy dessert,
And he lived over nine hundred years!
Since boyhood Kellogg had enjoyed
writing poetry. He quickly challenged such misrepresentation by writing
a jingle entitled, "Methuselah's
What Methuselah ate
Was not on a plate,
For plates were not yet invented.
He ate Paradise meat,
And thus old age prevented.
For Paradise meat
Was delicious to eat,
And kept him in finest condition.
And 'twas hung on trees,
And not made to please
The deadly Live Stock Commission.15
Kellogg and the meat-packers
locked horns several times, once after the meat-packing industry had
arranged for the U.S. Department
of Agriculture to prepare a poster depicting meat as a highly
desirable food. Copies
were displayed in every post office. Kellogg thought this was
of taxpayers' money and immediately protested. At his own expense,
printed a large number of the same posters with a conspicuous
message at the bottom: "See the other side." On the reverse
side, Kellogg listed meats that he had subjected to microscopic examination
Sanitarium laboratories, along with the number of colon germs
gram found in each, compared with the number of colon germs per
barnyard manure. The manure contained fewer germs than did several
kinds of meat.
Now it was the meat-packers' turn to be furious. They lodged
a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to secure an injunction
Kellogg from circulating the "revised" posters. Kellogg
was delighted. Public hearings would give him a greater opportunity
to expose the unfitness
of meat as a food. The government sent a lawyer to Battle Creek
to research the case. After seeing Kellogg's evidence, the lawyer
decided to drop
the whole matter. Kellogg happened to see the attorney several
weeks later in a Chicago hotel lobby. "You know, Doctor," said
the attorney, "I haven't tasted meat since I saw you in
Battle Creek!" 16
Kellogg emphasized that man's natural diet was vegetables, fruits,
nuts, and grains; and he widely advocated such a diet. "To
the religious, he would refer to the early chapters of Genesis,
where the Creator provided
the first man with a diet of fruits and seeds. If he was speaking
to the non-religious or more secular, especially those inclined
the Darwinist view of man's origin, Kellogg would stress the
similarity between the digestive tract of the great apes and
that of man. Gorillas,
orangutans, and the other higher primates, he pointed out, were
all natural vegetarians." 17 He also demonstrated
the economic folly of producing meat, noting that it takes one
of grain to produce
three pounds of beefsteak-grain that could have been used for
vary the vegetarian diets of his patients, Dr. Kellogg invented
some grain and nutfood products, including peanut butter and
One day Kellogg was walking past the Sanitarium's kitchen when
he smelled something burning. He burst into the kitchen and saw
the young man
who was supposed to be roasting some peanuts was instead visiting
with his girlfriend. Kellogg reproved the young man for burning
and informed him that he would have to pay for the nuts. Salvaging
the remnants of his pride and the peanuts, the young fellow walked
As he entered the house, one of the peanuts fell to the floor.
He was still so upset that he picked up a nearby hammer and smashed
He noticed that instead of shattering as he had expected, the
peanut turned into a strange-looking paste. He sprinkled several
on the floor, hit them all with the hammer, and they all responded
way. He scraped up the paste, put it on a platter, walked to
Kellogg's office, and waited outside the door. Kellogg would
not see him.
was a busy man.
Just as Kellogg charged toward surgery, the young man held out
the platter for Kellogg to inspect. Kellogg paused and asked, "What's
Peanut butter," the boy replied. Kellogg tasted it with his finger
and liked it. "Take it to the kitchen," he said. "I'll
give you fifty dollars for that platter." And so, under
Kellogg's direction, peanut butter was made and sold in downtown
shortly thereafter. 19
Dr. Kellogg's Cornflakes and New Food Products
One day a female patient broke one of her dental plates on a
piece of zwieback (toast). Kellogg decided to develop a precooked
many hours with some steel rollers and steamed wheat, inventing
wheat flakes, then cornflakes, and eventually beginning the flaked
cereal industry of America. However, it was his brother, W. K.
Kellogg, who made it an international industry.
A semi-charity patient named C. W. Post, with his wife, often
visited the Sanitarium's experimental food laboratory. An employee
their curiosity to Kellogg and said he suspected that the Posts
to copy Kellogg's techniques and develop their own product. When
it was suggested that they be barred from the laboratory, Kellogg
The more people there are who make such products, the more there
are who are likely to use them. That is the important thing. " 20
Until his hospitalization, Post had sold his wife's homemade
suspenders door to door. Then, apparently copying Kellogg's recipe,
dollars Mr. Post started his own breakfast cereal industry, which
today makes Post Toasties and many other products.
One of the most popular of the eighty foods Kellogg invented
was Caramel Cereal Coffee. Although Kellogg called it "a
very poor substitute for a very poor thing," it was selling
about one ton a day when C. W. Post began promoting a similar
product called Postum. Through
extensive and clever advertising Post captured the coffee substitute
time he built a fortune on products with which he had become
acquainted at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. 21
More Kellogg Inventions
Early in his career Kellogg became interested in mechanical exercisers.
He invented a simple vibrating chair by attaching an ordinary
wooden armchair to a small platform that oscillated twenty times
He believed that the resulting vibrations increased the circulation
In the 1890s Kellogg organized the Sanitarium Equipment Company,
which constructed a variety of devices to increase the circulation
of the blood,
to improve digestion, and to aid in weight reduction. Some were
his inventions; others originally invented by Gustav Zander,
Kellogg adapted and improved.
These devices included, for example, a bar to vibrate the hands,
arms, upper spine, and head; a revolving ribbed cylinder for
to the bottom of the feet; and a vibrating belt, which has become
standard equipment for weight-reducing salons. 23
In 1894, after a decade of research, Kellogg perfected the Universal
Dynamometer, a strength-testing device. His dynamometers were
used in physical education programs at West Point, the University
Wisconsin, Yale University, and other colleges. In 1907 Admiral
A. P. Niblack,
commander of the naval squadron at Annapolis, visited Battle
Creek to purchase two dynamometers for the Naval Academy and
use. For the next twenty-five years, every cadet took dynamometer
For several years, Kellogg developed statistical averages for
the strength of different muscle groups. Thus, he could determine
extent to which
a patient's strength varied from the averages and could prescribe
specific exercises to strengthen the weak muscles. 25
To provide the therapeutic benefits of the sun during the almost
sunless Michigan winters, Kellogg devised and installed a large
arc lights capable of tanning the skin in minutes. 26 Other Kellogg inventions
included: the menthol inhaler to clear nasal passages; his own
electric blanket (not developed for public sale); and the mechanical
by President Calvin Coolidge for daily exercise in the White
John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. -- brilliant administrator, medical
pioneer, enthusiastic speaker, influential author and publisher,
surgeon, zealous dress reformer, persuasive health educator,
inventor — through
his God-given talents contributed much to the Adventist church
and to the world. And during the mid-1870s and '80s, through
the Battle Creek Sanitarium grew into a school for educating
scores of nurses, physicians, and other health professionals.
All contents copyright © 1999 Loma Linda University. All rights
Revised March 18,2001
1. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., p. 85.
2. Ibid., p. 86.
3. Ibid., p. 37.
4. A Prophet Among You, pp. 491-92.
5. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., p. 90.
6. Good Health, January 1944.
8. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., pp. 111-12.
9. Ibid., p. 112.
10. Ibid., p. 113.
11. Ibid., p. 57.
12. Ibid., pp. 37-38. (Italics added.)
13. Ibid., p. 38.
14. Good Health, January 1944.
15. These two poems are published in John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., pp.
16. Ibid., pp. 40-41.
17. Ibid., p. 43.
18. Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 3 (1972), p. 365.
See also Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 22, (1970) p. 935.
19. Local folklore as told to Oliver L. Jacques, former chaplain at
the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
20. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., p. 123.
21. Ibid., p. 122.
22. Ibid., p. 124.
24. Ibid., p. 125.
26. Good Health, January 1944.