John & Will Kellogg: American Revolutionary Entrepreneurs

John & Will Kellogg: American Revolutionary Entrepreneurs
Updated date:
May 04, 2022

Table of Contents

You wake up early in the morning, and you get a bowl of cereal and milk and wonder what you suppose you'd eat for breakfast if you lived at the turn of the century?

There were no special breakfast foods, and breakfast was the same as any other meal: meat and eggs. However, by the end of the 1800s, things had improved.

Everyone's morning started with a bowl of cereal. Aside from the various name-brand cereals available, people enjoy several sorts of grains. For example, there are crunchy, no-sugar, soggy, and marshmallows varieties.

Cerealsly Corny

The crunchy cereals are the most popular of all grains. These cereals come in various shapes and sizes, including stars, little spherical balls, and many more. These are the most popular in America because they do not go mushy when added to milk.

The crisp sensation of cereal on one's tongue enhances one's enjoyment of the bowl of cereal. Even if the bowl contains either too much or too little milk, the sensation of crunchy cereal by the last mouthful makes it preferred to most individuals.

We have John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg to thank for this breakfast convenience. Few people know how two Michigan brothers invented and promoted Kellogg's Corn Flakes, one of the most popular cereals in America.

Early Life

Family

The birth of the first flaked breakfast cereal in the small town of Battle Creek, Michigan, is a story of sibling rivalry, a new church, and a health-food obsession.

Pun time: ​​How much does a cornflake weigh? 1 Kelloggram.

William Keith Kellogg and John Harvey Kellogg

William Keith Kellogg and John Harvey Kellogg were brothers from Battle Creek, Michigan. The eldest Kellogg son, John Harvey, was born on February 26, 1852, in Tyrone, Michigan, and William Keith was born on April 7, 1860, to John Preston Kellogg (1806-1881) and Ann Janette Stanley (1824-1893).

John Preston, the Kellogg Patriarch, was born in Hadley, Massachusetts, and his family lineage may be traced back to the earliest days of Hadley when a great-grandfather ran a ferry.

In 1834, John Preston Kellogg and his family relocated to Michigan. This was after the death of his first wife and his remarriage in 1842, to a farm in Tyrone Township.

John Preston Kellogg and his second wife, Ann Janette Stanley, had five children, including John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother, William Keith Kellogg.

John Preston Kellogg had 11 children from both of his marriages; in addition to six children from his first marriage, John Preston Kellogg joined many revivalist organizations, including the Baptists, Congregationalists, and Seventh-day Adventists.

John Preston was one of four supporters who helped convince Seventh-day Adventists James Springer White and his wife Ellen G. White to relocate their publishing house to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1855. In Battle Creek, Michigan, John Preston Kellogg also founded a broom manufacturing business.

Education

They received little schooling as a Seventh-day Adventist family since their parents anticipated Christ's Second Coming to occur before they needed it. Still, John Harvey went on to get a medical degree later in life.

John Harvey Kellogg, generally referred to as his initials J. H. Kellogg, was an American entrepreneur, a medical doctor, nutritionist, health activist, eugenicist, and an inventor.

On the other hand, William Keith Kellogg, also known as W. K. Kellogg, was a food manufacturing industrialist and, later on, a successful entrepreneur.

The Kellogg family had a special diet. They were a Seventh-day Adventist Church member who followed vegetarianism's dietary practice, which included abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, no tea, coffee, or condiments, and only small amounts of eggs and dairy products as instructed by their church.

John Harvey was a zealous proponent of biological living. The Kellogg brothers helped in the garden and sold vegetables to make extra money to make ends meet.

Early Career

First Job Ventures

John Harvey Kellogg's dream was to be a teacher, and he began teaching at age 16 in Hastings, Michigan. At age 20, he enrolled in a teacher training program at Michigan State Normal School.

In contrast, the Kelloggs and Whites persuaded him to enroll in a six-month health care program at Russell Trall's Hygiene-Therapeutic College in Florence Township, New Jersey, with his half-brother Merritt Kellogg, Edson White, William C. White, and Jennie Trembley.

They trained doctors for the Adventist-inspired Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek. The Whites supported John Harvey Kellogg to attend medical school at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City and the University of Michigan. John Harvey Kellogg graduated in 1875 as a medical doctor.

Will Kellogg began his commercial career, and he worked at his father's broom factory when he was 10. Four years later, George H. King hired Will Kellogg at the request of James Springer White, better known as Elder White, to oversee his new broom factory in Dallas, Texas. 

Will took a new job as a salesman for the broom company later on, and he became very successful with his job.

The San

In October 1876, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was appointed director of the Western Health Reform Institute, which he later renamed Battle Creek Sanitarium. The name sanitarium was brilliantly coined to indicate hospital treatment and the need for sanitation and personal wellness. 

Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church founded the sanitarium. It drew inspiration from a European spa, a hydrotherapy facility, a hospital, and a high-end hotel. Kellogg's patients included the wealthy and renowned and the poverty-stricken who could not afford to go to another hospital.

Battlecreek Sanitarium
Battlecreek Sanitarium

In the late 1800s, his dietary counsel discouraged meat consumption, although not strongly. Dr. Kellogg was an early proponent of the germ hypothesis of illness, connecting intestinal flora and the presence of microorganisms in the intestines to health and sickness.

The microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea, that dwell in the digestive systems of vertebrates, including humans and insects, are referred to as gut microbiota. Other terms are gut microbiome and gut flora (an old word that properly relates to plants).

The gastrointestinal metagenome, also known as the microbiome, is the collection of all gut microbial genomes. The gut microbiota has many functions, including effects on colonization and pathogen resistance.

However, 99% of intestinal bacteria come from 30 to 40 different species. Bacteria also account for up to 60% of the dry bulk of feces. Over 99% of the bacteria in the gut are anaerobes; however, aerobic bacteria can reach significant concentrations in the cecum.

It is believed that the human gut microbiota contains a hundred times the number of genes found in the human genome.

In his published book, Plain Facts for Old and Young, he promoted circumcision to treat local uncleanliness (which he believed may lead to unchastity), phimosis, and masturbation in young boys.

Phimosis is a penile disorder that affects some adults and children who are not circumcised. Its foreskin cannot be pushed back if you have phimosis.

Your penis may appear to have rings around the tip. When it creates symptoms, it becomes an issue. This might occur when phimosis is severe and leaves a pinhole-sized opening.

Patents and Inventions

Food

John Harvey Kellogg created and sold a broad set of vegetarian cuisine. Many of them were designed to be easy to chew and digest, making them ideal for an invalid diet. Grains and other starchy foods were crushed and baked to increase the conversion of starch to dextrin. Nuts were cooked or steamed after being ground.

J. H. Kellogg's meals were likewise generally bland. John Harvey followed the advice of Ellen G. White and Sylvester Graham, who advocated for a bland diet to reduce excitement, sexual drive, and masturbation.

The Great Mistake

In November 1879, Will came home to assist his brother, John Harvey, in running the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The famed Battle Creek Sanitarium director, J. H. Kellogg, sought simple, healthy meals that were nutritious yet easier to stomach than bread.

A patient brought shredded wheat to the doctor's attention. Dr. Kellogg was meant to be intrigued, but the patients rejected the shredded wheat. "We'll make better meals," he said. Dr. Kellogg later acknowledged that he dreamed about compressing and flaking cooked grain. His attempts, however, were a failure.

The doctor then gave the experiments to his brother, W. K. Kellogg. Will would boil the wheat before running it through two eight-inch rollers and scraping off the dough with a chisel. That also didn't appear to work.

The Great Mistake

John Harvey Kellogg, who was essentially in charge of the Sanitarium, was summoned away from the kitchen and didn't return until Saturday night.

Upon returning, the brothers saw the mush was a little moldy and decided to put it through the rollers again, and much to their amazement came out in the form of huge, thin flakes. Each wheat berry produced a single flake. The flakes were baked and turned out crisp and flavorful if a little moldy.

Sibling Rivalry

Corn-flicts Pun

The Kelloggs company pioneered the method of producing flaked cereal because of the discovery's commercial potential, Will Kellogg. It was desired that it be kept a secret. However, John permitted anybody in the sanitarium to see the flaking process.

One of the sanitarium's visitors, C. W. Post, replicated the technique to start his own business. That enterprise grew into Post Cereals and, eventually, General Foods, which provided Post with his first million dollars. This infuriated Will to the point where he left the sanitarium to start his own company.

On May 31, 1895, John Harvey Kellogg received a patent for Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same, granted on April 14, 1896, as Patent No. 558,393. Notably, the patent pertained to a wide range of crops, not simply wheat.

The sole individual identified on the patent was John Harvey Kellogg. Will later claimed that he, not Ella, had collaborated with John and that he should have been given greater credit for the invention of flaked cereal.

In its first year of manufacturing, Kelloggs sold tens of thousands of pounds of flaked cereal under the brand name Granose.

They proceeded to experiment with rice and corn in addition to wheat, and in 1898, the first batch of Sanitas Toasted Corn Flakes was created. In 1902, an improved version with a longer shelf life was produced. Both Granose Biscuits and Granose Flakes were available at the time.

J. H. Kellogg and W. K. Kellogg had a long personal and professional feud after litigating in court over the rights to cereal recipes.

According to the Foundation for Economic Education, the nonagenarian J. H. Kellogg wrote a letter in an attempt to rekindle the friendship. His secretary determined that her boss had degraded himself in it and refused to submit it. It wasn't until after his brother's death that the younger Kellogg saw it.

The birth of W. K. Kellogg Company

Will Kellogg worked on developing and marketing flaked cereal. John did not accept a change in the flakes when he proposed adding sugar. As a result, Will started the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906.

This signaled the beginning of the brothers' decades-long enmity. Will's Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company grew into the Kellogg Company, but John was refused the right to use the Kellogg name.

The birth of W. K. Kellogg Company

They had some other competitors, such as C. W. Post. Between February 6 and November 9, 1891, Post was treated in the Battle Creek Sanitarium and then by Christian Scientists, whom he credits with his successful treatment.

In March 1892, he landed in Battle Creek and started his sanitarium, the LaVita Inn, and his own dry foods business, Post Holdings.

In 1895, Post began marketing Postum coffee alternatives. In January 1898, he introduced Grape-Nuts breakfast cereal, a yeast, barley, and wheat blend.

Post launched Elijah's Manna in January 1906, eventually rebranding it Post Toasties Double-Crisp Corn Flakes and promoting it as a direct competitor to Kellogg's Corn Flakes.‍

Will, the marketing genius

Will decided to bet everything on advertising. It became an essential expense in his budget. Because most grocers didn't carry his product, he couldn't ask readers to buy it.

Instead, he distributed coupons for free samples and requested women to lobby their local supermarkets to carry Kellogg's corn flakes so that the vouchers could be used.

He published a similar ad in 17 journals with nearly six million readers in October 1906. "The original bears this signature—W. K. Kellogg," read the headline on every new ad. Will was not vain; he desired to distinguish himself from his brother and imitators.

Skeptics informed Will that his corn flakes would never become a national product unless he captured the New York market. "Wednesday is 'Wink Day' in New York," he responded with a daring and risqué ad. 

Wednesday is 'Wink Day' in New York

The grocers in New York will give away a box of Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes to every homemaker who winks at them on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, June 5, 1907, Will published the ads in all major New York newspapers for the first time. Will's monthly sales in New York increased from two to over thirty carloads thanks to the Wink Day campaign.

His corn flake company was the first to provide nutrition information on food labels and the first entrepreneur to give away the first inside-the-box reward to children. "I'm going to invest in people," Kellogg stated. That included his company employees, not just consumers.

December 1, 1930, started the Great Depression that threatened the severe worldwide economic depression.

W. K. Kellogg changed the regular three daily eight-hour hours at his cereal production to four six-hour shifts. By establishing a second shift, he and his management produced positions for employees laid off by other businesses and other jobless people in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Will Kellogg's six-hour day culminated in a century-long effort that slashed working time in half.

Kellogg Management, driven by a vision of Liberation Capitalism, argued that six hours would transform society by changing the balance of time away from labor and toward leisure—away from economic concerns and the challenge of freedom.

The Great Depression (1929 to 1939) was the most significant economic collapse in the history of the industrialized world. The October 1929 stock market crisis arose, throwing Wall Street into a frenzy and wiping out millions of investors.

Over the following several years, consumer spending and investment fell, resulting in sharp drops in industrial production and employment as faltering businesses had to lay off their employees.

The Great Depression had reached its lowest economic point by 1933; 15 million Americans were out of work, and almost half of the country's banks had collapsed.

Other Ventures

Arabian horse breeder

WK Kellogg purchased 377 acres (153 hectares) in Pomona, California, for $250,000 to start an Arabian horse ranch. Not only did the horse ranch become well known in southern California for its horse breeding program but also for its weekly horse shows.

Kellogg donated the horse ranch, which had grown to 750 acres (304 hectares), to the University of California in 1932. The US War Department took over the ranch, and it became the Pomona Quartermaster Depot during World War II.

Later in 1949, land title to the then 813-acre (329-hectare) ranch was transferred to the State of California, with the condition that the Arabian horse herd must be maintained.

The Kellogg ranch became well-known in southern California for its horse breeding program and its entertaining weekly horse displays, which were available to the public and visited by many Hollywood celebrities.

Peanut butter

John Harvey Kellogg is one of the numerous persons credited for having invented peanut butter. Before October 1895, patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium were provided some nut butter, most likely prepared with peanuts.

In 1895, John Harvey Kellogg was the first to apply for two patents on nut butter. George Washington Carver is widely regarded for his scientific work with peanuts and his encouragement of their use. 

J. H. Kellogg advertised nut butter as a nutritious protein alternative for persons who had difficulties digesting solid food. Through the Sanitas Nut Food Company, John Kellogg began marketing nut-based foods in 1898.

Since peanuts were the cheapest nut, they quickly dominated the nut butter market. John Kellogg offered nut butter as a nutritious protein replacement for people who had difficulty chewing solid food.

Meat substitutes

In 1901, J. H. Kellogg received the first US Patent for a vegetable alternative for meat for Protose, a combination of nuts and grain cereals. The first meat substitutes were protose and nuttose. Charles William Dabney influenced Kellogg's interest in meat substitutes.

In its application for US Patent No. for Vegetable-food Compound, J. H. Kellogg described Protose as a food with a similar or enhanced nutritional value in an equally or more available form. Various meat-like flavors are developed by controlling the temperature and proportions of the ingredients.

The resulting product has a very distinctive flavor.

Other foods

John Harvey Kellogg also developed the first acidophilus soy milk in 1934 and imitation meats made of nuts, grains, and soy.

Kellogg recommended it for bottle-fed babies to boost their intestinal life and combat bowel infections. Dr. Kellogg's most famous patients were the Dionne quintuplets. Upon learning that Marie had a bowel infection, Kellogg sent Allan Roy Dafoe a case of his soy acidophilus.

Following Marie's recovery, Dafoe requested Kellogg send an ongoing supply of quintuplets. Each consumed at least a pint a day by 1937. Arctic explorer Richard E. Byrd was another famous patient who was helped by soy acidophilus.

Also available from Kellogg were yogurt, soy flour, and soy bread.

Medical inventions

Dr. Kellogg's medical innovations ranged from a hot air bath to a vibrating chair, oscillomanipulator, window tent for fresh air, and loofah mitt.

He specialized in gynecological surgery (especially hemorrhoidectomies and ovariotomies) and gastrointestinal surgery. He also created light therapy, mechanical exercise, appropriate breathing, and hydrotherapy equipment.

Some of his ideas were used in the RMS Titanic's first-class gymnasium. In his book The Home Handbook of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, initially published in 1881, Dr. Kellogg aimed to promote these therapeutic procedures, including electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, and motor therapy.

Kellogg made no deliberate efforts to capitalize on his medical breakthroughs.

Kellogg made no deliberate efforts to capitalize on his medical breakthroughs.

Philanthropy

As Will Kellogg reached 70, he focused more on philanthropy than business. He admitted, "I never intended to become extraordinarily wealthy," but he had become one of America's wealthiest and most famous individuals.

W. K. Kellogg Foundation

He donated around $66 million, or the majority of his money, to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in the 1930s to help him organize his philanthropy.

W. K. Kellogg's philanthropic efforts

W. K. Kellogg's philanthropic efforts are credited with establishing California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) and Kellogg College, Oxford.

Recognition and Legacy

J. H. Kellogg was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for his discovery of tempering and development of the first dry flaked breakfast cereal, which changed the conventional American breakfast.

Kellogg's new product

As for Will Kellogg, he dominated his competitors by introducing new products such as Rice Krispies and All-Bran; he improved the crunch and quality of corn flakes, and he improved his packaging and marketing.

Despite its size and scope, Kellogg's company continues to be significant to the world fifty years after his death. As of October 15, 2021, Kellogg's net worth is $21.06B with 31,000 employees. It acquired Keebler in 2001 for $3.87 billion, and Chicago-based food company Rxbar purchased it in 2017 for $654 million.

It has also developed Morningstar Farms and Kashi divisions or subsidiaries over the years. Bear Naked, Natural Touch, Cheez-It, Murray, Austin cookies and crackers, Famous Amos, Gardenburger (bought 2007), and Plantation are Kellogg's other brands.

Kellogg's is currently a member of the World Cocoa Foundation. It also acquired the potato crisps brand Pringles from Procter & Gamble for $2.7 billion in cash in 2012, making it the world's second-largest snack food company (behind PepsiCo).

Will revolutionized people's breakfast habits all around the country, and his name became well-known. His electric billboards illuminated new York City. Corn flakes were consumed all across the world.

Recognition and Legacy

Personal Life

Both Kellogg brothers fell in love with a woman of the same name but not of the same person.

After arriving at the San, John met a woman visiting a patient there. Ella Eaton was a nurse, and her knowledge impressed John as they had common interests together.

John offered Ella a position to work at the San, and she accepted. They eventually fell in love while working together, leading to marriage on February 22, 1879.

J. H. Kellogg spent the final 30 years advocating for eugenics. He co-founded the Race Betterment Foundation, co-organized many National Conferences on Race Betterment, and sought to establish a eugenics registry.

Along with opposing 'racial mixing,' Kellogg advocated sterilizing mentally defective people,' supporting a eugenics agenda while on the Michigan Board of Health, and helping to incorporate authorization to fix individuals deemed mentally faulty' into state statutes during his tenure.

John Harvey Kellogg served and led Battle Creek Sanitarium until his death on December 14, 1943.

William Keith Kellogg was best known as the founder of the Kellogg Company, which makes cereals popular all over the world. In addition, he founded the Kellogg Arabian Ranch, which produces Arabian horses. Kellogg was a generous philanthropist who established the Kellogg Foundation in 1934.

Will married his childhood sweetheart, Ella Osborn Davis. On November 3, 1881, the couple married and had five children together. Karl Hugh, John Leonard, William Keith Elizabeth Ann, and Ervin Hadley. William and Ervin passed away when they were very young.

Will Kellogg outlived most of his children but was survived by two of them, Karl Hugh (died 1955) and Elizabeth Ann (died 1966), as well as grandson Norman Williamson, Jr. (died 2001) and Will Keith Kellogg II (died 2005).

On October 6, 1951, Will Keith Kellogg died at the age of 91 of circulatory illness in his hometown, ​​Battle Creek, Michigan.

Key Takeaways

How do you measure success?

We can learn a lot from the Kellogg Brothers and apply it positively and learn from what happened negatively.

John Harvey Kellogg was compassionate and allowed other people to take advantage of him and steal his hard work in discovery. In retrospect, we can share our resources in the business world, but only when it is at their finished product.

This is why the secret recipe of our grandma's home-cooked meals tastes even more delicious because we know that it is the beginning of your legacy when passed down to generations. Don't let other people rob you of your opportunity to build your family's legacy.

Will Keith Kellogg was right to be exclusive. We can learn from them that entrepreneurs do not always turn an abstract notion into reality when starting a new business. Sometimes people have a good break and come up with a great idea, which they subsequently develop into a commercial success.

However, successful entrepreneurs always acknowledge that money cannot replace family. His advertising boldness and extraordinary leadership are admirable. Imagine how much they could solidify the Kellogg legacy if they did it together.

As a rising entrepreneur, don't waste time dwelling on the past. Sometimes, forgiveness and reconciliation will open new opportunities. With two ideas and brains combined, endless ideas and possibilities could pour in. 

Regrets always come last. We know that success is enjoyed when spent with meaningful people, primarily when you have worked closely with them.

Success isn't measured by money. Success usually comes with what money cannot buy–family, peace of mind, time, good health, friendship, and loyalty.

Do you agree?

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