Friday, February 26, 2010

February 26: John Harvey Kellogg, Crown Prince of Cereal

Very likely most Americans recognize the name – it’s seen every time one visits the breakfast cereal section of the grocery store. But the man behind the development of a new style of food for breakfast cereals was a pioneer in the wellness movement - but not a partner in the company that made corn flake cereal famous.

John Harvey Kellogg was born on February 26, 1852, in Tyrone, New York. He would move to Battle Creek, Michigan at an early age with his parents, John Preston and Ann Jeanette Stanley Kellogg. His parents were devout Seventh-day Adventists, and this would have a bearing on John Kellogg’s life, occupation, and fame. His father operated a broom factory there where Kellogg would work with his father. He also served as a ‘printer’s devil’ in various publishing houses in Battle Creek.

He had a public education, working his way through the public schools of Battle Creek, then attending Russell T. Trall’s Hygeio-Therapeutic College for five months, then Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University), and finally receiving a M.D. degree from the New York University Medical College at Bellevue Hospital – where Kellogg graduated at the age of 23 in 1875. Some credit the beginning of biomedicine to Kellogg, based on his graduation thesis What Is Disease? – which reflected the natural hygiene beliefs of his mentor, Russell Trall.

He would continue his education by studying in Europe at various times between 1883 and 1911. His movement into the medical profession was promoted and provided for by two people he had worked for as a teenager: James and Ellen White, two of the founding members of the Seventh day Adventist church. As a physician, Kellogg would become an advocate of the views of the Adventist Church, especially those considering the dietary approach to healthy living.

He would start editing the Adventist’s Health Reformer newsletter in 1872, and after graduation from medical school he began working at the Adventist’s Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek. He was twenty-four years old when he became the superintendent of it in 1876, and would rename it the Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1878, designing it as a place where people could learn how to stay well. Eventually the ‘Sans’ would become a center for the rich and famous to visit. He also renamed the Health Reformer, which became the Good Health magazine.

He married Ella Eaton of Alfred Center, New York, on February 22, 1879. While the couple was childless, they made a goal of providing funds for the education of deserving children, and would virtually raise about forty children in their fifty-room home before Ella died in 1920. Over the years the Kellogg’s would adopt seven of the children.

At ‘Sans’ Kellogg would advocate a health program consisting mainly of a gain-based vegetarian diet. He also advocated things that we hear about today: diet, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, good posture, and dress, along with hydrotherapy. He was an early holistic doctor – practicing a plan for wellness in a time when antibiotics were largely unheard of. He took an early stand against caffeine, meat, alcohol, and tobacco. Some of his ideas can be found in the forward to a booklet titled “The Simple Life In A Nutshell”:

“Biologic living means health, comfort, efficiency, long life.

It means good digestion, sound sleep, a clear head, a placid mind, content and joy to be alive.

Live out of doors. Do your work under the trees instead of behind doors and opaque walls. Dig in the garden, explore the woods and hills. Follow the brooks, watch the squirrels in their gambols and learn the songs of the birds.

Fix up a sleeping porch or balcony and so take an outing all night long and every night, and don't move inside when frost comes. Outdoor sleeping is the best life-preserver known.

And live on the "fat of the land." Forget breakfast foods and culinary delicacies. Abjure flesh pots and "sea food." Find your whole bill of fare in the garden,—peaches, apples, luscious grapes, plums and pears, lettuce, green corn, celery, greens, tomatoes, melons, nuts, and all the rest of the luxuries which Mother Earth supplies. Revel in salads and berries, and green stuffs untouched by fire. These dainty foods abound in vitamins, and vitamins are the real elixir of life discovered at last in this twentieth century.”

Concerning the importance of grains in a vegetarian diet, Kellogg wrote that natural "foods abound in vitamins, and vitamins are the real elixir of life discovered at last in this twentieth century."
Kellogg’s medical and philosophical background – as well as a timely accident - created the momentum for him and his brother, Will, to form the Sanitas Food Company in 1897. The invention of flaked grain-based cereal occurred through an accident. The two brothers had invented several foods made from grains. The grains were forced through rollers to make long sheets of dough. One day they were called away while cooking wheat and when they returned, the wheat seemed over cooked. However, they decided to put the wheat through the rollers anyway – and each wheat berry was flattened into a thin flake. They had discovered ‘flaked’ cereals.

The typical breakfast of the wealthy in the late 19th century was eggs and meat (while the poor had porridge, gruel, and other boiled grains), the Kellogg’s would advocate whole grain cereals as the major breakfast diet. They were not the first to produce a dry cereal – that honor goes to Dr. James Caleb Jackson who created the first dry breakfast cereal, which he called Granula, in 1863. But they did bring corn flakes and wheat flakes to the dry breakfast cereal market.

Unfortunately, older John Kellogg treated his less-educated and younger brother Will more as an employee than a partner. That, combined with Will wanting to add sugar to the corn flakes, led to a split between the two brothers. In 1906, Will started his own company, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which eventually became the Kellogg Company, triggering a decades-long feud over the rights to cereal recipes. John then formed the Battle Creek Food Company to develop and market soy products.

Kellogg was also an inventor, receiving over thirty patents for his various inventions. These inventions included the electric blanket, the universal dynamometer (for testing the strength of muscles), and the electric light bath – as well as some improved medical instruments for the surgeons to use.

He also was a prodigious author, writing over fifty books concerning health advocacy, as well as numerous magazine articles. He also promoted what he believed in, becoming one of the primary founders in Battle Creek of the American Medical Missionary College and the Battle Creek College. He also organized a School of Home Economics and a School of Physical Education – carrying his beliefs into the classroom.

He continued his practice as a skilled surgeon into his seventies, and often operated with no fee on those who could not afford surgery. He warned that smoking caused cancer – decades before the link was discovered.

While he had been highly involved with the Seventh Day Adventist Church for 2/3rds of his life, the church would expel him in 1907 due to his divergent views on the Bible and his belief in pantheism, the belief that there is a divine presence in all living things. As the twentieth century got underway, he had split from his family, forsaken the use of the Kellogg name on cereal products, and split from his church.

With the coming of the Great Depression, the ‘Sans’ would fall on hard times, and go into receivership, and Kellogg’s Battle Creek Food Company would fall on hard times. Also, many of his more extreme ideas would be increasingly criticized by the public and the press.

Kellogg was on his deathbed when he tried to reconcile with his brother – even writing a letter admitting that he had been wrong in his earlier treatment of Will, and in fighting Will in court for the cereal rights. However, his secretary - entrusted to mail the letter - never did, and John Kellogg died without being reconciled with his brother.

After suffering through three days of pneumonia, John Harvey Kellogg died on December 14, 1943, at the age of 91. His wife, Ella, had passed away in 1920. They are buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan.

William Shurtleff would write perhaps the best overall description of John Harvey Kellogg:

"Kellogg was a dynamo of human energy, a personification of the work ethic, who needed only 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night, went cycling or jogging every morning, dictated 25 to 50 letters a day, adopted and reared 42 children, wrote nearly 50 books, edited a major magazine, performed more than 22,000 operations, gave virtually all of his money to charitable organizations, loved human service, generally accomplished the work of ten active people, and lived in good health to age 91."
Find A Grave
Natural Health Perspective
New York Times obituary


Woodcut print of John Kellogg, Wikipedia
Photo portrait of John Kellogg, Natural Health Perspective
1910 Corn Flakes Advertisement, Wikipedia
Picture of Kellogg in the early 20th century, NNDB
Kellogg family gravestone, Find A Grave picture by Scott Michaels

Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22: Marguerite Clark, Film Fantasy Queen

She had a beautiful, waiflike quality that came across well in the silent films of the early 20th century. She was a contemporary of actors and actresses still recognized today, such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Lillian Gish. Despite the competition, or perhaps because of it, she was voted America’s top female star in 1916, and again in 1920. Her film career would voluntarily end in 1921 when she married a Louisiana plantation owner.

Marguerite Clark was born on an Ohio farm on February 22, 1883, near Avondale in the southwest corner of Ohio. Not much is known about her childhood, early education, or parents, but it is known that she was sent to the Brown County Convent, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Cincinnati, when she was about twelve. Her father died when she was around eleven, leaving the family in financial difficulties. She would eventually be watched over, and later have her career managed, by her older sister, Cora.

She finished school when she was sixteen, already having decided to pursue a career in the theater. The 4’10”, 90 pound actress would quickly show herself to be a talented actress..

Clark could sing, dance, and act at a young age. She would start her stage career as a chorus girl in Baltimore in 1899, and within a year, when she was seventeen, she was discovered by DeWolf Hopper Sr. and taken to New York. Clark made her Broadway debut in The Belle of Bohemia. She would receive positive reviews for her work in Mr. Pickwick in 1903, The Wishing Ring and Baby Mine in 1910, and starred opposite of theater legend John Barrymore in the 1912 production The Affairs of Anatol.

Clark’s popularity led to into a new venue for her talent: she signed a contract in 1914 with the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, with whom she made all of her movies during the next seven years except for the last one – which she made with her own production company. Thirty-one was then, as it is now, relatively late in life to start a film career. However, Clark had a waif-like, little girl quality that made her look much younger than her actual age, and she would specialize in playing young girls and fantasy roles. Her film debut would be in a movie short titled Wildfire, and the reviews would claim that her debut was “the best screen performance to date.”

Edward S. O’Reilly interviewed Clark in 1918 for Photoplay magazine. He stated about her:
“My impression of Miss Clark, formed by viewing her pictures, was that she was a happy hearted little elf smiling her way through the sour old world. She is all of that and something more. She is a serious minded little person intent on doing her work well. Even the directors say that she is less trouble than anyone in the cast, and obeys orders like a little soldier.”
She would work on forty films during her seven-year movie career, starting with Wildfire, and ending with Scrambled Wives in 1921. She was ready to give up the hustle and bustle of movie life, and settle for the quiet and serenity of living in the country in Louisiana. Also, her ambition had been to end her career when she was at the top, which she achieved in 1920 when she was recognized as America’s top female star.

Clark met Harry Palmerson Williams during a War Bond Drive in 1917, and married him in 1918. She would take up residence in his home in Patterson, Louisiana. She divided her time between her Louisiana home and New York – where she made most of her movies. Clark did have a new rule to follow in her movies: her husband forbade her to kiss any of her leading men, a demand that she met willingly.

Harry Williams grew up in Louisiana, owned and managed a lumber yard (one of the largest in the world), plantation, and other interests there, and in the late 1920s entered the budding aviation industry, using his managerial skill and business know-how, combined with skilled aeronautical engineers, to develop a series of racing aircraft. Williams would eventually die in when an airplane he was piloting crashed in 1936.

Clark returned to New York after the death of her husband in 1936 to reunite with her sister Cora – who had been her manager during her stage and film career. She would be the model for the cartoon image of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney’s 1937 masterpiece. Disney had seen Clark in the 1916 silent film version of Snow White and, he later confessed, the film made a lasting impression on him. A brief film clip of that film is here.

She would die in New York on September 25, 1940, after a brief bout with pneumonia. Her ashes are buried with her husband’s in the Williams mausoleum at Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans.

Most of Marguerite Clark’s films have disappeared, yet the legend of the little girl in the fantasy films still continues.


All Movie
Find A Grave
Golden Silents
Google books
Interviews with Marguerite Clark
Louisiana State Museum


Frontal view of Marguerite Clark, Louisiana State Archives
1916 Publicity Photo, Wikipedia
1919 Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch publicity photo, New York Public Library
Harry Williams, husband to Marguerite, Louisiana State Archives
Gravesite, FindAGrave photo by Rob Leverett

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 9: Samuel J. Tilden, The Man Who Should Have Been President

Controversial elections occur periodically in any democracy, but few have been as controversial as the election of 1876. The winner in popular votes, but the loser in electoral votes, was New York born Samuel Jones Tilden.

Tilden was born at New Lebanon, New York, on February 9, 1814 - a descendent of a family that could trace its roots back to the founding of the New England colonies.

His lineage included Nathaniel Tilden, one of the leaders of Plymouth colony and a founder of the town of Scituate, Massachusetts; as well as William Jones, a lieutenant-governor of New haven colony. His parents were Elam Tilden and Polly Youngblood Jones. His father, a farmer and a merchant in New Lebanon, was known for his judgment and practical common sense, and was a respected power in the New Lebanon area. Among those who visited the elder Tilden while young Samuel was growing to maturity were such noted personalities as Albert Gallatin, Martin Van Buren, and Edward Livingston.

Tilden’s interest in politics, economics, law, and civics came from his parents and the multitude of politically significant visitors. As early as 1832, when young Tilden was 18, he submitted a paper to his father analyzing the political conditions that existed in the 1832 election. He father was so impressed that he took his son to see the vice presidential candidate, Martin Van Buren, who was visiting Lebanon Springs. The article was later published and – though Van Buren vigorously denied authorship – was attributed to Van Buren. The two men – a political leader and a young man – became lifelong friends..

Tilden would attend Yale, and then transferred to the University of New York to study law. He graduated in 1837. He would be admitted to the bar in 1841, and would become one of the most noted and skilled corporate lawyers of the nation. Many of his clients would be from the fledgling railroad industry. It is said that over half of the railroad companies between the Hudson and Missouri Rivers were his clients at one time or another during the 1850’s – 1860s.

Tilden continued to maintain and broaden the interest in politics he had since his youth. A strong supporter of Martin Van Buren, he would later be classified as a Free Soil Democrat – one of the few free soil supporters who did not move into the new Republican party in the 1850s. While he supported the efforts of unity during the Civil War, he did not support all of the Lincoln Administrations various measures during that war.

Tilden’s political career really began as a result of his life-long interest in politics. In 1855 he was named as a nominee for state attorney general.

In 1866 Tilden was appointed the state chairman of the Democratic Party. There his reformist spirit took on the corrupt Tweed Ring. He entered the New York Assembly in 1872 under the reformist banner, and proceeded to impeach the judges that had been ‘bought’ by the Tweed Ring, and were busy protecting them from the law. He would gather much of the evidence that eventually broke up this notorious political group. In 1874 he was elected governor of New York, and took on the infamous Canal Ring – which had made its millions from illegal bribes concerning the maintenance, repair, and extension of the state’s extensive canal network.

The battle against corruption led Tilden to the high-water mark of his political career – the campaign for the Presidency against Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. This campaign – on the heels of the revelations of corruption that dogged the Ulysses S. Grant presidency – would result in one of the most famous election disputes in American History – only, perhaps, to be eclipsed by the 2000 Bush/Gore campaign.

Tilden received a small majority of the overall popular vote – however, American presidents are chosen through an electoral college system, where whichever party receives the most popular votes in a state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. As it turned out, the electoral votes in three of the newly ‘reconstructed’ southern states – Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina – as well as one electoral vote from Oregon were disputed. The U.S. Constitution did not address the issue, so Congress created an electoral commission made up of five U.S. Senators, five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and five Supreme Court Justices. Seven of the commission were Republicans, seven were Democrats, and there was one Independent.

However, the Independent was appointed to be the U.S. Senator from Illinois, he was replaced by a Republican to take his spot on the commission. The commission would vote solely along party lines, and on March 2, 1877, just two days before the new president was to be sworn in, would give Hayes all of the disputed electoral votes – giving him a majority of one (185 to 184) and the presidency.

Tilden discouraged opposition from his party to the decision of the Electoral Commission. An offshoot of this was what became known as the Hayes-Tilden Compromise - or the compromise of 1877: Hayes became President, and the military occupation of the southern states was ended. The end of the military occupation of the south had been a major campaign issue for the Democrats during the election campaign.

Tilden, 63 years old when the disputed election was decided, retired from public office. He would die in 1884 in Yonkers, New York. He left three million dollars in a trust toward the establishment of a free public library in York City – a trust what would be combined with the Astor and Lenox Libraries and would eventually become the New York Public Library.

He is buried at Cemetery of the Evergreens, New Lebanon, New York.