Corn flakes cereal is a staple on breakfast tables all over the world. Today it is marketed as a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. But corn flakes were originally invented by a fanatically religious doctor as a way to stop people from masturbating.
The country’s most popular anti-sex food.
In 1894, two brothers, Dr John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith “WK” Kellogg, were running a sanitarium and health spa in the town of Battle Creek, Michigan. John was the Superintendent, and WK was the bookkeeper. Among the treatments offered at the sanitarium/hospital for various ailments were hot and cold water baths, hydro-therapy with water enemas, electric-current therapy, light therapy using both sunlight and artificial lamps, and a regimen of exercise and massage. Among the more famous of the hospital’s clients through the 1910’s and 1920’s were President Warren G Harding, actor Johnny Weissmuller, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Todd Lincoln.
Both of the Kellogg brothers were Seventh-Day Adventists, a fundamentalist church emphasizing strict Biblical literalism and clean living, and their religious beliefs had a huge influence on many of their “treatments”. The Adventists believed in maintaining the purity of the “body’s temple”, and forbade the use of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. They were also strict vegetarians.
Dr John Kellogg, however, took the Adventist faith in the purity of the body to an even further extreme. He was firmly convinced that sex itself was impure and harmful–and most especially the “solitary vice”, the “self-pollution” of masturbation. Kellogg married, but never consummated the union–he and his wife had separate bedrooms, and they adopted all their children. Kellogg became famous across the country for his books condemning sex, promoting celibacy, and luridly describing the evil health effects of “onanism”, which included everything from epilepsy to mood swings to dementia. “Neither plague, nor war, nor small-pox,” he thundered in one of his anti-sex books, “have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism. Such a victim dies literally by his own hand.” Among the “treatments” that Kellogg proposed for masturbation were piercing the foreskin with silver wires to prevent erections, and using carbolic acid to burn the clitoris so it wouldn’t be touched.
But another part of his anti-sex and anti-masturbation “treatment” came from his traditional Adventist reliance on vegetarianism. Kellogg convinced himself that eating meats and spicy foods increased the desire for sex, and forbade any of them at his sanitarium. Instead, he prescribed a bland tasteless diet containing mostly whole grains and nuts. In this, he was following the earlier lead of Presbyterian religious fanatic Sylvester Graham, who had invented the whole-wheat graham cracker as part of a diet that would reduce people’s sexual desire and stop them from both copulating and masturbating. Kellogg now attempted to make his own anti-sex food, by mixing corn meal and oatmeal into dough, adding nuts, and baking them into biscuits which were then crumbled into pieces. He called it “granula”. Unfortunately for Kellogg, that name was already being used by another health food fanatic with a similar product, and he threatened to sue–so Kellogg changed the name of his concoction to “granola”.
The Kellogg brothers also experimented with different types of bread, and with using whole-grain dough to make thin rolled sheets of toasted crackers. One day, after just having cooked some wheat for rolling, they were unexpectedly called away. When they got back, they ran the cooled wheat through the rollers, and each grain was flattened into an individual flake. It was, they thought, a wonderful health food. In 1898 they tried the same process using corn instead of wheat, and “corn flakes” were born.
John Kellogg immediately began serving corn flakes to his patients at the sanitarium, as a method of cleansing their bodies and reducing their sex drive. His bookkeeper brother WK, meanwhile, had less religious fervor and more business sense than John did, and thought they should add sugar to the mixture to eliminate the cardboard taste (a heretical thought to John) and sell it to the public as a breakfast cereal. After some arguing, the two patented their flake cereals and formed the Sanitas Food Company to sell them through mail-order, mostly to former patients of the sanitarium. After a time, the wheat flakes were dropped. But corn flake sales remained low, mostly because John Kellogg still refused to add sugar to the recipe to make it more palatable. Finally in 1906, in frustration, WK Kellogg purchased the rights to make “corn flakes” from his brother, changed the recipe, and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. After a long legal battle with his brother over the use of the name “Kellogg”, this became the Kellogg Cereal Company, adding Bran Flakes to its product list in 1915 and Rice Krispies in 1927.
By 1930, the Kellogg Cereal Company was the largest breakfast cereal maker in the world. Its primary competition, the Post Cereal Company, had been founded by CW Post–a former patient at the Kellogg Sanitarium, who, WK Kellogg always claimed, had stolen the recipe for corn flakes from the hospital’s safe. Today, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are the best-selling breakfast cereal in the US.