Dr Kellogg‘s Prescription
If Cereal Won’t Cool the Libido, Try Surgery – Kellogg, and the Crusade for Moral Fibre
For people the world over, a bowl of corn flakes is the go-to breakfast of choice.
But for the majority of those who look forward to their morning bowl, it will come as a surprise that they were invented to stop people masturbating.
John Harvey Kellogg, who first created the cereal in the late 19th century, originally intended it to be a ‘healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal’. Mr Kellogg, a physician, was uncomfortable about sex, believing it was unhealthy for the body, mind and soul.
He was celibate, having never consummated his marriage and keeping a separate bedroom from his wife.
Cornflakes were designed as a bland food that would not “over stimulate” the senses, and thus reduce the risk that the consumer would engage in “self-stimulation,” Corn Flakes were just a small part of the bizarre health regime designed by Kellogg and implemented in his Battle Creek, Michigan Sanitarium.
As a rule, there’s usually more to hapless folk wisdom than bad science, and so it is with myths about masturbation and other aspects of sexuality. In America, a peculiar flowering of such myths took place in the 19th century. Though the predictable culprits — Victorian prudery, evangelical Christianity, entrepreneurialism — are part of the picture, the lesser-known reality is their century-old relationship with whole-grain foodstuffs. That is, thanks to certain influential health advocates back then, sex and diet were inexorably linked and for both, healthy meant bland.
John Harvey Kellogg was arguably the most famous physician of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He introduced the concept of eating clean foods, exercise, and other healthful innovations. He was also the guy who invented cornflakes. And, in my opinion, he was an awful man. The worst kind, in fact: the kind that sleeps easy at night, believing his horrible work was the will of God. Nothing is more dangerous than a cruel person with a clear conscience.
Treatments for Self-Abuse and its Effects:
“A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision…The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind…In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement. “
— Dr. John Harvey Kellogg
In his Ladies’ Guide in Health and Disease, for nymphomania, he recommended:
Cool sitz baths; the cool enema; a spare diet; the application of blisters and other irritants to the sensitive parts of the sexual organs, the removal of the clitoris and nymphae…
Kellogg thought that masturbation was the worst evil one could commit; he often referred to it as “self-abuse”. He was a leader of the anti-masturbation movement, and promoted extreme measures to prevent masturbation. In addition, Kellogg thought that diet played a huge role in masturbation and that a bland diet would decrease excitability and prevent masturbation. Thus, Kellogg invented Corn Flakes breakfast cereal in 1878. He hoped that feeding children this plain cereal every morning would help to combat the urges of “self-abuse”.
John Harvey Kellogg was born on February 26, 1852, in Tyrone, Michigan to John Preston Kellogg and Anne Jeanette Stanley. His family moved to the village of Battle Creek when he was four years old. He was raised in a devout Seventh-day Adventist family and was familiar from an early age with the “healthy living” tenants advocated by his church.
In 1866 church founders, Ellen and James White, had opened a Health Reform Institute, where hydrotherapy, or the water cure, was practiced. The Institute was moderately successful but needed the firm hand of a full-time medical director. The Whites recognized the potential of the teen-ager and helped finance John Harvey Kellogg’s medical studies at the Bellevue Medical College in New York City. Upon graduation in 1875, the young doctor Kellogg returned to Battle Creek and became medical superintendent of the Institute. He coined the term “Sanitarium” and changed the focus of the Health Reform Institute from hydrotherapy to medical and surgical treatment.
Kellogg continued his life-long dedication to education to improve his medical knowledge and surgical skills. He made several trips abroad to study medicine, surgery and physiology with leading European medical figures. He was a fellow of the leading medical societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association. Dr. Kellogg introduced several new techniques, primarily in abdominal surgery, and had an extraordinarily low mortality rate in the more than 22,000 operations he performed during his 67 year career.
The Battle Creek Sanitarium became Kellogg’s laboratory for developing and promulgating his “Battle Creek Idea” that good health and fitness were the result of good diet, exercise, correct posture, fresh air and proper rest. Through his vigorous efforts to promote and publicize the institution, Kellogg raised the Sanitarium to national prominence as a “place where people learn to stay well.”
In 1876, at age 24, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg became the staff physician at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (The San), a position he would hold for 62 years. Kellogg was not a true quack. His surgical skill was admired by the Doctors Mayo. A vegetarian, he advocated low calorie diets and developed peanut butter, granola, and toasted flakes. He warned that smoking caused lung cancer decades before this link was studied. Kellogg was an early advocate of exercise and “biologic living.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Kellogg engaged in questionable medical practices. The San offered hydropathy, electropathy, mechanotherapy and radium cures. For a time, Kellogg promoted “Fletcherizing” or chewing food until it slithered down the throat. He changed his mind about Fletcherizing when he decided that excessive chewing destroyed the fibre content of the food. Kellogg opposed sexual activity from masturbation to marital intercourse.
Whatever It Is, You Have It Because You Masturbated
Guess, if you dare, what miserable vice causes the following conditions:
- Spinal derangement
- Heart Palpitations
- Nervous Breakdowns
- Uterine Prolapse
- Uterine Cancer
- Cruel Birth Defects in the Unborn (including “hydrocephalus, to epilepsy, convulsions, palsy. , tubercular and glandular maladies, diseases of the vertebrae and of the joints, softening of the central portions of the brain, and tuberculosis formations in the membranes, palsy and convulsions, chorea, inflammations of the membranes or substance of the brain or spinal cord.”)
They are all caused, according to Dr. Kellogg, by the practice of female masturbation.
Another of Kellogg’s great obsessions was the bowel and elimination. From his earliest days as a doctor, Kellogg was fascinated with the bowel. It was his favourite piece of anatomy, his first love. It held him in rapture. Once, when an Adventist interrogator framed all of his medical questions in terms of religious beliefs, Kellogg turned on him:
“Is God a man with two arms and legs like me?” he demanded. “Does He have eyes, a head? Does He have bowels?”
“No,” the Adventist answered, deeply offended.
“Well I do,” cried Kellogg,” and that makes me more wonderful than He is!”
It was the bowel that got Kellogg’s undivided medical attention. Ninety percent of all illness, he would calmly explain, originated in the stomach and bowel. “The putrefactive changes which recur in the undigested residues of flesh foods” were to blame, he explained. Guests who arrived at Battle Creek soon learned that their once-pristine bowel was now a sewer of autointoxication, full of poisons like creatin, skatol and indol.
Kellogg’s influence and enthusiasm made the bowel not only an acceptable subject of polite conversation, but a national obsession. More and more people became convinced that their bowel must be given an antiseptic cleansing. Autointoxication begone! The medical wizard of Battle Creek could provide the answer. The bowel, poisoned by meat-eating, drinking, smoking and usually anything pleasurable, was poked, prodded and otherwise assaulted by attendants at the San.
Kellogg made sure that the bowel of each and every patient was plied with water, from above and below. His favourite device was an enema machine that could run fifteen gallons of water through an unfortunate bowel in a matter of seconds. Every water enema was followed by a pint of yogurt — half was eaten, the other half was administered by enema “thus planting the protective germs where they are most needed and may render most effective service.” The yogurt served to replace “the intestinal flora” of the bowel, creating what Kellogg claimed was a squeaky clean intestine.
If a healthy dollop of yogurt was not enough to do the trick, more drastic steps were necessary. If autointoxication persisted and poisons remained, the offending stretch of intestine was removed. Kellogg performed as many as twenty operations a day.
The result, Kellogg claimed, was nothing short of medical revolution. By pumping yogurt cultures into the rectums of America’s well to do, Kellogg claimed that he had managed to cure “cancer of the stomach, ulcers, diabetes, schizophrenia, manic depressives, acne, anemia … asthenia, migraine and premature old age.” There was nothing a clean bowel couldn’t handle.
Battle Creek was the world headquarters for Seventh Day Adventists, a fundamentalist “society of the faithful.” Convinced vegetarians, the Adventists followed Genesis literally where it says “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed…to you it shall be meat.” Known later as the Kellogg Sanitarium or just The San, the Institute was to play a key roll in revolutionizing the American breakfast, making Battle Creek the international Cereal City.
The Institute was founded with Adventist money, and floundered for ten years until a quirky young doctor, John Harvey Kellogg, took over daily operations. Kellogg, was highly regarded in Adventists circles for his hard-hitting medical journalism. He openly embraced medical science and was constantly experimenting with whole-grain foods. After two years on the job, he came up with the first Battle Creek health treat — a mixture of oatmeal and corn meal, baked into biscuits, then ground to bits.
He called his discovery Granula, a peculiar decision considering the only other cereal then was called Granula. Once they finished suing, Kellogg re-named his product Granola. Granola was only one of several delicacies the doctor designed for patients at The San. Other house specialties included Caramel Cereal Coffee, Bulgarian yogurt (Kellogg was big on yogurt) and meat substitutes Protose (like beefsteak) and Nuttose (like veal).
At one point, Kellogg concentrated solely on nuts. He wrote a paper, “Nuts May Save the Race,” supposedly invented peanut butter, several other nut spreads, and Malted Nuts. Though low on Flavour, the ambitious menu helped turn the hospital around financially.
Under Kellogg’s guidance, most of the patients admitted to The San just needed a diet. They were overweight or overworked. They suffered from Americanitis, treatable with rest, room service, and wheelchair socials.
The cure rate became remarkably high since no one seriously ill was admitted. No chronic masturbators were admitted either.
Kellogg voiced doom-and-gloom views on the matter and even added to them. On the night of his honeymoon he spent his time writing Plain Facts for Old and Young, a warning on the evils of sex.
Of the 644 pages, 97 address “Secret Vice (Solitary Vice or Self-Abuse),” its symptoms and results.
Included are 39 signs indicating someone is jacking off; a list comprehensive enough to indict everyone vaguely human: #7. Sleeplessnes, #11. Love of solitude, #12. Bashfulness and #13. Unnatural boldness, #14. Confusion of ideas, #24. Capricious appetite, #28. Use of tobacco, #30. Acne.
Such was Dr. Kellogg’s power play: in rejecting known masturbators from the hospital, he avoided acknowledging there was no real cure. Yet his theories gave him an outlet from poor slobs the hospital diet couldn’t cure. Dr. Kellogg could diagnose them as masturbators and thus pass responsibility for the problem onto the patient. If the illness persisted, that was proof that the secret vice persisted, that its effects were long-term or irreversible, or that its effect had been inherited from the secret vice of the parents.
Dr. Kellogg was never wrong. In fact, he made an issue of abstaining from all sexual relations himself, supposedly to prove that sex was not necessary to health. Though he married Ella Eaton, their marriage was never consummated and they lived in separate apartments. It’s quite likely, though, that the doctor was in some way dysfunctional (one book suggests he had mumps). After breakfast every morning, he had an orderly give him an enema. This may mean he had klismaphilia, an anomaly of sexual functioning traceable to childhood in which an enema substitutes for regular sexual intercourse.
For the klismaphile, putting the penis in the vagina is experienced as hard, dangerous, and repulsive work. Whatever the reason for Dr. Kellogg’s various beliefs, they had a lasting effect. The San became more and more famous while Dr. Kellogg became something of a demagogue. Gradually, his medical training and unwavering belief in the power of wholegrain foods started to win out over his fundamentalist faith.
A major step in this direction took place when a patient showed him little wheat mattresses a friend had sent her for digestive trouble. The wheat cakes were being peddled by a man in Denver, Henry Perky, who called his creation “Shredded Wheat.” Dr. Kellogg experimented with the wheaty filaments and concluded that they were “like eating a whisk broom.”
Still, his curiosity was raised. Shredded Wheat, it should be pointed out, was not yet considered a breakfast food. Originally the biscuits were intended as a main course, a “natural food” in the Grahamite tradition. There was cheese-and-Shredded Wheat toast, creamed peas in “biscuit baskets,” fried mushrooms on split biscuits, banana croquettes with Shredded Wheat and more. Perky even founded a domestic science institute, Oread Institute, to train demonstrators to educate housewives in how to use the product. But in the wheat biscuits the doctor saw potential for a ready-to-eat breakfast food and went about creating his own.
After much trial-and-error, he came up with Granose, the first flaked wheat cereal. Shortly thereafter, he set up commercial production in a barn behind the Sanitarium and went to work securing patents to protect himself from copy-cats. The efforts, however, were to no avail (Dr. Kellogg should’ve figured this out since 43 patents weren’t enough to keep him from ripping off Shredded Wheat).
The whole town of Battle Creek exploded with flake fever; cereal and “health food” manufacturers appeared over night and Battle Creek became Cereal Central. Leading the parade was a man who practically cut his teeth at the Sanitarium, C.W. Post.
An overworked inventor, Post came to Battle Creek to cure his upset stomach while his wife, to help pay the bills, sold suspenders door-to-door. Post stayed at the Sanitarium for nine months and absorbed all the diet theories, health remedies and menu options Kellogg had to offer. He did not get well, in fact he claimed the staff had given him up to die.
But he didn’t leave uninspired. Toward the end of the 19th century, Battle Creek — always on the cutting edge of spiritualism — had become home to various psychics. Post, having witnessed a sort of mental healing at the San, sought these people out and developed an appetite for Christian Science, popular occult books and parapsychology…not unlike a new age zealot of today. After a few trials, Post found himself a Battle Creek mental healer with a miraculous two-day cure for his appendix. And with that, he was, as he was known to say, on “the road to Wellville.”
Though outside the Sanitarium, Post still sensed unexplored commercial possibilities in the Sanitarium health foods. He proposed to Dr. Kellogg that they work together to promote Minute Brew, a health coffee similar to the one served at the hospital. The Doctor flatly refused.
Post then went to the east limits of Battle Creek and, in May 1992, set up his own medical boarding-house, La Vita Inn. The plan was to provide patients not only with a special diet, but spiritual healing. Post was not a doctor, he “simply treated patients by mental therapeutics.” Nevertheless, his cures — which basically boiled down to convincing oneself, “I am well!” — became the talk of the town. Back pains, toothaches, rheumatic joints — all could be undone in less than five minutes with quick mental negation (sort of a precursor to The Power of Positive Thinking).
Meanwhile, Post did some channelling on the side; he once approached Dr. Kellogg and offered to pray for his patients for $50 a week. (The doctor declined, providing another motive for Post to promote La Vita as a refuge for former Sanitarium patients.) In 1895, Post rolled out the first commercial batch of Postum, his cereal-based coffee substitute, and within a few years, became a multi-millionaire.
Having figured out early on that religious imagery upped product value, he nicknamed Postum “Monk’s Brew” and dubbed his first cereal Elijah’s Manna (later renamed Post Toasties since it was against the law in Britain to register Biblical names). Post wrote all the advertisements, product descriptions, and company literature himself. In so doing, he created a totally new kind of copy — the first to advertise food as a medicine for regular consumers.
The original campaign for Postum claimed “It Makes Red Blood.” After that, Post went hog-wild and invented a disease, “coffee neuralgia,” to help sell Postum. “Lost Eyesight through Coffee Drinking,” read the ad, followed by a tear-jerking case reported from Somewhere, Illinois.
The moral: quit coffee, drink Postum. Post’s next brainstorm was a batch of wheaty, rock-like morsels called Grape Nuts. This time he advertised the cereal food as an alternative to surgery for an inflamed appendix. Grape Nuts, a “brain food” could also cure consumption, malaria, and loose teeth. Every box of Grape Nuts came with a copy of Post’s classic text, The Road To Wellville.
Basically, it urged conscious consumers to “Eat Grape Nuts, drink Postum, and think positive thoughts.” What’s interesting is how this evolved out of La Vita’s original recipe — simply to think positive thoughts. Of course, positive thoughts alone don’t turn much profit, so converting Wellness into a tangible made a lot of sense. Plus it allowed Post to quietly shut down La Vita (which was becoming a hassle) and dedicate himself fulltime to the organic revolution.
It didn’t take long for other entrepreneurs to catch onto Post’s advertising techniques and once they did a full-scale health food craze was underway. Ralston Health Food, for example, claimed its tiny grains were “Full of vegetable Phosphorous that makes children grow like magic and develop strong mentally,” giving the brain “all the phosphorus it can use in heavy thinking.” The American Cereal Company (predecessor of Quaker Oats) said its Apetiza made red blood, which distinguishes it from all other foods, except Grape Nuts, which also made red blood.
Where was Dr. Kellogg during all this?
The rich and famous flocked to Battle Creek, often making annual trips of several weeks. Here they were pampered in elegant surroundings while their bodies were restored to health with healthy diet and scientifically planned exercise.
After only a few years Kellogg had increased the patronage at the Sanitarium so much that new buildings were necessary to meet the needs of all the patients. By 1888 the dormitory and treatment rooms could accommodate between 600 and 700 patients. Kellogg also developed a complex of colleges associated with the San, where doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians and medical missionaries were trained.
The San continued to prosper until a 1902 fire consumed the entire main building, Only 15 months later the new fireproof San was dedicated, ready to receive several thousand guests a year. A staff of 800 to 1,000 including 30 physicians and 200 nurses and bath attendants stood ready to serve their patients’ needs
By 1928, further expansion was necessary and a fifteen-story addition was built, incorporating the latest in fashion and luxury to accommodate the hundreds of patients waiting to take the cure in Battle Creek. Unfortunately, the stock market crashed the next year and the rich patrons who had patronized the San no longer could afford to come.
Oddly enough, the doctor started losing money just as cereal was evolving into a breakfast food staple. The Sanitarium had a few problems – the Adventists excommunicated Dr. Kellogg (and eventually severed ties with the Sanitarium).
The company Dr. Kellogg had started, Sanitas Food Company, was losing money; the doctor was much more interested in playing with food than selling it. His brother, however, was an entirely different animal. William K. Kellogg had worked for his brother since the Sanitarium opened.
An organizer with sharp business sense, W.K. wasn’t interested in crusading against masturbation or bad eating habits — he wanted to get paid. In the Doctor’s inventions, he saw a potential fortune. The problem was getting his brother to agree to anything; as he got older, Dr. Kellogg only seemed to grow more and more manic, refusing to compromise his ideals and commercialize his creations.
The break-through came when W.K. convinced his brother that they should form a new company to manufacture corn flakes. The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was incorporated in 1906 and placed under W.K.’s management. Dr. Kellogg was the majority stockholder, but he distributed part of this stock among the Sanitarium doctors. Later, while Dr. Kellogg was away in Europe visiting Pavlov, W.K. went around and bought up the stock until he personally owned a majority.
The new president, W.K., promptly put his signature on the box and renamed the company that was ultimately to become Kellogg Co. Here our story pretty much ends. When W.K.’s signature went on the corn flakes, the picture of the San came off and from that day forth, corn flakes were known for their great taste rather than their health benefits. Sugar and other additives became part of the recipe and advertising spared none — pretty girls, baby contests, door-to-door canvassing were all employed to make Kellogg a household name.
This didn’t happen without fight. The Doctor and W.K. went through years of legal battles over the name, but W.K. won out.
Both men lived to be 91. Though that was certainly long enough to see the Doctor’s ideas about sex and diet disproved by his beloved medical establishment (germ theory, immunological theory, molecular-genetic theory, hormonic and metabolic theory) he never retracted his claims. He was never wrong. To this day, some of his ideas about masturbation and sexuality are still polluting the populous.
Quackery grew in fashion because its ideas reflected the spirituality of the period. While the many quack movements differed in what they advocated, all complemented America’s 19th century Romantic philosophy that the country was a chosen place with a special purpose in history, that rejuvenation of the individual would produce rejuvenation of the country, that health and happiness were available to everyone, and that the body and mind were linked. When quackery mixed with religious revivalism and social reform at mid century, it gained huge followings.
In his 1877 book, “Plain facts for old and young: embracing the natural history and hygiene of organic life”, physician John Harvey Kellogg wrote:
In younger children, with whom moral considerations will have no particular weight, other devices may be used. Bandaging the parts has been practised with success. Tying the hands is also successful in some cases; but this will not always succeed, for they will often contrive to continue the habit in other ways, as by working the limbs, or lying upon the abdomen. Covering the organs with a cage has been practised with entire success. A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed. …
If any attempt is made to watch the child, he should be so carefully surrounded by vigilance that he cannot possibly transgress without detection. If he is only partially watched, he soon learns to elude observation, and thus the effect is only to make him cunning in his vice.
In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement, and preventing the recurrence of the practice in those whose will-power has become so weakened that the patient is unable to exercise entire self-control.
The worst cases among young women are those in which the disease has advanced so far that erotic thoughts are attended by the same voluptuous sensations which accompany the practice. The author has met many cases of this sort in young women, who acknowledged that the sexual orgasm was thus produced, often several times daily. The application of carbolic acid in the manner described is also useful in these cases in allaying the abnormal excitement, which is a frequent provocation of the practice of this form of mental masturbation.
Through the courtesy of Dr Archibald, Superintendent of the Iowa Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, we have become acquainted with a method of treatment of this disorder which is applicable in refractory cases, and we have employed it with entire satisfaction. It consists in the application of one or more silver sutures in such a away as to prevent erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together, and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur, and the slight irritation thus produced acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice.
It is interesting to note that, although Kellogg acknowledges that circumcision probably did as much harm as good, the evils of masturbation were judged so great that it was always justified as a treatment in these cases.
John Harvey Kellogg’s fascinating and informative book “Plain Facts for Old and Young.”