The Strange History of Corn Flakes

August 14, 2016

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.

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”.

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