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Western breakfasts have been dominated by cereal for decades.

How many of us knew that the Seventh-day Adventist sect indirectly influenced the rise of carbohydrate consumption through their practice of vegetarianism?

Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist founders and early members were originally Millerites. William Miller, who lived in upstate New York, predicted the end of the world between 1843 and 1844. He was the Harold Camping of his day. Yet, our Lord tells us (Matthew 24:36):

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

After it was obvious that Miller had erred seriously, many Millerites returned to their original denominations. Others adhered to a form of Adventism, holding that

Daniel 8:14 foretold Christ’s entrance into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary rather than his second coming.

They believed this event was imminent.

Into this they combined legalism — obeying Mosaic dietary laws and encouraging vegetarianism — and other views that distinctly counter the New Testament, e.g. Saturday worship, the death of the soul and annihilationism. One of the four founders of Seventh-day Adventism, Ellen G White, whilst against women’s ordination, nonetheless was the group’s great prophet. Her writings continue to influence Seventh-day Adventists today.

They formally established themselves in 1863 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Later, their headquarters moved to Maryland and is currently located in the city of Silver Spring.

The Kelloggs

John Harvey Kellogg was a Michigan native. In 1860, when young John was eight years old, he and his family moved to Battle Creek. His father opened a broom factory in the town.

Kellogg earned a medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine in 1875. Having returned to Michigan, he practised medicine at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which the Seventh-day Adventists owned. He was a committed Seventh-day Adventist and lay preacher. He was formally censured in 1878 for expressing panentheistic ideas — that God is alive in everything — and, in response, he gave an eloquent speech on the compatibility of the Bible and science. The General Conference accepted this and the matter was closed.

However, Kellogg continued with his panentheistic beliefs and voiced them openly at the General Conference of 1901. In 1902, the Battle Creek Sanitarium was destroyed by fire. Possibly sensing a connection between the two, Ellen White told Kellogg not to rebuild it. He saw differently and was able to take control of the board of directors.

In 1907, Kellogg wrote a book called The Living Temple, proceeds of which were to go towards rebuilding the sanitarium. After White read the book’s panentheistic sentiments, Kellogg was disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventists.

The 1994 film, The Road to Wellville, explores Kellogg’s days at the sanitarium. He promoted cereal rather than eggs and meat for breakfast, a regular exercise regimen, sunbeds as well as specialist baths and enemas. What he advocated and practised is mainstream today: high-carb foods with fiber, thought to be better for intestinal health than animal protein.

His patients came from the upper and middle classes. They included President William Howard Taft, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison among other luminaries. It is no wonder that cereal and carbs became staple foods.

Kellogg’s brother, Will Keith Kellogg, sold brooms — probably his father’s — before joining him at the sanitarium. Together, they pioneered the manufacture of flaked cereal.

In 1897, the two founded the Sanitas Food Company and produced whole grain cereals. Their partnership broke up when the two could not agree on whether to add sugar to their products.

In 1906, Will Kellogg founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company which we know today as the Kellogg Company.

Kellogg cereals

John Harvey Kellogg invented Corn Flakes in 1878, although he called them Granula. In 1881, he amended the product name to Granola. Because of a problem with patent rights, he then adopted the name Corn Flakes.

After he and Will argued about the addition of sugar, with the latter leaving to start his own company, John focussed his efforts on developing soy products.

Their rift lasted for decades. They fought in court over the rights to cereal recipes.

Near the end of his life in 1943, John wrote a letter to Will seeking to mend fences, but John’s secretary never sent it. Will received it only after John’s death.

Eugenics

Whilst Will established his W K Kellogg Foundation in 1930 to give back to society, was careful to add nutritional information to his product labels and bred Arabian horses in his spare time, John founded the Race Betterment Foundation.

John’s Race Betterment Foundation was the nucleus for the eugenics movement in the United States. He supported segregation, believing that intermixing with other races and with immigrants would weaken the gene pool. That said, he and his wife raised several black foster children. They had eight foster children and none of their own.

He published the periodical Plain Facts, which was anti-smoking and against masturbation. He also promoted sexual abstinence in marriage. In his early days, at least, he feared a food shortage, hence his promotion of more plentiful foods such as grain products and nuts.

The Battle Creek Sanitarium closed during the Great Depression. John moved to Florida where he opened a new clinic. He remained famous until his death.

Both Kellogg brothers are buried in Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery, not only near their parents but also two of the co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventists, Ellen White and her husband James White.

Charles William Post

Although not a Seventh-day Adventist, Charles William ‘C W’ Post was one of John Kellogg’s patients, started his own cereal empire and, interestingly, is also buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery.

Originally from Illinois, Post’s early career involved selling and manufacturing farm implements. He had a gruelling schedule which caused him to have a nervous breakdown. In an attempt to recover, he and his wife moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to help develop a new community called Riverside. There he became a real estate developer.

However, in 1891, Post suffered a second nervous breakdown. He believed strongly that digestion had an effect on a variety of health ailments. He toured Europe in search of a cure for himself. Finding none, he returned to the US and sought John Harvey Kellogg’s help.

Whether he visited the factory or was a patient of John’s, Post was intrigued by Kellogg’s cereals.

In 1895, he founded Postum Cereal Co. His first product was a cereal-based beverage called Postum.

Later developing more cereals, more about which below, Post plowed much of his earnings into developing more property in Texas, in Garza and Lynn counties. He also planned a new city, Post City. It became the Garza County seat.

As a successful business owner, Post was opposed to trade union disruption of work and the coercion that accompanied it.

Despite his fortune, Post continued to experience bouts of ill health. In 1913, he cancelled his public engagements. In March 1914, he was thought to have appendicitis and was sent on a nonstop train from his home in Santa Barbara, California, hundreds of miles away to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Accounts differ as to whether the Mayo brothers operated on Post. One says they determined they could do nothing for him and a 1955 biography of Post’s daughter says they performed a successful operation.

On May 9, 1914, Post took the decision to end his own life. In great pain, he shot himself fatally.

His only child, Marjorie Merriweather Post, aged 27, inherited his company and his fortune. She became a household name and married financier E F Hutton. She later sold her huge New York estate, Hillwood, to Long Island University. In 1954, the C W Post Campus opened. The year marked the centenary of his birth. The campus has 8,500 students and 100,000 alumni.

Post cereals

After the success of Postum, C W Post then developed cereals. He premiered Grape Nuts in 1897. The name was derived from the fruity scent produced in the manufacturing process and the crunchy texture of the finished product. A legal hiccup occurred in 1907, when Collier’s Weekly, a popular American magazine, took exception to the claim that Grape Nuts could cure appendicitis. Post retaliated by slurring the author of the article. The libel case came to court in 1910. Post was fined $50,000 — a huge sum in those days. The decision was subsequently overturned and Post withdrew the advertising claims.

In 1904, he came out with his own brand of corn flakes. He called them Elijah’s Manna then renamed them in 1908 to Post Toasties.

John Kellogg accused Post of stealing the Corn Flakes recipe from the Battle Creek Sanitarium safe.

Brother Will probably said, ‘Told you so’. Before John showed Post the flaked cereal manufacturing process, Will warned him not to. Not surprisingly, he wanted their unique process kept secret, even though John gave factory tours to anyone who was interested. Post’s rapid success was another factor in Will’s decision to open his own company in 1906.

Postum Cereal Co. became Post Cereals, which evolved into General Foods.

Conclusion

I was most surprised to discover how much influence Seventh-day Adventist teachings have had on Western health.

The result is that we are inundated with carbohydrates in the form of grain and soy products, which could well be adversely affecting not only our physical but our mental health. I wrote about this last week and will continue to do so in future. I cannot help but wonder if this provoked Post’s physical and emotional maladies.

Another interesting fact came to light whilst I was researching this entry. The Seventh-day Adventist George McReady Price is the father of the modern Creationist movement. He was inspired by a vision Ellen Price had.

Hmm.

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