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John Harvey Kellogg papers

Identifier: 00013

Scope and Content

This collection is organized into four series.

(1) PERSONAL PAPERS. 1893 1944, undated 2.1 cu. ft. Contained in this series is John Harvey Kellogg's life long correspondence with the Seventh Day Adventist Church and a family album scrapbook. (2) BUSINESS PAPERS. 1876 1959, undated 3.9 cu. ft., 132 vols. Contained in this series is the bulk of the material. It covers a myriad of business, educational, and charitable ventures. Developed within the series is the continuum of businesses started by Kellogg, comprising the Sanitas Nut Food Company, the Kellogg Food Company, and finally the Battle Creek Food Company. Additionally, it contains the records of the subsidiaries of the Battle Creek Food Company including Battle Creek College. The Battle Creek College records are notable because of the litigation involving the estate of Mrs. Mary F. Henderson, who left a large sum of money and land to the college to help prevent bankruptcy and closure of the school. The records of the farm land in Missouri are also valuable as a source for presenting the hardships of agricultural life during the depression through World War II. The final segment of the business papers contain the court records of Kellogg vs. Kellogg. They deal with the suit in which William sued John Harvey over the use of the family name in business.

The arrangement of subseries: Food Experiments -- 1898 1909, undated Copyright Papers Kellogg -- 1876 1902 Patent Papers -- 1886 1911, undated Sanitas Nut Food Company -- 1896 1908, undated Battle Creek Sanitarium Food Company -- 1903 1941, n.d. Kellogg Toasted Rice Flake Company -- 1907 1910 Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company -- 1907 1940 Colax Company -- 1907 1908 Yogurt Company -- 1907 1908 Battle Creek Cereal Coffee Company -- 1906 1921, undated Kellogg Food Company -- 1908 1919, n.d. Battle Creek Food Company, 1917 1950 Subsidiaries -- 1898 1946 Henderson Estate -- 1924 1959 Kellogg vs. Kellogg Volumes. [1896 1948] -- 1907 1922, undated

(3) OVERSIZE MATERIALS. Contained in this series is oversized maps and clippings. (4) MICROFILMS. 1893 1944, undated 2.1 cu. ft. Microfilm copies of selected portions of this collection exist.


  • Creation: 1876 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

John Harvey Kellogg was born on February 26, 1852 in the small farming community of Tyrone, Michigan. His parents John Preston and Ann Stanley Kellogg converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith shortly after his birth. In 1853, wishing to raise their family in a religious environment, the Kelloggs moved to Jackson, Michigan where a small Adventist community was developing.

Three years later they settled in the larger Adventist community of Battle Creek, Michigan, where John Preston Kellogg established a small store and broom factory. In 1866 the Seventh-Day Adventist congregation in Battle Creek began the Western Health Reform Institute. This institute was established to care for the sick in harmony with the Adventist's newly accepted principles of healthful living. John Preston Kellogg's business ventures had helped to make him successful and he was able to invest five hundred dollars in the venture, making him the largest original stockholder. In 1869, after the Institute had suffered a series of financial difficulties, John Preston was appointed its treasurer. John Harvey occasionally served as his father's assistant, beginning his lifelong connection with the Institute.

John Harvey Kellogg was a sickly child who had little formal education until he started high school. Upon completion of his high school degree, he decided to become a teacher. Acting upon this desire, he enrolled in the teachers' training course at Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1872. However, in the fall of 1872 John Harvey was back in Battle Creek for a "family council". His family wanted him to attend Dr. Russell Trall's Hygieo-Therapeutic College in Florence Heights, New Jersey along with three other young men from the Church. John Harvey reluctantly agreed to their decision when it was explained to him that the Western Health Reform Institute was in need of trained doctors. Realizing this need, the church had decided to train and staff the Institute with young men from within the denomination.

Instruction at Dr. Trall's College emphasized the curative powers of water, a simple diet, exercise, and fresh air. Upon completion of the six month course, John Harvey was so interested in medicine that he continued his studies at the University Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sensing his natural affinity for medicine, John and Ellen White (two of the Adventist's who had started the Western Health Reform Institute) loaned John Harvey the money to further his education at the largest medical college in America, the Bellevue Hospital Medical School in New York. He attended Bellevue only one year before he qualified for his M.D. degree in 1875. In October of 1876, he took over as physician-in-chief of the Western Health Reform Institute.

In 1877 Kellogg decided that a change of name would improve the institution's public image. On his own initiative he renamed the Institute the Battle Creek Sanitarium. He also expanded on the initial premise of the Institute regarding cures without drugs. Actively experimenting with foods, he developed meat substitutes from various grains and nuts. His most widely known achievements were the development of peanut butter, granola, and the process for flaking grains. Additionally, he introduced the concept of regular exercise for maintaining good health.

The same year Kellogg organized the Sanitarium Food Company as a subsidiary of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The Company was part of his plan to provide former patients as well as the general populace with healthful grain foods. Within twenty years the company had expanded and proved to be a substantial source of income for the Sanitarium. At the urging of an employee, W.S. Sadler, and with the help of his brother, William, John Harvey launched a new food production company.

This new company was known as the Sanitas Food Company and with it, Kellogg hoped to reach an even wider market for his health foods. His new flaked cereals and vegetable meats became the property of Sanitas. William had spent twenty-odd years in his brother's employ, working long hours to turn a profit. When he wanted to use the family name on some of the Sanitas products, the two argued. In 1906 William left his brother's company and formed the Toasted Corn Flake Company. Six months after the formation of William's new company, John Harvey decided to change the name of the Sanitas Food Company to the Kellogg Food Company. William had been urging him to make such a change for a number of years and John Harvey's sudden decision to do so angered his brother. As his product was marketed under the name of Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes, William believed that the name change took advantage of the several hundred thousand dollars his Toasted Corn Flake Company had expended in advertising the Kellogg.

The brothers' feud eventually lead to lengthy litigation on two separate occasions. These long court battles created an estrangement between them which never completely healed. After the last hearing, John Harvey decided to change the name of his company to the Battle Creek Food Company. This occurred in the spring of 1917 and the change ended his legal difficulties with William's manufacturing interests, although it did not heal the rift between them.

In addition to his advances in health reform and health foods, John Harvey Kellogg was also an innovator of surgical procedure. He brought European practices to the United States and improved them by his own ingenuity. Using one such procedure involving abdominal surgery, Kellogg was able to significantly reduce the mortality rate for this type of operation.

John Harvey Kellogg's parents were fervent Seventh-Day Adventists and they passed their beliefs along to all their children. Maintaining his ties with the church into adulthood, Kellogg held numerous positions of trust and leadership within the Adventist organizational structure for over thirty years. At the same time, he was often viewed as a controversial, even abrasive, member of the congregation. Outspoken in his views, his magnetic personal appeal to younger members of the church and his personal interpretation of Adventist theology (culminating in the publication of his book The Living Temple) caused the Adventist leaders to fear his growing power. The final break between Kellogg and the church occurred in 1907, just before his difficulties with William began.

Although a third of his life lay ahead of him, John Harvey's days of real creativity were past. He continued with his busy schedule in the Sanitarium and worked on other personal projects, but was only able to maintain a strained relationship with his brother and the Church. On December 14, 1943, after suffering an acute attack of bronchitis, John Harvey Kellogg died at the age of 91. For further biographical information, see Richard W. Schwarz's book, John Harvey Kellogg.


7 Cubic Feet (7 cu. ft., 132 Volumes on Shelf)

Language of Materials


Preservica Public URL|d7bc1f63-a25f-488d-876c-9d60bc13d13d/

Custodial History

Gift of Eugene MacKay, transferred by the MSU Museum.

Existence and Location of Copies

Some of the content has been put on microfilm and also digitized. See the Microfilm series below. Digitized reels are noted here.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University Property Rights: Michigan State University

John Harvey Kellogg Papers
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Language of description
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Finding aid written in English.
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US