(p. A15) . . . , it turns out that the turn-of-the-last-century origin and evolution of the cereal industry was a very nasty and unpleasant bit of business, as Howard Markel chronicles in “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek.”
. . .
The Kelloggs (and others) thought that an easily digestible corn cereal might solve all the problems. The birth of breakfast cereal is a tortured tale. Both Kellogg brothers would insist on having made the crucial innovations, as would others, including the most successful copycat, C.W. Post, who moved to Battle Creek to make his new Shredded Wheat. Shredded Wheat became a top seller after John failed to conclude a deal to buy Post’s company and, worse, refused to aggressively sell the Kellogg cereal because he thought it unseemly for a medical doctor, and his increasingly famous sanitarium (“the San”), to sell a commercial product.
Through it all, John’s younger brother, Will–a plump, colorless, diligent numbers man–served as his long-suffering factotum. “The doctor was the San’s showman and carnival barker,” Mr. Markel writes, “while Will kept the place running smoothly and served as a brake to his brother’s tendency to make poor and costly business decisions.” Mr. Markel’s portrayal of the sibling dynamic edges a bit into a Scrooge-and-Cratchit stereotype, though it is amply backed up by anecdotes, such as the many times poor Will was obliged to take dictation while John sat on the toilet.
In 1905, after 25 years of this, Will said “enough.” He made a deal with John to leave the San and start a cereal company of his own, which in time became a global conglomerate.
For the full review, see:
Bryan Burrough. “BOOKSHELF; The Battle of Battle Creek.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Aug. 14, 2017): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 13, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; The Birth of a Cereal Empire.”)
The book under review, is:
Markel, Howard. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek. New York: Pantheon, 2017.