Milbank Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Howard Markel Authors Book on the Kelloggs

August 29, 2017

Howard Markel, the editor-in-chief of The Milbank Quarterly, is the author of a new book, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek, which was published earlier this month by Pantheon. A best-selling medical historian, author, and physician, Markel is also the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

In the book, Markel tells the story of the two Kellogg brothers—one, a best-selling author and physician who founded the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the wellness movement, and the other, a businessman who founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which changed how food is produced and what America ate for breakfast.

From the publisher:

In The Kelloggs, Howard Markel tells the sweeping saga of these two extraordinary men, whose lifelong competition and enmity toward one another changed America’s notion of health and wellness from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, and who helped change the course of American medicine, nutrition, wellness, and diet.

Markel gives us the life and times of the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his world-famous Battle Creek Sanitarium medical center, spa, and grand hotel attracted thousands actively pursuing health and well-being. Among the guests: Mary Todd Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Johnny Weissmuller, Dale Carnegie, Sojourner Truth, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and George Bernard Shaw. And the presidents he advised: Taft, Harding, Hoover, and Roosevelt, with first lady Eleanor. The brothers Kellogg experimented on malt, wheat, and corn meal, and, tinkering with special ovens and toasting devices, came up with a ready-to-eat, easily digested cereal they called Corn Flakes.

As Markel chronicles the Kelloggs’ fascinating, Magnificent Ambersons-like ascent into the pantheon of American industrialists, we see the cast changes in American social mores that took shape in diet, health, medicine, philanthropy, and food manufacturing during seven decades changing the lives of millions and helping to shape our industrial age.

When asked how he came up with the idea for the book, Markel said, “If you grew up in Michigan as I did, you couldn’t help but be aware of the Kellogg family. As a first grader, my class went on a field trip to the Battle Creek factory where we watched cereal being made. All around you, one sees physical evidence of the beneficence of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on a daily basis. And as a medical student, I used to study in the library and during breaks I would pull down Dr. John Harvey’s many books and magazines and read them. At the time I thought someone should write a book about these two fellows, never realizing it would be me someday.”

So far, The Kelloggs, which was named an Amazon Best Books of the Month and N.Y. Newsday’s 12 Best Books of the Summer, has been reviewed and praised by The Boston Globe, N.Y. Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Daily Beast, and Bloomberg, among others. Markel was also interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.