On August 8, 1894, John and William Kellog were busy preparing granola for the patients of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where the older brother (John) was the superintendent. No sooner had they cooked a batch of wheat than they were called to attend some other pressing matters. After some time they discovered that the wheat had gone stale, but they decided to process it further anyway. The wheat broke into flakes, which was quite surprising, but the brothers didn’t want to waste any food so they roasted the pieces and served them to the sanitarium patients. The new flaked cereal quickly became a success, so much so that the patients would even buy it from the sanitarium to bring back home!
This marvelous turn of events encouraged the brothers to start mass production of the cereal. To increase the popularity of the product even further, William proposed adding sugar for taste. And that’s when the infamous family feud began. You see, the Battle Creek Sanitarium was owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church of which doctor John Kellogg was a devout follower. He was especially focused on the church’s views on diet and health, which included promoting sexual abstinence. But what does it have to do with cereal? Well, John’s aim was to serve food that was as bland as possible so that it could serve as an anaphrodisiac and discourage any sexual activity, in particular masturbation which he saw as a deadly habit. He once even said that “neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism.” Now imagine how John could have responded to his brother’s idea of adding sweet sweet sugar to corn flakes! This event started a legal battle that ended in Will starting his own company which we know today as Kellogg’s.
I hope you’ll think of this tale of two brothers next time you enjoy your sweetened, mundane bowl of cereal.
If you want to learn more about the views and practices of John Kellogg, check out this Sawbones episode. Fair warning though, John was a eugenicist with very disturbing ideas for “treating” some of his patients.
While working in Vienna General Hospital in the 1840s, Ignaz Semmelweis noticed a curious thing – the mortality rate of new mothers was a lot higher in wards supervised by doctors 👨⚕️compared to those supervised by midwives 👩⚕️. After some investigating, he found the source of the problem – only doctors had access to both maternity wards and autopsy tables. Semmelweis quickly developed a theory of what he called “cadaverous particles” 🧟♀️🧟♀️ and introduced rigorous handwashing 🧼 in his clinics. Unfortunately, even though his method worked spectacularly well, he was ridiculed by most of the medical professionals until his death in a lunatic asylum. 💀
John Snow was an English physician, 👨⚕️ best known for finding the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho,1854. By putting all known cholera cases on a map, he found the source of all troubles – a contaminated water pump. 💦 Why was it such a big deal? This discovery not only led to shutting down the pump, but also worked in favor of the budding germ theory of disease. 🦠🦠🦠 Even though Snow himself didn’t know that at the time, he contributed to the birth of epidemiology. 🔬
The third episode of the newest Victoria season talks about the Snow’s cholera investigation, so check it out! (the series doesn’t always stick well to the facts, though, you’ve been warned) 😀
Erethism, more commonly known as mad hatter disease, 🎩 is caused by mercury poisoning and can cause a variety of symptoms including tremors, timidness, anxiety, and even hallucinations. 🧚♀️It was quite common among hat-makers as they were exposed to mercury used in the manufacturing of felt hats.
Even though the Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 🐛doesn’t display all of these symptoms, his creation might have been inspired by erethism. We know that Lewis Carroll’s uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, was a Lunacy Commissioner supervising Pauper Lunatic Asylums. To keep patients busy, these asylums often organized group activities such as … tea parties. 🧐☕️
The Edwardian Era brought a new craze in plastic surgery – paraffin wax injections.🕯 The promise of a perfect nose👃or chin quickly faded, when it turned out that wax could wander beneath the skin causing infections, blood clots, and even cancer. ☠️
For reference, I learned about upper class women fixing their wax noses in a great BBC documentary series Blood and Guts (there’s also a book available)
After her husband’s death, Mary Shelley kept his calcified heart 💛 in a desk drawer. And even though some modern scholars believe it was just his liver, Mary herself was convinced that she had Percy’s heart. Quite a suitable keepsake for the author of Frankenstein! 🧟♂️
The harrowing conditions in match factories, including the use of highly poisonous ☠️ white phosphorus ☠️, were not a secret in the Victorian times. However, It was not until the matchgirls’ strike of 1888 🗣 that the situation started to get better.