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Written by Mary G. Butler   

The Other Kellogg

Frank Kellogg was no relation to the Kellogg family that made Battle Creek the cereal city or the Mecca of health, but that did not stop him from capitalizing fully on his name. 

He was born in 1845 in Ohio and came to Battle Creek in 1874 with his parents and his two brothers, James Daniel, an unspecified “medicine maker” and Russell Jr., who became known as the area’s “strawberry  king”. He soon married Martha Kennie of Detroit and the two set up business as “Professor” and “Madame Kellogg,” running the French Tailor System of Dress Cutting. 

Kellogg soon decided that he would enter the world of patent medicines. The environment in Battle Creek in the 1890's was ripe for exploitation.  Dr. Kellogg’s Sanitarium had established the city as a center for healthy living and several individuals had already set up dummy storefronts to sell their versions of unregulated cure-alls that ultimately left a legacy of nothing more than empty bottles and unfulfilled promises. 

It may have been these that inspired Frank Kellogg or it may have been his brother the “medicine maker”.  This specific phrasing seems to have been chosen to separate his activities from that of “pharmacist” or even “druggist”.   Whatever the reason, around the turn of the century, Frank Kellogg began his career as the “anti-fat king.”
His product had many names, from Rengo to Malto-Fructo, Sanitone Wafers or Professor Kellogg’s Brown Tablets.  He guaranteed his pills would take care of your “big stomach” and “brighten the rest of your life.”  His contribution to nutrition was minimal, you could almost say minimizing.  He wanted his patrons to shed those unwanted pounds, and he wanted them to do it with what turned out to be a “lot of drugs and useless medicine”.

Kellogg  made a great deal of money with his anti-fat formula but ultimately the American Medical Association  took a good look at what he was peddling.  It turned out to be a combination of thyroid, poke weed, cascara, acacia and toasted bread.  The AMA reported that the thyroid extract can cause weight loss but at the doses Kellogg recommended, it also could cause hypertension, cardiac arrest and stroke. 

The other ingredients did make a good laxative but even those posed possible complications of their own.  The news didn’t seem to concern Frank Kellogg however.  He didn’t even remove the product, he simply removed the thyroid extract and started selling it as a laxative.  After all, even the AMA had said it was effective for that.

Even as Kellogg was selling his anti-fat pills, and taking on the AMA, his private life continued in turmoil.  He divorced Martha and then married three more women. 

Though the relationship with third last wife, Vivian Oliver, turned out to be more complicated than the others.  He married her in 1909, while he was pursuing his anti-fat pill business in Detroit.  They filed for divorce in 1911 but the Supreme Court eventually annulled the decree because both of them were at fault and they deserved to be saddled with each other.

Kellogg finally obtained a divorce from Vivian and married Violetta in 1914.  Exhausted by all this contention, Kellogg died in 1916 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.  Flamboyant even in death, his monument is the tallest in the cemetery, just a few feet away from the Post Mausoleum.

Frank Kellogg came along at a time when fortunes could be made with a little imagination, a keen sense of self promotion and great tenacity.  He was an opportunist who possessed all of these qualities -- as well as the name Kellogg -- and he took full advantage of it all.  He was a shrewd businessman and his money making schemes, and four marriages, kept his name on everyone’s lips.