An Old Girth Control Pamphlet Made Me Laugh, Then Led Me To The Battle Creek Food Company

by Travis Mateer

Discerning viewers of Engen’s Missoula will notice a fleeting glimpse of the Missoula Mercantile building. While that building is gone, I continue to find odd relics with the Mercantile stamp, like this pamphlet about girth control.

This is BY FAR the best dollar I have ever spent. I got a chuckle about a relic (probably a reproduction) once peddled in a building taken down by a Mayor with girth issues, then my search for a date on this little pamphlet led me to The Battle Creek Food Company.

Here is the brief story of one man’s experimentation on sanitarium patients with bland food innovations and other so called “health” ideas, like mutilating some genitals to stop masturbation.

In 1876, a young John Harvey Kellogg became director of what was shortly after renamed the Battle Creek Medical Surgical Sanitarium. Over the next several decades under his leadership, it became one of the most popular health resorts in the United States, growing to more than thirty buildings on thirty acres of land in Battle Creek, Michigan. Here, it is well documented that Kellogg experimented with a wide variety of health treatments as part of his philosophy of “Biologic Living,” some that are considered visionary (exercise, fresh air and foods with live bacteria), and others that range from slightly strange (electric light bathing, vibration and slapping machines, continuous bathing in water which could last days if deemed necessary) to somewhat disturbing (yogurt enemas, genital mutilation to prevent masturbation).

Kellogg was particularly concerned with the importance of diet and thought that eating bland, vegetable and grain-based foods reduced the risk of a range of health issues. He was a vegetarian and did not serve meat at the Sanitarium, believing that it lessened physical strength and harbored bacteria. Based on these beliefs, he experimented with creating his own bland health food products and feeding them to Sanitarium patients. Kellogg’s modern fame is due in large part to his involvement in the creation and popularization of modern breakfast cereals. From 1877 onwards, Kellogg ran various food companies, selling to former patients and the general public the foods served at the health resort. The mail order based “The Battle Creek Food Company” was the venture responsible for the pamphlet in our collection.

For a fun, modern day contrast on “health”, check this out:

Since modern days are such a drag, I troll the local places that sell the old stuff and wonder about old things, like buildings.

Adam and Chud X do the same thing, and recently had a guest, Michelle Gibson, on Into The Apocalypse who will see the buildings in the below picture differently (probably) than you do (the Missoula Mercantile label is the backside of the pamphlet I’m holding up to my computer screen).

Why do they see things differently? I’ll answer obliquely with the final item encompassing today’s show-and-tell.

The stall at the antique mall where I found this old book reclaims mostly timber and metal from old barns. 7 bucks is a steal.

Thanks for reading.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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