There were no prizes at the bottom of a Granula tin. Good health was the reward for those who chomped their way through the dense, gritty cereal made from twice-baked whole wheat flour—and nothing else. Dr. James Caleb Jackson introduced Granula in 1863 as a convenient, ready-to-eat breakfast food, although “ready to eat” was a bit misleading. The cereal had to be soaked overnight in milk or water before it could be chewed (making it the home-front equivalent of hardtack, a staple for Civil War soldiers serving in the Union Army). Jackson was a health reformer whose sanitorium in Dansville, N.Y., specialized in hydrotherapy, cold water treatments for a variety of physical ills. Along with the water cures and plenty of exercise, Jackson advocated a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and unprocessed grains and total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. Another proponent of clean living, John Harvey Kellogg, appropriated Jackson’s idea and product name in 1881 and began making a cereal that substituted rolled oats for the wheat flour. To avoid a lawsuit, Kellogg changed the name of his cereal from Granula to something now recognized by generations of health-conscious eaters: granola.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here.