There was actually a battle over Shredded Wheat.
My first question was, “Why?”
I mean seriously folks, shredded wheat!!
Who cares, the stuff is horrible.
But, there was actually a Supreme Court Case over shredded wheat.
First, a little background.
Henry Perky invented shredded wheat in Denver in 1890 on August 1!
Watching a dyspeptic diner, Perky saw a man mixing his wheat with cream. He rushed right out and came UP with a method of processing wheat into strips and stacked into “pillow like” biscuits.
It was a pretty complicated process; the wheat was cooked in water, tempered allowing moisture to go into the grain, then rolled through a set of rollers with grooves which produces strands. These are stacked and crimped at pre-set intervals to make the little biscuits – we know and some people love thought I don’t know why – called shredded wheat.
Once in biscuit shape, they are baked until the moisture content drops to 5%.
Perky peddled his product to vegetarian restaurants back in 1892. His factory was in Niagara Falls, but he leased his patented cereal making machines to folks in Denver and Colorado Springs so the folks out west could “enjoy” the cereal too!
John Harvey Kellogg bought one of the processors, but declined to buy the patent.
Kellogg thought it too weak in taste and compared it to “…eating a whisk broom…” which is a perfect comparison!
But realizing the success Perky was having, and founding his own cereal company with his brother, Kellogg offered to buy the patent.
Alas, Perky was insulted by the offer!
Perky premiered his product at the Chicago World Columbian Exposition in 1893, by that time he’d created the Natural Food Company which would become the Shredded Wheat Company which would be sold by his heirs to Nabisco in 1928.
Perky died in 1908, the patent on his shredded wheat biscuit expired in 1912, Kellogg jumped at the chance to make his own version of the rapidly growing in fame breakfast choice.
He called it Kellogg’s Shredded Wheat which prompted Nabisco to sue him for trademark infringement.
The suit demanded that he not call it shredded wheat and that he not manufacture it in the pillow shape American had come to love.
The suit plowed its way through the court system and landed in front of the United States Supreme Court as the case of Kellogg v. National Biscuit Co in 1938.
Dianna, Mary, and Florence The Supremes ruled that “shredded wheat” was a generic term and therefore not trademarkable.
And besides, the first patent had expired in 1912 passing the design, name, and manufacturing process to public domain.
Today, shredded wheat remains one of the most popular breakfast cereals – although I don’t know how – and comes in many forms; Frosted mini-wheats and Triscuits being two examples.
Frankly, I’m a Fruit Loops kinda guy!
But, to each his own.