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The Bizarre History of Chex Mix

09 Nov

Disclaimer: I don’t advocate using Wikipedia for important purposes. However, it can be pretty darn fun to peruse during one’s lunch hour. This has next to nothing to do with health care either, by the way.

Today, I packed my lunch, and in my lunch there was a sandwich bag full of Chex Mix. As I munched on the deliciously salty snack, I decided to find out more about it with the aid of Google and Wikipedia. What I found was far more amusing than I ever could have imagined.

It turns out that Chex cereal was originally made by Ralston Purina. The same Ralston Purina, in fact, that makes Puppy Chow and a whole lot of other animal feeds. Long story quite short, the human foods division spun off in 1994 to become Ralston Foods, which sold all of its brand-name cereals to General Mills (which I’ll bet is who comes to mind when you think of Chex Mix). Meanwhile, European mega-corporation Nestle bought up Purina and the animal feed business. More accurately, Ralston Foods is owned by Ralcorp, and they make a whole bunch of the store brand or “private label” items (i.e., generics) you buy at the grocery store. The latest information is that in 2008, Ralcorp acquired Post cereals from Kraft. So the people who brought you Chex Mix and Cookie Crisp pawned that off to General Mills and 14 years later decided to start making Raisin Bran.

But that’s all expected as part of major food industry dealings. The fascinating part of the story has to do with the origin of the Ralston portion of Ralston Purina. That merger came about in 1902. That’s sufficiently long ago so as to make this story unknown to most. Ralston gets its name from its owner Webster Edgerly, who founded a social movement called Ralstonism in the late 1800s. At its height, the movement enjoyed some 800,000 followers. So what exactly did Ralstonism promote? Here–lifted directly from Wikipedia–comes the crazy….

“Ralstonism began as the Ralston Health Club, which published Edgerly’s writings. It was a hierarchical organization where members were ranked according to the number of “degrees” they had, which ranged from 0 to 100. Members advanced five degrees at a time, and each Ralston book that a member purchased counted as five degrees.

Edgerly saw his followers as the founding members of a new race free from “impurities” – based on Caucasians. He advocated the castration of all “anti-racial” (non-Caucasian) males at birth.

Edgerly wrote eighty-two of what would today be called self-help books under the pseudonym Edmund Shaftesbury. They covered subjects like diet, exercise, punctuation, sexual magnetism, artistic deep breathing, facial expressions and ventriloquism. Although Edgerly publicly claimed that the Ralston Company had no goods for sale, he did sell his books through mail order. Many of these books are still available through old books dealers.

In addition to advice like brushing your teeth, the books recommend things like every young man should engage with a form of probationary marriage with a woman old enough to be his grandmother. Edgerly also created his own language, called the “Adam-Man-Tongue” with a 33-letter alphabet.

The Magnetism Club of America, another Ralstonite organization, was founded to give its members control over the minds of others.

Ralstonites were to follow strict dietary guidelines. For example, watermelons were supposed to be poisonous to Caucasians. Correct diet and proper physical exercise would help reader attain “personal magnetism“, which would give them control over the thoughts of others. Much of the physical regime demanded moving in graceful curves and arcs and walking exclusively on the balls of one’s feet. Because sudden starts and stops and sharp angular movements caused a “leakage of vital force”, Ralstonites were to even pick marbles in continuous circles. There was a proper way to bathe (dry bath), gesture, sit, stand, sleep, talk and have sex. Edgerly claimed scientific basis for all this.”

That’s right. The next time you enjoy some Chex Mix at a party, just think: That tasty treat was made possible by a man whose Hitler-esque fascination with racial purity is but one of his many bizzare “eccentricities.” Who knew? Thank you, Wikipedia.

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Posted by on November 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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