Since the 1880's, Battle Creek has been known as the "Health City," due to the world-wide reputation of the Battle Creek Sanitarium (the "San"). Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the director of the "San" and brother of cereal-maker, W.K. Kellogg, developed specialized equipment, such as a mechanical "horse" to simulate riding (one of which found its way into the White House of Calvin Coolidge). This equipment was designed to help patients improve health as part of the institution's regimen of exercise, healthy diet and exposure to fresh air and sunshine - ideas that were considered "radical" at the time! In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the San's visitors included Presidents, politicians, captains of industry and literary and theatrical stars.
In 1927, Wendell E. Doty, a graduate of the University of Michigan, joined the product development team. When he and his friend from the sales department, Harry Babcock, found themselves suddenly unemployed during the Depression, they recognized a business opportunity and arranged to sell the San's equipment through mail order. With $120 and a borrowed typewriter, they worked in Babcock's basement and Doty's garage to originate Battle Creek Equipment Company. Although they were not drawing any salary when a member of the DuPont family sent a $2,000 check for a $2 vaporizer, the over-payment was returned. This commitment to integrity, fairness and excellent customer service continues today.
In addition to refining the Sanitarium-designed equipment, Battle Creek Equipment Company also developed several new products, marketing an infrared heat lamp, steam bath cabinet, the Exerow® rowing machine, the Health Bike® stationary exercise bicycle, Health Builder® massage belt and the Health Walker® treadmill. The Health Walker® was the first manual treadmill designed for human use - prior manual treadmills were only used by animals. By 1936 Doty and Babcock were able to purchase the entire Sanitarium Equipment Company inventory, patents, trademarks and manufacturing rights. This put them in a direct line back to the 1880's and the original "San" of Dr. Kellogg.
After pitching in during World War II to produce fire extinguisher parts, the company began to focus on what has become one of its signature products - the Thermophore® Automatic Moist Heat Pack™. Originally invented by a nurse at the San, this benchmark product produces its own moisture in conjunction with high-intensity heat, for the type of moist heat therapy recommended by medical professionals to treat many types of pain.
In 1958, the firm moved to a new factory and office complex in Battle Creek, Michigan, which included a gymnasium to be used for display and testing of new equipment. In 1987, production of the Thermophore® line moved to a new facility in Fremont, Indiana, while administrative functions and production of exercise equipment continued at the Battle Creek location. Unlike most companies today, Battle Creek Equipment still manufactures over 75% of its products in the US.
In 1957 Harry Babcock retired and Wendell Doty became the sole owner. Wendell continued an active interest in the business until his death at age 96, while his son John, who had been involved in the family business since a child, became President in 1974 and continues as its chairman. The current President, David Underhill, is assisted by Vice-President of Sales, Mary Brown and John Coakes, as Vice President of Operations.
Today Battle Creek Equipment continues to manufacture a selection of health and exercise equipment for distribution throughout the United States and abroad, including active markets in Canada and Asia. The Thermophore® line is now the company's premier product, available in several sizes and two switch styles.
Some of the company's antique products are displayed at the Adventist Historic Village and the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek. Click here for more pictures and background on Dr. Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
From small beginnings in 1927 to a worldwide distributor of health equipment, Battle Creek Equipment Company proudly carries on the 19th century health tradition of Battle Creek into the 21st century: Enhancing Comfort - Enhancing Treatment - Enhancing Lives™!