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Naturalist Charles Kellogg

From time to time here in our WebXtras we like to feature interesting and notable people who were born, or who have lived, in our lovely little town.

Today we feature the story of Charles Kellogg, vaudevillian, naturalist and creator of the ‘Travel Log’.

Kellogg was born in 1868 on the ‘Spanish Ranch’ near Susanville and developed a love of nature at an early age, learning to mimmick and reproduce bird songs.

Kellogg studied at Syracuse University and began lecturing and performing for the public in 1885, taking his act on the road with various Chautauqua and vaudeville circuits including the premiere Keith-Orpheum circuit.

Kellogg was billed as the “California Nature Singer” and according to experts at the time his vocal range extended over 12 ½ octaves.

Among Kellog’s claims were the ability to extinguish flame and shatter glass with his voice. In August of 1926 Kellogg astonished thousands by extinguishing a two foot flame in Berkeley with nothing more than his voice, broadcast over KGO radio.

His explanation was that he had been born with both a human larynx and a syrinx, the bird equivalent of a voice box.

In the 1920’s Kellogg’s bird ‘singing’ was recorded by the Edison Company and those recordings still exist today.

A Magazine Photo of Kellogg's House on Wheels

In 1917 while camping on the Mexican border, Kellogg watched as a column of army troops tried to transport their supplies across the Rio Grande.  Wagonload after wagonload drawn by mules were mired in the mud, but a light truck drove right through the shallow stream to the other side. It was then he had the idea to build a house on a truck chassis, the world’s very first motor home.

It took him eleven months to hand craft the body of the ‘house truck’ out of a 22 foot long section of a fallen redwood tree.  The trunk was eleven feet in diameter and fitted onto a 1917 Nash Quad chassis, at the time the strongest truck body on the road.

Click here to read about the truck in the June 1919 edition of Current Opinion magazine.

Kellogg toured back and forth across the country several times in the ‘Travel Log’, first to sell Liberty Bonds during World War I, and then later to raise awareness of the great redwood forests.

Kellogg wrote that he wanted, “To awaken interest in the great redwood forests of California, and to assist in their preservation.”

East coast residents could barely believe the giant trees existed and could hardly comprehend their enormity.

Kellogg's Truck in a Humboldt County Museum

In the final years of his life Kellogg lived in Morgan Hill, California and still toured three or four months out of the year. When he died in 1949 he was close friends with well known bay area naturalists like John Muir and John Burroughs.

To find out more about Charles Kellogg and to hear recordings of his ‘Bird Singing’ click here to listen to a story that NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ did on him in 2003.



Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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