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Interview with Jacqueline Jackson AIS-V-L-2008-019 Interview #1: February 25, 2008 Interviewer: Mike Maniscalco COPYRIGHT The following material can be used for educational and other non-commercial purposes without the written permission of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. “Fair use” criteria of Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 must be followed. These materials are not to be deposited in other repositories, nor used for resale or commercial purposes without the authorization from the Audio-Visual Curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, 112 N. 6th Street, Springfield, Illinois 62701. Telephone (217) 785-7955 


[The following is a short excerpt from that interview]

Maniscalco: Well, while we’re talking about corn, there was something you mentioned last time we talked. It has to do with corn, and that’s Korn Kurls.


Jackson: Oh that I could have—


Maniscalco: Could you explain some corn curls to us?


Jackson: —I could have brought that up in early memories. We had a herdsman named Clair Mathews and he thought, perhaps rightly, that the corn, once it was ground up in the feed mill to give the cows their grain ration—they had hay and silage and a grain ration—he thought it was hard on their teeth and it would be better for them if there was some other way they could have their grains. So he began experimenting with a little machine that he built up on the floor of the round barn where he would pour the corn in. There was what Dad called a skein—I have drawings of this—that would force the corn past this skein; when it came out it came out like a corn curl, which was very easy on the cows jaws to chomp up this sort of corn that would be sort of toasted and like a corn curl. I can remember at the age of three being up there on the floor of the upper barn, the loft, and here was Clair Mathews’ machine and we’d pick up these things and chew on them. We chewed on silage. We chewed on this. We chewed on other things because my dad usually had a piece of corn in his cheek and Grandpa would chew silage. Town kids thought this was terrible. Silage, oh, it tastes so, well fermented, you know. Somebody—I’ve got the name somewhere—took some of these curls home and sprinkled some cheese on them and ate them and said, “Hey, this is something really good. This is something that is beyond what cows are having.” So Clair decided to go into business and to patent it. He got a partner and so they began making what became known as Korn Kurls. That story I’ve got written down. It’s quite a long story of what happened and it became South Beloit’s major industry. The corn curl that originated up there to feed the Dougan cows was the great-granddaddy of all the snack foods that we’ve had ever since then, except potato chips and popcorn, which they also had. But back there in about 1931 or ’32 was the start of Korn Kurls and snack food. That may or may not be a good thing, considering the nutrition that we know today. But the Korn Kurls, at that time, were very healthy. That’s one of the remarkable things and tangents about the Round Barn, that the Korn Kurls was in one of them. The Adams Company; Dad would go to the meetings and would vote. The Adamses kept control of 51% of the stock and so forth and we’d always get a great big box at Christmas with all sorts of the snacks in it and so forth. So Adams Korn Kurls.... 


...Returning to Korn Kurls. We talked about the Korn Kurls that were invented on the farm. I should mention that Clair Mathews who invented them had studied agronomy at the university before he came down to the farm, had some sort of degree from there. What made him start to even try to do anything with the cow feed is, he was the herdsman. He saw what went into the mouths of the cows, and he saw what came out the other end in the gutters. He saw that a lot of the grain was undigested and he thought that there must be a way of making that grain more digestible. Well, there were rolling mills that you could buy, but these were very expensive and they would flatten the grain. He said, well, I ought to be able to figure something out that will make the grain more digestible without having to buy a great huge flatting mill. So he invented this thing with a wagon wheel and a skein. There was a furl on it. When you dropped the thing in the skein and turned it and it came funneling through, the friction semi-cooked the grain. It also broke down so it was easily chewed by any of us that were up there on the farm as well as for the animals, too. We all ate it and then somebody took it home—not one of us I think—and boiled it up so it was thoroughly cooked, and then put salt and cheese on it. That was these little curly things they called collettes. Those were the corn curls. Well, this seemed like a good thing. Everybody liked them. So that's when he decided he was going to quit working on the farm, or he decided part-time to do it. He needed some capital so he went in on—and this was in the early thirties—he went into business with somebody who put up some money and they made rabbit feed. They took alfalfa and turned it into flakes for rabbit feed, so the beginning of it was rabbit feed. Then it turned into the Korn Kurls for people to eat and two other people got in on it. The Adams's gradually managed to buy controlling stock and made it nationwide, international. They finally sold out to Beatrice Foods, but their Flakall Corporation turned into Korn Kurls, turned into whatever, and Clair felt bitter about it. He felt he had been cheated out of his invention. Oh, he brought it to the Chicago World's Fair and here was one of these great big mills. He said, “I made one of those and you can put it on a card table.” So at the Chicago World's Fair they moved his little machine in alongside this great big one, which might have been what started some of the interest of others in it. Dad said he didn't know that Clair had too much to be bitter about. The invention gave him a good living all his life for him and his kids. So the Adams's became millionaires and Clair didn't. He would say to Claire every now and then—because he kept on, Clair living in one of the townhouses that we had, and giving him free milk—every now and then he would say, “Don't you think you should give me a little bit of what's going on?” So Clair would give him a little bit of stock. Dad ended up with three percent of the stock and that paid off very nicely for a while until he finally sold it to the Adams's. As I said, every year we'd get a nice big box all full of snack foods what the Korn Kurl had transmogrified into. There really wasn't anything before that except potato chips; potato chips and popcorn were the snack foods. Now we have this huge snack food industry. So I wanted to clear up how he did that and about the World's Fair. The Flakall Corporation in 1933, and then it went worldwide. So I mentioned about that. I told you that I had a little more detail on bloat. Anything else here that's circled? Maybe those are the main things that I remembered that I hadn't said or that I had said wrong. OK. Now you're saying something else.