Preservation of the Redwoods has attracted many colorful figures. One of the first, and nearly forgotten was Charles “Bird man” Kellogg. Charles Kellogg was an avid outdoors man, performance artist, patriot, vegetarian, Life Member of Save the Redwoods League, and owner of a motor home made from a single piece of a giant redwood.
Kellogg was born on a ranch near Susanville on Oct. 2, 1868. Joyce Hunter’s “Under the Shadow of El Toro” says his mother died when he was still an infant. His father Henry, Chinese miners and the local Native Americans raised him and taught him the ways of the natural world.
He was born with an unusual larynx that allowed him to sing like a bird and covered a range of more than 12 octaves. By the time Kellogg was 22, his amazing ability to imitate the feathered creatures was gaining him national attention. Physicist Richard Zeckwer used a Helmholz tuning fork to test Kellogg’s avian voice. Zeckwer said that Kellogg’s bird voice had a vibration of 14,000 Hertz and reached levels of 40,000 Hertz – so high that it was inaudible to human ears. Normal human voices vibrate at 4,000 Hertz.
An even more remarkable talent was Kellogg’s ability to extinguish a flame of fire with this voice. Because of his unique talents, for a time he was the most popular headliner in Vaudeville. Kellogg’s enjoyed a successful recording career both in the United States and abroad. He would take his act on the road for 3 to 4 months each year and spend the rest of his time at his ranch near Morgan Hill in California.
Kellogg’s one-man campaign to save the redwoods began in the late 1910’s. Kellogg became very concerned about the fate of the redwoods. He said, “ …. At the present rate of destruction there will not be a single stand of redwood in the whole state [of California] within 100 years.” Kellogg wanted to incorporate a conservation message into his act.. Kellogg said, “I kept thinking and thinking ….. how to take the forests out into the world.” He eventually came up with a very novel answer: why not tour in a motor home built out of an entire tree?
Kellogg launched his project in the spring of 1917 with the assistance of the editor of Sunset magazine, a Nash Quad truck donated by Nash Motors and the co-operation of Pacific Lumber Company. The Superintendent of Pacific Lumber Company located a fallen redwood on the Bull Creek Flats on the Eel River. The tree was enormous – it measured 360 feet long and was 11 feet in diameter. Kellogg had a 22 foot section removed , debarked and hollowed by battering the core of the log out with the Nash Quad. The log’s one foot thick shell weighed 6000 pounds and was attached to the truck.
At the Scotia Mill of the Pacific Lumber Company front and rear doors were added. The truck was then shipped by rail to Kellogg’s ranch where he outfitted it with windows, a bed, a kitchenette, small lavatory, cabinets and wiring for electric appliances. Kellogg’s “Travel Log” was complete.
The Travel Log was shipped across country and during 1917 and 1918 Kellogg toured the major East Coast cities with his “tree house on wheels”. Kellogg continued his vaudeville performances, sold World War I Liberty Bonds, and spread the conservation message about California’s imperiled redwoods. You can sample Kellogg’s amazing talents on this YouTube video.
Kellogg seated on the steps of his motor home
Kellogg demonstrating the size of the log from which he cut his motor home
Kellogg’s redwood motor home was put into storage for 75 years. It was restored by the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretative Association and is now on display at the Humboldt State Park Visitor Center just four miles from where Kellogg spent the summer of 1917 creating his Travel Log for the cause of saving the redwoods.
Kellogg with his motor home