Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

Charles Kellogg and his 'Travel Log'

Charles Kellogg's mother died while he was still a small child. Born on a ranch near Susanville on Oct. 2, 1868, he was raised by his father Henry, Chinese miners, and the local Native Americans from whom he learned about the nature world around him.   The skills learned from nature would provide him with a fascinating career as a naturalist able to perfectly replicate the sounds of birds singing.    

Kellogg found a profession in performing.  His act, generally appearing with other vaudeville performances, included his bird songs, stories about his experiences with nature and his hikes with celebrities, John Muir and John Burroughs.  For saving the Redwoods, Kellogg conceived the idea of travelling around the country in a vehicle made out of a Redwood log.  Having no mechanical expertise himself, Kellogg asked Arthur C. Pillsbury to help him, this request recalled by Pillsbury's son, Dr. Arthur Francis Pillsbury, years later as a small incident in his life.  The reference turned up in a letter Dr. Pillsbury wrote, which as part of his father's body of correspondence, was turned over to Dr. Pillsbury's daughter, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, in 2000. 

Most men with Pillsbury'skills might have dismissed the idea.  But Pillsbury was intrigued  and his background in mechanical engineering included multiple new cameras, the first mass-production photo postcard machine (1916), the first motorcycle built in California (1894), designed light-weight bicycles (1892 - 1896), and modifying automobiles to render them optimally useful to him.  At this time, starting in 1892, Pillsbury owned two shops across the Main Gate for Stanford University; one a bicycle shop the other a photographic studio.  He paid his expenses for college as an entrepeureur.
"Sometime earlier in Uncle's lecture tours, he became acquainted with a man named Charles Kellogg who was the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.  That man could imitate the songs of any bird.  He always said that it was not whistling, but singing.  We went to the Oakland Orpheum once to hear him, and he gave a beautiful performance.  He, too, felt the need to have something new in his show.  His dream was to have a home mounted on a truck, with the home made out of a large redwood, log.  He was not mechanically inclined and asked Uncle for help.  Uncle agreed, and I believe that some wealthy widow who lived on an estate near Morgan Hills financed the venture.  (This is an exact description of Gertrude Strong Achilles) Anyway, one winter Uncle and Mr. Kellogg went up the north coast of California for a rather long period.  They eventually returned with a truck, and as big a redwood log as could be fitted onto it. 
The log was hollowed out, and like the present day motor homes, the interior was fitted out to serve as living room. Dining room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.  The only thing wrong was that the thing was very difficult to drive.  That was long before the day when power assists on steering, braking, etc.  on 

trucks made motor homes feasible.  I understand that very often Mr. Kellogg could not get the thing onto stages, but then would put it on display nearby to draw attention to the show.  He did use it for one year.  Then, because it was so difficult to transport from city to city for the show, put it on display on the property of his sponsor.  Regardless, it was truly a forward looking concept and accomplishment."​
Pillsbury's youngest son, Dr. Arthur F. Pillsbury, recalled the creation of the Travel Log in a letter written to an inquirer seeking more on his father, who he continued to call 'Uncle', after he and his siblings were adopted by their deceased father's younger brother on November 14, 1911.  Dr. Pillsbury, had then just turned six.  MORE 

The full story behind the first 'Recreational Vehicle' was overlooked until recently when Melinda, Dr. Pillsbury's youngest daughter, was reviewing correspondence by her father and noticed the reference below on this interesting collaboration in a letter written to him by Stephen Harrison on February 14, 1978.  Pages 6 - 9

This would not have been of benefit to AC because his work was in films, technological advances, and using these to bring the realities of science in the natural world home to mass audiences. 

In his book, instead of recording the construction of the design issues involved in using a log for the frame of a motor vehicle, which was the first of its kind, Kellogg spends days documenting the work he, himself, carried out.  This was the cutting and finishing of the log; the word Nash appears less than five times in the entire book.  No mechanical or design recitation takes place.  

These omissions raise more questions which, while they remain to be documented, lead to the conclusion the offer which persuaded Pillsbury to provide the mechanical expertise and design experience which made the project possible he did not receive either the compensations or credits which had been previously ageed.  

Life is like that.  But RVs have a long history, longer than most of us realize.  
Dr. Pillsbury, raised by his father, who he continued to call 'Uncle', understood the expertise needed to design and build the mechanical integration needed for the Travel Log vehicle.  It would have remained a log if not for Pillsbury's expertise. For Dr. Pillsbury this was an incident, one of his father's many adventures which in this case ended when the Travel Log was finished.  But a perusal of Kellogg's book,  Charles Kellogg - The Nature Singer - His Book,  published by Morgan Hill, Calif., Pacific Science Press, [c1929] 1930, makes it clear the years of Kellogg's career speaking for the Redwoods were the high point of his life.  What followed was a comfortable postscript available through the generosity of Gertrude Strong Achilles, an heir to the Kodak fortune, who Kellogg had met while the two were on vacation in the south seas. Gertrude built a house for Kellogg, a separate structure a half mile away.  And Kellogg served for more than 20 years as her ranch manager, according to longtime neighbor Carl Hansen.  The two were described as close friends.    

Kellogg's book does not mention Arthur C. Pillsbury and Pillsbury did not have Kellogg appearing with him on his lecture tours.  

This photo was taken before Arthur C. Pillsburyhe log was transported from where it was logged.  It is therefore likely it was taken by Arthur C. Pillsbury.  
Charles Kellogg died September 5, 1949 in Morgan Hill, California. For more on his story see WIKI  You can hear recordings of his bird songs HERE  
Thanks to for the use of their images.