King of Pops

Highlands claims a lot of famous residents who were/are celebrities of the state, nation, and world.  

Among the international notorieties is Dr. Alexander P. “Alex” Anderson, a Minnesotan, Clemson professor, and summer resident of Highlands.  He lived in a mansion he built (1906-09) on Fifth Street, north of Satulah.

If you or your kids ever enjoyed a bowl of puffed rice or wheat, you can thank Dr. Anderson for the experience.  He discovered the method of exploding wheat and rice in sealed tubes placed in a copper oven, giving rise, as it were, to Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice.

He spent 35 years in research, completing 15,000 experiments.  That’s about 430 experiments a year.  Amazing!  My most recent experiment was trying a plant-based sugar substitute in my coffee.  For those who care …epic bomb.  Most of Dr. Anderson’s experiments were epic successes, though he is best known for breakfast cereal.

Dr. Anderson had degrees in botany from the University of Minnesota and the University of Munich in Germany.  But for all his lofty education, he credits the old McGuffey Readers (schoolbooks, grades 1-6) for setting his course in science.  They were so influential, with their emphasis on what constitutes a rich and productive life, that he spent 50 years writing sketches, poems, and short stories about his frontier days growing up in Minnesota …all that while conducting 430 experiments a year. 

To his writing he added illustrations creating a 625-page Seventh Reader, which he published in 1941 and dedicated it to his wife, Lydia.  Their daughter, Louise, grew up in Highlands and was reared on, you guessed it, McGuffey Readers.  

She married Dr. Ralph Sargent.  They lived between the Billstein House and the corner of Sixth and Main, their house still standing as is the memory of an amazing researcher, Dr. Alex Anderson, King of Pops!

To learn more about Highlands, read Ran Shaffner’s Heart of the Blue Ridge, visit highlandshistory.com, email highlandshistory@nctv.com, or visit The Highlands Historical Museum, 524 North 4th Street.