THE EARLY YEARS
Born in 1845 on the Ontario frontier,
D.D. Palmer was on his own for much of his childhood.
When Palmer was 11, a business failure forced his family
to move to the United States; he and his younger brother
stayed behind. The two boys worked in a factory until
1865, when they set out for Iowa - with two dollars
between them - to rejoin their family.
For the next 20 years, Palmer moved
around the Midwest, teaching in one-room schoolhouses,
raising bees, selling raspberries and even opening a
By the 1880s, Palmer's never-ending
thirst for knowledge led him to learn magnetic healing.
This therapy, which was commonly practiced in that era
by many medical practitioners, used the body's magnetism
to heal others. Palmer opened his first magnetic healing
practice in Burlington, Iowa.
A year later, in 1887, Palmer moved
to Davenport, Iowa, where he started another practice.
It was there, along the lush banks of
the Mississippi River, amidst the wagons and buggies
of late 19th century Davenport, that chiropractic was
born on September 18, 1895. For it was on this day that
D.D. Palmer made the first chiropractic adjustment on
a janitor who worked in his office building.
On September 18, 1895, along the lush
banks of the Mississippi River, amidst the wagons and
buggies of late 19th century Davenport, Iowa, chiropractic
David Daniel Palmer had opened an office,
devoted to magnetic healing, in 1887. In Palmer's building,
was a janitorial service, owned by Harvey Lillard. Lillard,
who had been deaf for 17 years, was asked by Palmer
how he had become deaf. Lillard replied that one day,
when he had strained his back, he heard something "pop"
in his back.
Palmer examined Lillard's back and found
a spinal vertebrae out of position. Reasoning that this
was the cause of Lillard's deafness, Palmer thrust the
vertebrae back into place. And, as he expected, Lillard's
Palmer was sure he was on to something.
He began developing a theory of what he later called
"chiropractic", meaning "done by hand".
Palmer theorized that decreased nerve flow may be the
cause of disease, and that misplaced spinal vertebrae
may cause pressure on the nerves. Thus, he reasoned,
if the spinal column were correctly positioned, the
body would be healthy.
Palmer decided to open a chiropractic
school in 1897. By 1902, 15 people had graduated from
the Palmer Infirmary and Chiropractic Institute, which
was renamed the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC)
in 1907. One of these graduates was Palmer's son, Bartlett
Joshua (B.J.) Palmer, DC, who would become as memorable
a figure in chiropractic history as his father.
D.D. began some travels to the West
Coast, and little by little, B.J. took over running
the daily activities of the school. He returned to Davenport
by 1906, when he had to deal with some legal problems.
Just as early medical doctors were not licensed by the
government, neither were early chiropractors. These
early chiropractors faced legal roadblocks until licensing
legislation began passing in various states. However,
the writing was on the wall, and the groundwork was
laid, for the battle which was to face this young profession
for years to come.
LEGAL ISSUES PLAGUED EARLY CHIROPRACTORS
The turn of the century was a time of
rapid change in health care as alternatives to traditional
allopathic medicine arose, including chiropractic and
What first emerged from these changes
As it happened with the early days of
medicine, early chiropractors were not officially licensed
by the government; chiropractors simply opened practices
after graduating from chiropractic schools.
By that time, however, medical doctors
were required to have licenses. This discrepancy caused
continual problems for chiropractors throughout the
first half of the 20th century.
In 1906, as D.D. returned to Davenport,
he and other chiropractors were the first of hundreds
of chiropractors convicted of practicing medicine without
a license. He served 23 days of a 105-day sentence,
then paid a $350 fine to be released.
A year later, one of Palmer's former
students, Shegataro Morikubo, DC, was arrested in Wisconsin
for practicing medicine, surgery and osteopathy without
a license. However, in a landmark decision, the judge
and jury agreed that Morikubo was not practicing medicine,
surgery and osteopathy. Rather, he was practicing something
different - chiropractic.
While D.D. was on trial for practicing
without a license, B.J. officially took over PSC from
1902 to 1903. Father and son then became partners in
running the school from 1903 to 1906.
B.J.'s involvement with PSC not only
saved the school financially, but also gained for it
the prominence necessary to build a health care profession
THE SCIENCE OF CHIROPRACTIC
David Daniel Palmer opened the first
chiropractic school in 1987. By 1902, 15 people had
graduated from the Palmer Infirmary and Chiropractic
Institute, which was renamed the Palmer School of Chiropractic
(PSC) in 1907.
A year earlier, 1906, saw former PSC
faculty member John Fitzalan Howard, DC, start the National
School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Two years
later, the school was moved to Chicago, Ill.., where
it remains today. Also in 1906, M.M. Stone, DC, founded
the Texas College of Chiropractic in San Antonio, Texas.
Chiropractors from all schools continued
to improve their profession in this era, and technology
was one aspect of this drive. In 1910, B.J. Palmer introduced
the use of X-rays to PSC, and in 1924, he introduced
the neurocalometer, which was intended to reveal more
scientifically the location of out-of-position spinal
As a result of better education and
technology, chiropractic began to gain greater acceptance.
Individual states started recognizing chiropractors.
In 1913, Kansas was the first state to legislate the
licensing of chiropractors, and by 1927, 39 states had
Today, major chiropractic colleges exist
in New York, Illinois, Iowa, California, Texas, to name
a few. Educational institutes are also located around
the globe, in areas such as Canada, England and Australia.
As advances in science occur, the various
curriculums for chiropractic education also advances.
THE LEGACY OF CHIROPRACTIC
After selling his half-interest in Palmer
School of Chiropractic to his son, D.D. pursued other
means of expanding the chiropractic profession.
From 1906 to his death in 1913, D.D.
continued to spread his theory by establishing various
chiropractic schools across the country, such as in
the Western states of California, Oregon and Oklahoma.
He traveled all over the country to lecture about his
discovery, returning one last time to the Palmer School
of Chiropractic for a homecoming in 1913.
Two months later, 68-year-old D.D. Palmer,
founder of chiropractic, died of typhoid fever in Los
1940s LAUNCH CHIROPRACTIC TO NEW HEIGHTS
After the mid-'20s, chiropractic mirrored
the nation as it descended into the Great Depression.
However, licensing legislation continued to pass, and
in the 1940s two events spared a resurgence of chiropractic.
In 1941, John Nugent, DC, director of
education for the National Chiropractic Association,
established the first criteria to accredit chiropractic
colleges and schools. Twelve schools were accredited
Nugent's stringent standards transformed
chiropractic schools into professional, non-profit organizations;
he helped set the standard of quality that chiropractic
education has today.
The other chiropractic milestone of
the 1940s was the G.I. Bill. Starting in 1944, World
War II veterans wanting to study chiropractic could
get government benefits. As a result, returning soldiers
quickly flooded chiropractic colleges.
The '50s and '60s heralded increased
amounts of research, licensure, legislation and professional
journals relating to chiropractic, which continued to
advance the profession.
For instance, in 1963, the National
Board of Chiropractic Examiners required that chiropractic
graduates pass a nationally uniform exam before they
In July 1995, the first of the two Historic
Centennial Celebrations took take place in Washington,
DC. A full slate of meetings, seminars and events left
everyone very proud to be a member of this profession.
In September 1995, the second of these
Celebrations occurred in Davenport, Iowa.