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Chiroland Begins - part 2

Updated: Jun 9, 2022


From 1902 to 1903 and again from 1906 on, D.D. traveled around the U.S. starting schools in several locations like a Johnny Appleseed of chiropractic. He cofounded two chiropractic schools in Oklahoma. He then came to Portland, Oregon in 1908 after hearing that his son B.J. was teaching a course to chiropractors in this city. The D.D. Palmer College of Chiropractic opened soon thereafter, offering a course of two five-month terms. (1)


















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I love this text from the front matter of D.D. Palmer's Text-Book of the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic, published in Portland, Oregon in 1910.

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Between 1897 and 1913 Old Dad Chiro was involved in at least ten chiropractic teaching institutions. (2) Regarding D.D.’s legendary charisma and role as a chiropractic pioneer, sociologist Walter Wardwell has written:


From very little he created an original theory of illness and treatment, founded an infirmary and school, attracted students, many from other health fields, and published a sizable treatise on his new therapy [Science of Chiropractic: Its Principles and Adjustments, written with B.J. Palmer in 1906]. After leaving Davenport he founded other chiropractic schools in California, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Like many other charismatic leaders, he was not an effective administrator, and possessed of a fiery temper and a contentious disposition, he frequently clashed with those (especially MDs) with whom he established schools. (3)





Palmer’s 1910 volume (left) contains a compendium of controversies and criticisms of his former students and others who had offended him in one way or another, often by straying from the true and straight path of chiropractic as formulated by the Founder, which of course varied from time to time and place to place. By 1910 enough time had passed for a very large amount of dissension, argument, quarreling, and debate to have occurred. D.D. seems to have been quite an impassioned man who was ready for a heated debate at a moment’s notice.









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Left: The title page of DD's 1910 text. The words under the author's name state "THE ONE WHO DISCOVERED THE BASIC PRINCIPLE OF CHIROPRACTIC, DEVELOPED ITS PHILOSOPHY, ORIGINATED AND FOUNDED THE SCIENCE AND ART OF CORRECTING ABNORMAL FUNCTIONS BY HAND ADJUSTING, USING THE VERTEBRAL PROCESSES AS LEVERS."

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Henry Matthey, an opponent of D.D. and alternative forms of healing in general, denounced unscientific and fraudulent practitioners in an 1899 article in the Davenport Republican. The venomous attack would certainly invite a libel suit against him had it been written in our time.


Call them what you will—Christian Scientists, magnetic healers, cheiropaths [sic], conjurors of disease, clairvoyants, somnambulists, spiritualists, palmists, natural healers, cancer doctors, Osteopaths—they are all the basest swindlers, and cannot be distinguished from the patent medicine manufacturers, and all those advertising quacks and institutes, by whose literature some have been driven to self-destruction, while others are confined in insane asylums. … Another specimen is the magnetic healer or Cheiropath [sic]. Please remember, this monstrosity claims to have a diploma in heaven, which, he affirms, invests him with supernatural powers. … I pity the poor patients who seek relief in his valley of death. (4)


Palmer gave back better than he got. Rather than rebutting Matthey in the newspaper, he printed his response in an advertorial, a kind of newsletter that he mailed regularly. In this way he was able to keep his rejoinder in the public eye for a longer time than a single newspaper entry would have allowed.


Dr. M.’s whole article shows that either he had a nightmare, was bilious, or wanted to relieve himself of the public odium of not being able to tell chicken-pox from small-pox. The thousands of mistakes covered over in the cemetery does not worry him, but all this raving and distraction is caused by him knowing what the people know and think of him. … Slander is the chief weapon used in this coward’s article. … Dr. M. gives a prescription of urine mixed with faeces.


Folk states his reply to Dr. Matthey was “characteristic of the style in which D.D. addressed his opponents.”


The Founder’s cantankerous style was inherited not only by his hereditary progeny, B.J., but by thousands of chiropractors through the ensuing decades. Any time a chiropractor’s sanctified opinion is crossed, one should expect verbal or penned retaliation from the offended, if not a lawsuit.



Footnotes

  1. Lamm L. Oregon Pioneer: The Journey of Chiropractic Education in the Northwest. Portland, Oregon: University of Western States; 2014, pp. 2-3. back

  2. Gibbons RW. D.D. Palmer: The Origins of the Palmer School and the Itinerant Schoolman, 1897-1913. Chiropr Hist. 1998 Dec;18(2):39–51. back

  3. Wardwell, Walter I. Chiropractic: history and evolution of a new profession. St.. Louis: Mosby Year Book; 1992, page 47. back

  4. Quoted in Folk H. The Religion of Chiropractic: Populist Healing from the American Heartland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press; 2017, p. 102. back



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About J. Michael Burke, D.C.

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During 45 years of diverse experience as a chiropractor, I have witnessed and documented many facets of the profession and the follies of many chiropractors, myself included. My involvement in various activities and endeavors has ranged from cracking necks and backs to developing a managed alternative healthcare network to investigating fraud.

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