Episode 018 — Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air! (part 2)


Title: Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air! (part 2)

Episode Number: 018

Host: Dr. Thomas Lamar

Show Date: 07/23/2010

Run Time: 19:32

Description:  Our Vintage 1931 B.J. Palmer Radio Broadcast Series continues with antique collector Todd Waters.  On this episode B.J. takes to the micorphone to share “The Great Value of Chiropractic as a Health Service;” plus Mr. Water shares with us exactly where he found these amazing recordings, and Dr. Lamar reveals his theory as to what they might have been used for.

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Dr. BJ Palmer, Chiropractor………………… and Radio Pioneer


Dr. B.J. Palmer,




“Wonders of Chiropractic”

Todd Waters, antique collector of records

Meet the Man Behind This Remarkable Chiropractic Broadcasting Find….

Mr. Todd Waters, antique collector and lover of the phonograph record, joins Dr. Lamar in this special podcast series.

Interested in purchasing a CD of the Recordings?

More info:

Listen to Dr.Lamar’s two-part podcast on Chiropractic Radio History:

“From Broadcasting to Podcasting: Chiropractic is On the Air!” (part 1)

“From Broadcasting to Podcasting: Chiropractic is On the Air!” (part 2)

Check out the other Parts of this BJ Palmer Broadcast Series:

“Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!” (part 1)

“Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!”(part 2)

“Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!” (part 3)

“Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!” (part 4)

“Shhhh! Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!” (part 5)

Read Dr. Lamar’s newspaper article the History of Chiropractic Radio:

“From Broadcasting to Podcasting: Chiropractic Delivers its Message”

“What’s a Podcast???” page!

Visit our iTunes listing and give us a rating!


Does your podcast listening schedule need a little backbone? If so, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your podcast chiropractor, Dr. Thomas Lamar.

Click Here to Automatically Receive Subscribe to SpinalColumnRadio



Spinal Column Radio, episode number eighteen.

Coming up next on Spinal Column Radio — Shhhh!  Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!  (part 2)


[intro theme music]

And welcome back to another exciting and information packed episode of Spinal Column Radio.  My name is Dr. Thomas Lamar, chiropractor and dad of six.   And this is the podcast that gets you to think.  To think about your health in a whole new way.  We’re the podcast for your backbone… the podcast with backbone.  Who knew that spinal education could be this much fun?

We’d like to invite you to visit our podcast website at spinalcolumnradio.com where you can learn more about us, check out our world-renowned “What’s a Podcast?” page, and can access the show notes for this episode.  Also, we encourage you to leave comments and ask questions through our website, or, if you prefer, you can email me using DrLamar AT spinalcolumnradio DOT com.


[vintage news real transitional sfx]

Chiropractors worldwide are leaping for Joy at the News that the Antique Collector of Phonograph Recordings from Midland Michigan,  Mr. Todd Waters, has come upon a rare find indeed:  Recordings of the Developer of Chiropractic and Radio Pioneer, himself, Dr. BJ Palmer, broadcasting chiropractic talks from his Radio Station WOC in Davenport, Iowa… circa 1931.  What’s more, Mr. Waters has announced that he is allowing Dr. Thomas Lamar of Spinal Column Radio to release these rare recordings via his podcast for all Chiropractors and Old Time Radio Buffs everywhere to hear and enjoy.


Well, that’s the news in a nutshell if you are joining this special 5-part Spinal Column Radio series midstream… this is part 2.  I encourage you to go back to episode 017— which would be part 1 — to get all the details behind this great story.

BJ taking in the view from the Up-E-Nuf tower which was adjacent to his radio station atop the administration building of the PSC.

Today, we we get to listen to another one of the BJ Palmer broadcast recordings that Mr. Water’s found.  Recall that BJ Palmer was the son of the founder of chiropractic, he was a chiropractor himself, and he owned and operated the first radio station west of the Mississippi… the WOC.  And while the station was a “regular” radio station for all intents and purposes with popular programming and the like… it also had something that other stations did not… (at least not at first)… Chiropractic educational programing.

Thanks to record collector Todd Waters, we get a chance to listen to these rare recordings…. this piece of Chiropractic History… this piece of Radio History.

So how does a record collector like Todd Waters procure such a notable find… Well, on one of his regular “Junk Hunts” of course.  I asked him to take us back to that fine day in 2004 in his hometown of Midland, Michigan…


[transitional sfx]

Mr. Todd Waters: I go everywhere looking for records:  garage sales, estate sales, and Salvation Army. …And these records were found there… at the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army is actually a records last chance of survival before it goes to the graveyard.  Especially old, fragile records like these were.  I found an envelope that had five records in it.  And I knew they weren’t musical records, they were spoken-word records…. they said “Chiropractic” on it.  I got really excited because I love spoken-word records.  I collect them.  I sell them.  I knew I had some thing very unique here…. My heart just kind of stopped because this was something very different and probably something I’d never find again.  So, I took them to the register…. probably paid two bucks for them.  It was well worth the price… went home and played them… and found out what they were… and it was just gold.


[transitional sfx]

Gold indeed (at least in this chiropractor’s opinion)…. found at the Midland, Michigan Salvation Army for a couple of bucks.

Let’s go a head now and play what would have been recording #3 of Dr. BJ Palmer’s Chiropractic Talks entitled “The Great Value of Chiropractic as a Health Service.”  And then afterwards, I’m going to share with you my “Theory” as to why these Chiropractic Talks were recorded and how they might have been used.

So here now… from 1931… Dr. BJ Palmer on “The Great Value of Chiropractic as a Health Service.”


[transitional sfx]

[original, 1931 BJ Palmer Broadcast Recording:  The Great Value of Chiropractic as a Health Service]

Announcer: It is my pleasure to introduce to this audience, Dr. BJ Palmer, president of the Palmer School of Chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa.  He is the only son of DD Palmer, the founder of Chiropractic.   Dr. Palmer has developed the principles and practice of Chiropractic, and is the world’s foremost authority on Chiropractic.  His subject is:  The Great Value of Chiropractic as a Health Service.  Dr. Palmer….

Dr. BJ Palmer: The fundamental principle of Chiropractic is the same today as it was at the time of its establishment 36 years ago, when my father, DD Palmer, stated his belief that vertebral subluxations produce pressure on nerves emitting from the spinal column and thereby cause dis-ease.  This principle has been substantiated by results secured in restoring the health of the sick people, in millions of cases during 36 years Chiropractic has been in existence.

While the principle has remained unchanged, research and scientific development have evolved more accurate and effective methods of application.  Chiropractic is no longer a theory substantiated only by results.

The introduction of the X-ray for the purpose of taking pictures of the spinal column enable the Chiropractor to determine the position of vertebrae more accurately; and, thereby, a contributed to mechanical perfection the art of adjusting.

The invention of the neurocalometer, which is a scientific instrument that indicates very minute temperature differences along the spine, enable the Chiropractor to locate accurately the points of nerve pressure in the spine.  And after a Chiropractic adjustment has been given, for the purpose of releasing such pressure, further use of the instrument provides knowledge as to whether the nerve pressure has been released and, if so, in what degree.

The spinal cord leaves the brain at the base of the skull and enters the spinal column.  As the spinal cord descends, it give off 31 pair of nerves.  After leaving the spinal column, each nerve branches and spreads to such an extent that the combined ramifications of the 31 pair  reach every cell in the body.  It is by this system of nerves that the mind is enabled to control and govern the function and action of every organ and tissue of the body.  When this complete control exists, we are in a state of health.

It often is the case, however, that the vertebrae are subluxated.  This subluxation causes the spinal opening to become much smaller than it should be, and consequently the nerve which passes through the opening, is impinged by the bones.  It can be seen that a nerve under pressure cannot transmit nerve impulses in the same quantity as a nerve free from pressure.  If a nerve that is pressed upon supplies a muscle, that muscle becomes afflicted.  If it supplies the stomach, some form of stomach trouble will result.  Dis-ease of any organ of the body follows the impingement of the flow of vital nerve force over the nerve supplying that organ.

Success breeds antagonists.  If Chiropractic were not making a remarkable health record, and if were not restoring health to the sick and suffering, much of the criticism and condemnation from antagonistic sources would be nonexistent.

Consult a responsible Chiropractor in your community, and have him explain fully why Chiropractic adjustments will release pressure upon nerves interfering with the transmission of vital nerve force.  No greater service can be rendered than that of restoring health to the sick and suffering, and a competent Chiropractor in any community will deliver a meritorious and effective health service.

Chiropractic invites your unprejudiced and conscientious investigation and trial.


Dr. BJ Palmer… referencing his father’s establishment of  Chiropractic  36 years ago.  Of course that was 1895 with the adjustment of Harvey Lillard right there in Davenport, Iowa in the Ryan Building on Brady Street.  And that would place this recording we just heard at 1931.

So, what would this recording have been used for?  Well, certainly, as I’ve mentioned, Dr. Palmer’s Davenport radio station WOC… and by that time also the synchronized Des Moines station WHO… had as part of its regularly scheduled lineup, Chiropractic Educational Programming.  And this certainly, without a doubt, would fit in that category… But its short four and a half to five minute length makes me wonder, and the fact that it was recorded makes me wonder also.    Certainly in the earlier days of radio, Dr. Palmer would have been “live” right there at WOC… after all, the BJ Palmer Mansion shared the same block as the Palmer School of Chiropractic where the station was located. So yes, he would have been “live.”  Because everything was “live” back then.  One of the Federal requirements for radio stations in the very beginning was that there was to be “no ‘canned music’ of any kind.”

But these recordings were from 1931… a full nine years after his first broadcast and things were beginning to change a bit — in radio, the economy, and for Palmer personally.

BJ loved to travel.

Great demands were placed on B.J. for his time.  He was a noted lecturer, author, and world traveler… so prerecording his radio broadcasts would make some sense and would enable him to not be “anchored” to the station… and yet still have a regular presence.

But from my research (and I certainly do not hold myself out as being a “Palmer Expert”… so I invite your two cents if you have some additional insight)… but from my research, combined with my conversations with Mr. Todd Waters surrounding his find of the recordings… I have a Theory that I’d like to at least put on the table…. Now in order for it to make sense, you need some additional background.  And this background is not necessarily very glowing, but it is part of what constitutes the fascinating history, with all of its twists and turns, of chiropractic.

So sit back and relax as I take you back over some “rocky terrain” that B.J. found himself in:

[1930’s transition music:  Cab Calloway — Stack O’Lee Blues.  http://www.archive.org/details/CabCalloway-StackOleeBlues]

One website I stumbled upon summed Dr. Palmer up pretty well….

“B.J. possessed a flamboyant but difficult personality; he was a charismatic visionary but also a fabulous self-promoter and stubbornly opinionated leader.”

In 1924, the scientific advancement of the neurocalometer was presented to the profession.   (which, by the way, he spoke about in his talk today)… this was a device that Palmer was determined that every chiropractor needed to own.  It was his is “Back to Chiropractic — Neurocalometer Movement.” … and his broadcasting enterprise was a major way that he got his word out.   But his strong-handed marketing efforts on the chiropractic profession for the neurocalometer began to wear thin on many in the profession.  Apparently Palmer was publicly declaring that those who did not practice as he dictated were “incompetent, insincere, and dishonest.”

[booing sfx]

Many chiropractors, including those who had previously been staunch supporters of Palmer, were disaffected.  Soon afterwards he lost his position as secretary of the Universal Chiropractor’s Association, and the enrollment in the Palmer School of Chiropractic began to slump.  And then to make matters worse, the Stock Market of 1929 crashed… ushering in the Great Depression.  The Palmers were in for some rough financial times, as was the rest of the nation.

At about this time, however, the Government lifted some of its earlier restrictions on radio commercials… allowing his station to actually become profitable with advertising revenues.  Soon afterwards, he acquired sister station WHO in Des Moines with a $35,000 bank loan.  Interestingly, the inventor of the neurocalometer, chiropractor Dossa Evins, was one of  WOC’s engineers who had some former government radio experience with the Secret Service… anyway, he, along with some others, was able to “combine” the two stations by synchronizing the broadcasts between Davenport and Des Moines.

I indicated that BJ had garnered some disaffection… not by all, but by many.  Well, his next move only worsened matters…. and frankly I would have been disaffected myself… but I can see how easily it would have been for BJ to back himself into a corner.

With financial pressures rising and the economy tanking, the Government, as I said, loosened its restrictions on radio advertising… allowing Palmer to tap into some positive cash flow… a welcomed revenue stream with the lackluster neurocalometer Movement and low student enrollment numbers.  The problem was not that he had advertising, but who he allowed to advertise on his station…. Well, those who had money of course… and those people, you guessed it, were Drug Companies.


[montage of old time radio drug commercials: commercial clips from Anacin, Carter’s Little Liver Pills, Exlax, and Grove’s Nose Drops.  raw material courtesy of http://www.oldtimeradiofans.com/old_radio_commercials/]

Everyone of you undoubtedly has a headache for a pain remedy that you swear by….. When your digestion is upset and you feel headachy and irritable take Carter’s Little Liver Pills…. Overnight, it helps you toward your normal regularity….  These nose drops are something brand new and a big improvement on old-fashioned oil drops….  That’s why many doctors and millions of people use Exlax with complete confidence….  You’ll find the fastest and most complete relief in Anacin you’ve ever experienced….  To feel cheerful and happy again take Carter’s Little Liver Pills…. That’s because they are medically superior.  Because they stay up in the nose…. Get them at any drug store — only 25 cents.


[transitional sfx]

Well this created an outrage in our profession.  And rightfully so… Dr. Loran Rogers, chiropractor and founder of the Journal of the International Chiropractic Congress wrote, among other things, “Chiropractors are having difficulty explaining to their patients why B.J. Palmer accepts advertising over Station WOC which directly challenges the Chiropractic Principle which he professes to advocate.”  He went on to point out the hypocrisy that one would hear when his station would announce, “This program is coming to you form the Palmer School of Chiropractic Studios in Davenport,” followed by, “glowing testimonials as to the efficacy of Rem for coughs, Arzen and Mistol for colds, Nujor for constipation, Bayer Aspirin for pain, etc….”

Only money could do that.

Around the same time as the Stock Market Crash, the American Chiropractic Association released a national radio show entitled “The Life Line”  and was promoted in the profession as “Chiropractic on the Air — Everywhere,” as though to set themselves apart and elevate themselves from BJ Palmer’s solo-station broadcasting attempts.  Remember, while BJ may have enjoyed national coverage in the beginning of radio, as the air became cluttered with radio signals, he could no longer transmit as far.  And now, a chiropractic radio effort was under foot that would be syndicated on radio stations nationwide.  The original stations in the line up included KOA/Denver, WJR/Detroit, KYW/Chicago, WOV/New York, WSYR/Syracuse, WGR/Buffalo, WTNT/Nashville, KGIR/Butte, KOH/Reno, and KFI/Los Angeles.  Curiously absent from that list was WOC/Davenport.  The Tuesday evening broadcasts were well-received and many in the chiropractic profession expressed their satisfaction.

So, there’s your background… and now, here’s my theory:

I believe that BJ Palmer was in need to improve his image and his reputation, for not only his sake, but the Palmer School of Chiropractic as well… And he was in need of expanding his broadcast reach.  So, perhaps, in a matter similar to his competition — if you want to call it that — of “The Life Line” radio programs from the American Chiropractic Association, he could have done the same thing with these five minute “Chiropractic Talk ‘Infomercials’” by distributing them to select radio stations around the country.  Which might help explain how it ended up in a Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Midland, Michigan, 450 miles from its originating source.

I don’t know…. but given the events that took place… it is a possibility.

We may never know exactly.

But one thing we do know is that Palmer left his mark… both in Chiropractic and in Radio and without him, neither would be where it is today.


[outro theme music]

Thanks again to Mr. Todd Waters for joining us on the program again and for his fantastic and historical find… which he is now sharing freely with the world.

Spinal Column Radio would like to remind you that this is 1931 chiropractic… and that true health comes from the inside out — not outside in.  As such, the content of this podcast, along with the show notes and related links, is not intended to cure, diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease.  But, instead, is meant to inform and inspire you in asking better questions regarding your health.  Since the circumstances surrounding your particular situation are unique, you are encouraged to consult with a present day Doctor of Chiropractic — or other health care practitioner of your choosing.

Next time on Spinal Column Radio, we continue our BJ Palmer Broadcast Series and Mr. Todd Waters joins us once again to share with us his opinion as just how rare these recordings are.  Well do that next week.  So, until then, for my son Logan, tweaking the knobs on the sound board, this is Dr. Thomas Lamar, your podcast chiropractor.


Spinal Column Radio is a production of Spinal Column Communications in conjunction with AnchorChiropractic.net.  Copyright 2010.

Download a PDF version of these Show Notes


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Audio Note: The repetitive “click” heard in this chiropractic talk was from a fracture crack in the record. The record’s center paper label was the only thing that held this record in one piece. Luckily the grooves were in perfect alignment and the record played well and suffered only a minor click in the audio.
This click could be digitally removed with a little audio software tweaking. But if the recording was cleaned too much from its vinyl artifacts it would begin to lose it’s nostalgic identity.

Comment by Todd Waters

This was really interesting! Glad you were able to procure the old records. Oh, and you have a really great voice for broadcasting if you ever decide to change careers. Thanks for this informative bit of chiropractic history; I’m looking forward to the next installment. Sue

Comment by Sue Shaffer

Thanks Sue… I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and thanks for the voice compliment. 🙂 – Dr Lamar

Comment by drlamar

Thanks Todd for the extra info on this recording. Your extra insights are very much appreciated. -Dr Lamar

Comment by drlamar

Addendum/Correction: In this episode I mentioned that in the “Neurocalometer Movement,” B.J. was determined that every Chiropractor needed to own one of these devices….. More correctly, B.J. was not selling these devices, but LEASING them — up to $2200 for a ten year lease for the two-pronged, heat-sensing device.

B.J. explained that the high cost was justified to cover the costs of the extra value that he was including as part of the lease:

1) traveling instructors to train doctors,
2) national publicity campaign,
3) crew of lawyers for protecting patients,
4) improvements/repairs/replacements, and
5) beefing up the power of transmission of the WOC to help promote neurocalometer.

“Why this?” as Palmer wrote in 1924, “Just to spread the gospel for you!”

Comment by drlamar

What a wonderful sounding radio voice and Idea! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK TOR!!

Dr. Bryan Wright, D.C.
the specific

Comment by Bryan Wright, D.C.

Hello Dr. Wright –
Thanks for giving us a listen. Please help me get the word out to our colleagues about this amazing BJ Palmer, Chiropractic Radio History find!

Comment by drlamar

What a great find. That was one of the best spinal care workshops I have ever heard in 5 minutes or less by the developer of chiropractic himself. Great find!

Comment by Gene Orlowsky, D.C.

Dr. Orlowsky I couldn’t agree more! And to think that for all intents and purposes, these recordings were basically temporary — definitely not to be archived. It’s amazing what you can find in a Salvation Army. 🙂

Comment by drlamar

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