Chiro-Picker’s Fresh Pick — Signature Finds

Antique Collector, Todd Waters, is “The Chiro-Picker”

by  Todd Waters, aka “The Chiro-Picker” – SpinalColumnRadio guest blogger

For this Fresh Pick, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite items to discover: Autographs! Autograph collecting was my introduction to the life of a picker.

I never will forget the thrill of receiving my first celebrity autograph through the mail when I was nine…  And it is this same thrill I hope to recapture every time I go picking for treasures. 

My Early Autograph Collection

Most times I do not strike gold — but I know it’s out there to be found.  And I still get a little thrill every time I go looking.

Most of all, autograph collecting has taught me patience.  Just like waiting for the postman to deliver a signed photo of my latest hero, I wait for great chiropractic relics to enter my radar.  A good picker is always on the lookout.

The Palmer “Green Books” are an excellent place to find signatures.

You are very lucky if your original Green Books were signed by the author — icing on the cake. However, most copies don’t have the author’s signature, instead, they have the book owner’s.  This can still be a good find though.

How cool would it be to have Clarence Gonstead’s very own copy of Mabel Palmer’s book on anatomy?

Or you may even find the author signed and dedicated the book to their student. 

Every pen stroke is a bread crumb to discover the past. 

Some of these crumbs if followed will lead to great discoveries and are worth investigating.  What if… just what if… BJ Palmer signed a book and just happened to mention the titles of his mysteriously missing Green Books 30 and 31?  This would be a huge discovery for the chiropractic world!  I do not doubt there are bomb shells such as this yet to be discovered in book inscriptions.  Look over everything!

[Check out my article on How to Avoid Fake Autographs]

Of course, one of the most sought after chiropractic autographs is that of B.J. Palmer.

This book I found had a nice long inscription from BJ made out to a fellow chiropractor.

This recent find states: “I love the circus in you because you love the circus, BJ Sarasota, January 22 ’51.” 

This says a lot about BJ. He was in fact a “circus nut” and promoted free chiropractic care to circus performers through his Palmergrams. He even had a summer home in Sarasota, Florida — the circus mecca of the world.  Time will tell if the above inscription was made to a circus performer. [Listen to Dr. Lamar touch on Palmer’s fascination with the circus in SpinalColumnRadio Episode 082].

I was very lucky to obtain a signed copy of Mabel Palmer’s Stepping Stones. It was inscribed “To Agnes.” Agnes was the wife to Mabel’s son, David Palmer.  Which means, this could very well have been Agnes Palmer’s own copy.  Again, look over everything in signatures. They may contain valuable little footnotes of time.  [Listen to Dr. Fred Schofield talk about Agnes Palmer in SpinalColumnRadio Episode 062].

My copy of David Palmer’s Memoirs was signed by David to Senator Hubert Humphrey. With a quick Google search I found Humphrey was not only a senator but Vice President under President Lyndon Johnson.  The book had an owner stamp: “from the library of Hubert H. Humphrey.”  (I own a personal item from a Vice President?!… This should be in a museum!!  I Am Not Worthy!) [Listen to Dr. Lamar talk about Dave Palmer in SpinalColumnRadio Episode 021, as well as in his interview with Chiropractic Historian, Dr. Gary Street — Episode 44].

Chiropractic history buffs will recognize Oakley G. Smith as the man who authored the first chiropractic textbook “Modernized Chiropractic” (1906).  I found a hand-written note from Smith on a returned Firemen’s Mutual Aid and Benefit Association Pledge card. Oakley wrote on the back: “I trust this card is a clerical mistake and not a whole sale plan to co-erce. Signed Oakley Smith.”  Naprapathy , a science Smith founded, is stated on his personal stationary.  Every little piece to a signature documents a part of someone’s life.

Here’s the signature from the “most jailed chiropractor” in history:  H.R. Reaver, DC.  [To read more about Dr. Reaver and the chiropractors who went to jail for the chiropractic profession, check out Dr. Lamar’s article].

Dr. Leo Spears is a chiropractor that developed the “Painless System.”  Here’s his signature.

Dr. Mary Ann Pruitt was an “Upper Cervical Chiropractic Legend.”  According to a blog post written on her life, she “was raised as a child during the heyday of Lyceum at Palmer. Dr. B.J. Palmer used to call her, ‘his yellow rose of Texas’ when Dr. Pruitt was a child.  She graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1949 (in the Mabel Heath Palmer memorial class).”  She was also, according to this yearbook, the “class historian.”

Here’s a signature from Dr. Michael Grecco, a chiropractor who in 1953 authored Chiropractic Technique Illustrated — a book that as one website stated “marked a new departure in the presentation of the art of chiropractic.”  This was a book that dealt with the “how” of chiropractic, rather than the “why.”

Of course I don’t have all the signatures of the heavy hitters in the world of chiropractic.  D.D. Palmer would be an incredibly difficult signature to find. I will probably will never come across one. Then again, the patience and persistence I’ve learned through collecting autographs may be the key to finding D.D.

What I like most about autographs is that the item signed was actually held and touched by a celebrity — the words, written by them. Because I will never get to meet BJ Palmer in person, the next closest thing I can do is to  touch something he has touched: an autograph. 

An autograph is a timeless declaration stating, “I lived and walked on this earth and did many great things. This was my name.”

I never thought of autographs this way until now, but it’s kind of powerful.  In a way, as autograph collectors, we are seeking to “own” a piece of the person we admire. I always secretly had hopes the magic of each celebrity autograph would rub off and become a part of me.  Perhaps this is why we pickers usually amass a huge collection of the items we seek. We are trying to enhance ourselves with an item we feel will complete us. This stuff isn’t just cool, it something psychological to us.

But please don’t ask what each item I’ve collected means to me. That conversation would take forever. I don’t want to think about it.  I’d rather do some more pickin’.   

‘Til next time.  — CP

The DC Angle:

Steve Simmons, DC

Is their something special about having an author’s signature?

If you ask any Chiropractor who has the sacred signatures of BJ Palmer, Mabel Palmer, Dave Palmer or — the unthinkable — D.D. Palmer, their answer would be a resounding YES!

I often find myself word bound when trying to describe what it is like having a genuine signature from a historical great in our profession. It’s almost a magical or mystical piece of history because at one time that actual person of significance had to sit down, put pen to paper, and sign their name.  I sometimes wonder what they were thinking about. Did they know that 50 or 100 years later we would all be talking about and treasuring their “John Hancock?”

Even to the noncollector an autograph will turn some heads. I enjoy watching when people see the signature of a giant, and they stare in awe — sometimes not uttering a single word, as if they are somehow connecting with the author who signed the book.

I know for me, my heart starts racing, my adrenaline start flowing, and then I retrospect and think how big this Chiropractic profession really is.

Dr. Steve Simmons is a self-proclaimed “BJ Palmer Nut” and tries to collect anything and everything BJ. Dr. Simmons practices in Midland, Michigan and gets along swimmingly with the Chiro-Picker.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great article Chiropicker and Dr Steve – I know the thrill, had the honor of having Virgil Strang sign and personalize his book when I had him as a teacher in the 80’s, alot of these used books, turn out to be signed, I got Marcus Bach’s, and Chester Wilks this way – I’ve had good luck on Amazon, “used” – and the
prices are really good. I think now is a good time to be a book collector – with the rush to go digital and the younger generations lack of interest – lots of grandma and grandpa’s old books are gonna end up on the used market

Go Green!


Comment by Robert Kauffman DC

I agree. There is something special about holding an original green book. They hold a testament of chiro history that a sterile computer screen will never have. And when you find the author’s signature in these books it is as close as you will ever come to connecting with one of the Great Ones of chiropractic.

Comment by Todd Waters

Just obtained a letter dated 1932 and signed by BJ on PC letterhead. Though i am not a chiropractor i have researched Dr.B.J.’s life.He he possessed a very great and rare from of genius. He was right ‘God did call him’ to help the human race! It was a dream of mine to get a letter signed by him.
Dr.Howard Davis

Comment by Howard Davis

Thanks Howard for dropping by and sharing! Glad you were able finally land an original BJ signature. What do you hold your doctorate in?

Comment by drlamar

Nice Chiro-Picking! Letters are exciting, one of a kind segments to history that often contain the missing pieces of the puzzle. And of course a signature from BJ Palmer on his own school stationary is a very nice treasure. — The Chiro-Picker

Comment by Todd

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