Chiro-Picker’s Fresh Pick — “Tuning In” to Chiropractic’s Past

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

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

For this article my focus is on radio related items from chiropractic history.

The first chiropractic relic I discovered has probably been my best find yet — 1931 BJ Palmer voice recordings on five acetate records. Prior to this picking, I didn’t know who this BJ Palmer character was. I just knew unusual spoken word records were a good sell, and these old recordings were probably valuable.

“Very quickly I began to take an interest in Palmer…. I liked this guy.”

A quick Google search of BJ Palmer revealed that he was the “Developer of Chiropractic.” Very quickly I began to take an interest in Palmer. Not only was he the fountainhead of a very unusual health science, but he was an entrepreneur, an obsessive collector, and a pioneer in radio. I liked this guy.

I’ve always had a fascination for radio. I love the look of the old beehive radios, the warm, orange glow of the tube alive in its cabinet, and the classic old radio shows of yesteryear. If not for my love of nostalgic radio, I would not be a record collector today and most assuredly would never have had the “picker eye” that found these 1931 BJ Palmer chiropractic acetates. Lucky thing for all of us, as they would have surely been destroyed.

Palmer bought the second commercial radio station in the USA in 1922:  WOC — which stood for Wonders (or World) of Chiropractic. He aired WOC from his Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Later he bought a second radio station, WHO of Des Moines, which still airs today. BJ had the ultimate promotional tool at his disposal and aired chiropractic talks to his captive audience.


I found this promo card for WOC-WHO Radio in a “green book.”  It states “Tune in on Radio Station WOC-WHO Early Sunday Morning 2-a.m. and listen to BJ Palmer Talk about Chiropractic”. This is the first advertisement I’ve seen of a radio talk from BJ. I hope to find more items such as this.


BJ Palmer’s Radio Salesmanship became the “bible” of radio stations everywhere. It was a manual for copy editing, announcing, advertising, sales, pronunciation, positive speech vs. negative speech etc… It is amazing to me the knowledge of BJ Palmer. He really understood effective radio even in its infancy. I am not sure if this book is used today by radio stations, but it sure would be a great refresher course for writing skill improvement. It features pages of script with crossed-out, excessive, redundant words — showing that you can say more with less. I recall that Dr Lamar remarked that he owned this book and found it very helpful in his radio work. I am sure it is a good manual to have when editing the Chiro-Picker’s latest article. Ha.


This postcard represents a nice view of both the Palmer School of Chiropractic and the WOC.  There are many of these postcards floating around so, from a collector’s perspective, it is not a difficult item to find.


This is called an EKKO stamp. In this instance, listeners of WOC would have been rewarded this stamp for writing the radio station to confirm having received their signal.  EKKO stamps are quite collectible to fans of radio memorabilia.  [Here is an interesting article on EKKO stamps]. I understand there is also an EKKO stamp of station WHO. My “picker eye” is on the look out. [….And I found it! Check it out below]

STATION W-O-C  SHEET MUSIC: “Where the West Begins”

1923 was a big year for BJ Palmer and Chiropractic — so much so that the man even had a song dedicated to him on sheet music! The song “Where the West Begins” was written by Nat Ozmon. It featured such lyrics as: “In Davenport where the West begins,” “Dear Old BJ and Mabel,” and “Station WOC and that Dear P.S.C.” Although the lyrics are a bit mediocre, in my opinion, the front graphic to the sheet music is a work of art. I really didn’t think I’d ever find a copy of this music, but I am now happy to confirm it exists.

It is unknown if there is a recording of this song, and although, I’m sure it would not be the best of songs to listen to, it still would be an incredible find.

For those that may be feeling a touch of inspiration, if you are one that can tickle the ivories, and feel so inclined, I’d welcome you to bring this tune back to life! And hey, if you record yourself, we might even feature it in a future Chiro-Picker article.  Just use the contact link in the left hand column to get a hold of us. (Copies of this music can be found in my store — mention SCR and get $5 off).

[Merry Christmas 12/25/11:  The WOC song, thanks to Dr. Lamar and company, has been brought back to life.  “Listen In” to SCR Episode 105].


June 21-July 1, 1929, Rock Island Lines.

Unfortunately this item slipped out of the Chiro-Picker’s hands. I was just at the infancy of collecting chiropractic items and wasn’t familiar with the world of BJ of Davenport. I didn’t realize what this item was, and I passed on it. Then I read Palmer’s book The Bigness of the Fellow Within where he talks about his Radio Broadcast Trip to Yellowstone (pages 240-241). Well at least we have a photo of this elusive item.


This is a handsome little tool made by the Zippo Lighter Company is called The Greenskeeper. It’s a nifty little golf accessory containing a retractable scraper to clean your shoes and tokens to mark your balls, all while promoting WOC Radio and Television.


This tape measure advertising WHO Radio Des Moines is another promo item made by Zippo. The back states “The Palmer Broadcasting Company.” BJ’s son, David, also took a very active role at WOC-WHO.


This Tri-City Broadcasting Company Basic Blue letter welcomes Harold B. James to the WOC staff. The letter was sent by chief engineer Ray E. Staufferick on March 23, 1942. The salary as stated by Mr Loyet: $130.00 per month.


This 1937 book was WHO’s first promotional souvenir booklet. It featured many of the hillbilly musical acts that performed at the Barn Dance Frolic. The crowds of the Saturday night Barn Dance Frolic grew so large the event was moved to many venues, each larger than the last. The show was also aired live for the folks at home.

On the first page of the booklet, BJ and David Palmer are featured as president and vice president of the radio station. WHO’S engineers and announcers are also featured including a very young sports announcer “Dutch,” who later became our 40th president of the United States — Ronald Reagan.


This is an actual promotional photo from WHO Radio featuring Sports Announcer “Dutch” Reagan.


This is the second edition of the WHO Des Moines Picture Book. This 1938 edition features more staff, engineers and talent acts of WHO.

There are a few photos of Des Moines Tall Corn Sweepstakes with BJ standing next to the winner. Also, another cameo photo of BJ standing with the cast of the Barn Dance Frolic.


This is a promotional photo of WHO’s Luke McGluke and the Merry Minstrels. This was printed on heavy card stock and was taped from the back. Perhaps this was a Barn Dance Frolic Lobby Card of the featured group.


WHO-FM Promotional matchbook. I really like the cool antenna graphic on the back of the book. At this time Stations WHO and WHO-FM boasted 50,000 watts each. Each matchstick has WHO-FM printed on its shaft.


This book is a new arrival to my collection, and unfortunately I haven’t given it the attention it deserves. This edition is from 1937 and is filled with many great photos and illustrations. Of particular interest, however, is Section 3: Advertising.  And in this section, Lesson NO. IV is all about Radio Broadcasting and Radio Talks (Pages 67 -116).  Dr. Marlow has written 24 Radio Talks for chiropractors to read as their own on their local radio stations.  He advises to air one talk per week and to read the statement within 5-7 minutes for an effective chiropractic advertisement.

I have a feeling that you will hear more of Marlow in an upcoming Chiro-Picker article, as Dr. Lamar and I are teaming up  to bring his radio broadcasts back to life.

This is by no means a complete collection of all items relating to chiropractic-inspired radio items. But these are just some of the more interesting items I have found in my chiro-picking adventures so far. I’ll pass the keyboard over now to my pal and radio aficionado, Dr Lamar, who can shed some more light on these “Wonders of Chiropractic” Radio Items.

‘Til next time.  — CP

The DC Angle:

Thomas Lamar, DC

I’ve always loved radio!

Like Todd, I’ve always had a fascination with radio.  I remember playing “radio” on my reel to reel tape recorder as a young boy.  And then later, as a teen, setting up my own “pirate radio station” in the attic of my home — complete with turntables, cassette players, Radio Shack mixer, and my aspiring-rockstar-uncle’s spare mic. Thanks to a souped-up mister microphone kit, we got our signal out to the front yard!

So you can imagine as a chiropractic student, when I learned that BJ Palmer was a radio pioneer, I took notice. Purchasing the first commercial radio station west of the Mississippi (second in the nation), Palmer saw something in radio that others did not — at least not a first:  simply its ability to communicate messages to a great multitude of people all at once! Prior to this, radio was only used for amateur and governmental purposes.  Palmer even referred to it once as a “toy.”  His son Dave was involved with amateur radio as a youth — tuning in signals from the night sky as he sat in the “Pigeon Roost” of the Palmer Mansion.

The “radio light bulb” went off in the front-running mind of BJ during a Palmer School of Chiropractic Lyceum (August, 1921). Faced with a larger than expected attendance, he decided to seat the overflow in the outdoor auditorium up on the roof.  And while this location was far removed from the lecturer was that was speaking in the auditorium below, it didn’t matter because he simply patched the lecturer into his school’s public address system (the first of its kind in an institution of learning).  It was then that he realized that if an audience seated on the rooftop of his building was able to listen to and enjoy live audio from lecture programs they could not see, they could just as easily do the same hundreds of miles away over the invisible waves of radio.

Palmer’s station, WOC, sat atop the administration building of Palmer School of Chiropractic and for all intents and purposes was a regular radio station with over 1 million listeners — playing news, sports, weather, live music, farm reports, children’s storytime, and church service.  But, of course, because this was Palmer’s station, it also carried a regular dose of chiropractic programming.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Palmer’s station, I’d invite you to read the article I wrote as well as listen to the two-part podcast that spun off of it.  Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to the 5-part podcast I did that featured the Chiro-Picker’s BJ Palmer Health Talk Radio Recordings.  In addition, you can hear actual audio of President Ronald Reagan retelling his early memories of WOC as a sports announcer on Track 6 of our New Beginnings Spinal Column Radio CD #1.  But wait there’s more… you just might enjoy some of our conversation revolving around BJ and the history of radio in an interview I did with the Chiro-Picker himself and BJ Palmer enthusiast, Dr. Steven Simmons: Doc Simmons’ BJ Chiro History Museum and The Power of the Podcast.

I love checking out the Chiro-Picker’s finds related to radio.  Each find is like another piece of the puzzle to help retell the history of this fascinating era.  While there certainly is some documented writings on this exciting time in radio — and chiropractic — not all authors are congruent with one another, and there exists pockets of missing information here and there.  So, for me, the Picker’s finds help connect some of the dots and reinforce others.

I’d like to comment on a few of the items the Chiro-Picker has procured for us:

WOC-WHO Chiropractic Promo Card

The first — and perhaps the coolest — is the WOC-WHO Chiropractic Promo Card.  When Todd found this gem pressed between the pages of a Palmer Green Book, he immediately contacted me.  Why?  Because this postcard is the first find that may point to the BJ Palmer Health Talk Radio Recordings he stumbled upon.

Notice how it refers to “WOC-WHO.”  As more and more radio station signals occupied the air, to eliminate interference between them, some stations had to share.  Such was the case when the WOC  (owned and operated by Palmer School of Chiropractic) and WHO (owned and operated by Banker’s Life Insurance Company) were selected by the federal government to share the same clear channel for the state of Iowa in 1928 — AM 1000. While having a clear channel, ensured that they would not compete with out-of-state stations for the same frequency, having to share the same signal was rather burdensome.  In the beginning, they compromised by having one station broadcast for a full week during the daytime and the other during the night.  Then the following week they would trade positions.  Palmer soon improved this situation in 1930 by purchasing WHO and forming the Central Broadcasting Company.  Until the synchronization of the two stations was perfected, the stations continued to split airtime, only this time they were owned by the same company and had consistent programing and a consistent message. Depending on which facility was actually on the air, the call letters would alternate between WOC-WHO or WHO-WOC, with the “on air” station being listed first.  In 1933, Palmer decided to split the stations as he felt Davenport was not being well-served and returned WOC as its own station.

The BJ Palmer Health Talk Radio Recordings that the Chiro-Picker found are, at least in part, from 1931, which would fall within the two station sharing arrangement (1928-1933) — as it states “WOC-WHO” on the promo card.  But, the card also boasts “50,000 watts” of broadcasting power — a considerable upgrade that wouldn’t happen until April of 1933.  Seven months later the two stations would separate as I previously described.  So, Todd’s Chiropractic Promo Card is most definitely from 1933.  And whether or not it actually points to the recordings he found, it most certainly points to programming that was similar, and likely longer in nature (the recordings he found were approximately five minutes a piece).

One history book I read talked of how Palmer was known for his late-night chiropractic soliloquies (that certainly could explain the “2 am” part).  And the late-night aspect would have been congruent with Palmer wanting to get his message out to the world.  Operating at 50,000 watts on a clear channel station on a cloudless night would give his signal incredible reach.  In fact, Palmer’s main purpose for having the radio station in the first place was to “establish Good Will for Chiropractic” amongst the public and to develop within them “a favorable mental receptivity” to our profession.  Palmer would write regarding his chiropractic broadcasts that chiropractors “must appreciate the advertising and publicity value of these programs”  — another reason for Palmer  to take advantage of the “flame throwing” ability of his clear channel signal in the nighttime hours, so as to reach as many local chiropractic markets as possible.  This promo postcard is likely a resultant marketing strategy of these statements as it is “sent to you with compliments of…” (in this case) Dr. Chas Korth of New Ulm, Minnesota (a full 200 miles from BJ’s 532-foot, 213,000-pound steel antenna tower).  Remember, in the recordings found by Todd, Dr. Palmer would exhort the listener to “consult a responsible chiropractor in your community.”  So not only was his chiropractic radio station –and specifically its chiropractic programming — designed to promote the PSC and chiropractic in general, but individual practitioners as well.

Radio Salesmanship

I love this book!  Interestingly this is probably one of the few books BJ authored that does not mention the word chiropractic.  At the forefront of the broadcasting boom of the 1920’s, B.J. quickly became a well-known and respected authority in the Broadcasting Industry.  In 1942 he authored what Todd referred to as the “bible of radio stations everywhere” — Radio Salesmanship — a staple text once used in many broadcasting schools and stations world-wide. In 1946, he reported that over 600 radio stations were using his text to improve their broadcasts. His text underwent many revisions… which makes sense, because that was the gist of BJ’s message — refining copy by taking out unnecessary words and removing negatives. He said,“Why freight a hogshed of words to express a spoon of thot?” Or put another way, as my favorite quote from the book states:  “Most copy-writers suffer from a diarrhoea of words and a constipation of thot.”  And on that note, I’ll stop writing this section and direct you to Part 4 of “Shhh! Dr BJ Palmer is On The Air!” for more on this great volume of Palmer prose.

Station W-O-C Sheet Music:  “Where the West Begins”

This is a great find!  This song was written and composed in 1923 by Nat Ozmon, a singer and dancer who appeared on the vaudeville stage and sang on WOC.  It’s possible that BJ knew Nat from his days working the vaudeville scene as a teen — which would also help explain why this song was a tribute to BJ and Mabel. This song was written just one year after WOC went on the air. The fact that someone would even consider composing a song ABOUT a radio station really underscores just how life changing the advent of radio was to our society at the time.  WHO’s Jack Shelley once stated in an interview: “A radio station could provide a service to people in the small towns and the farms, in addition to the cities — but particularly for people in the rural areas — that they had never known before.  It was just a whole new world opening up for them.”  It must have been pretty amazing! And, honestly… somebody really does need to bring “Where the West Begins” back to life. 🙂

WHO Des Moines Picture Book

Regarding this find, I just wanted to comment on the “Tall Corn Sweepstakes.”  Listeners of the WOC would frequently hear the announcer proclaim: “WOC is coming to you from the Up-E-Nuf tower atop the Palmer School of Chiropractic, the Chiropractic Fountain Head, in Davenport, Iowa, where the West begins and in the state where the tall corn grows!  Broadcasting by authority of the Federal Radio Commission…”

In Dave Palmer’s Memoirs he recalled that his dad, BJ, “always was a man for a play on words, [and] soon made a national identification for Davenport as a place ‘Where the West begins.’ To substantiate his statement of ‘Where the tall corn grows’ both radio stations in Des Moines and Davenport [WHO and WOC] had tall corn contests — the stalks were sent in to Davenport and for many months were put outside the Administration Building for the public to view.”  And I’ll add that this was just one more way the marketer in Palmer shone bright as he indirectly brought greater awareness to chiropractic and the PSC.

More Pics to Add

As I continue to research this topic, I continue to stumble upon some really great pics related to chiropractic radio history.  And since this seems to be an appropriate place, I’ll add them here.

Col. BJ Palmer and an unidentified announcer during a broadcast on WOC in the early 1920’s.  Got to love that BJ Palmer font!

A picture of Palmer’s Western Electric Public Address System — a first for an education institution and the technology that sparked the “radio idea” in Palmer’s head.

This was amateur station 9-BY, operated by Robert Karlowa, that would soon become the WOC. When operating costs became prohibitive, he sold it to Palmer in 1922.

A 1924 picture of the WOC’s Master Control Room with chief engineer, Frank Pierce, at the helm. All programming had to pass through this point before it was sent on to the transmitter for broadcast.

An interesting night view of the WOC with the spot lights showing off one of the antenna towers. The 5,000 watt transmitter, electrical generator, and batteries are seen on the left. In the center is the Master Control Room, and off to the right is an announcing studio.

Here is a fun picture of the WOC Remote Broadcast Vehicle — used for broadcasting live at various events in the area during the 1920’s. It was also used to make a cross-country trip — sending reports back to the home station along the way. With all of the epigrams painted on the vehicle, not only was it unmistakably Palmer’s, but from today’s vantage point, it is clear that Palmer was ahead of his time: the bumper sticker wouldn’t make its entrance for another couple of decades.

Radio was a completely new concept to the nation. As such, people were curious as to how it all worked and what a radio station looked like. Listeners from all over flocked to Station WOC to get a peak at what Palmer was doing atop his chiropractic school in Danvenport. Some 43,000 visitors were logged during the first year of operation alone! This is a copy of one of the many explanatory pieces Palmer produced.

Standing as Iowa’s tallest structure for a time, station WOC-WHO boasted the federal maximum 50,000 watts of broadcasting power with their 532-foot, 213,000-pound steel antenna tower in 1933. The transmitter was housed in the building to the right and was located near Mitchellville, Iowa — a short distance from Des Moines.

Ed Zack of station WOC interviews the 1950’s popular singing trio, The McGuire Sisters, at the Miss Valley Fair.  Station owner, Col. BJ Palmer, sits off on the right.

When I wrapped up SCR Episode 021, I honestly thought that I had said all I had to say about the history of chiropractic radio. You would think that after a newspaper article, 7 podcast episodes, a track on a CD, a multitude of mentions in other episodes, and explaining it on other podcasts in which I’ve been interviewed, that I would have exhausted the subject… apparently not, as this newest of articles demonstrates. Thanks to the Chiro-Picker, I just may find myself revisiting this topic on a regular basis… a proposition that I am just fine with. — TL

Dr. Thomas Lamar  loves chiropracTIC and its involvement with radio.  He podcasts, with the assistance of his audio-engineer son, Logan, on SpinalColumnRadio.com from his home studio in Kingston, WA.  Lamar also practices chiropractic in Kingston with an emphasis on family wellness.

Want to stay on top of Chiro-Picker’s latest finds? We’ll send you an email. Click Here to Sign Up.

• Connect with Todd Waters on Facebook

• Hang out at his favorite Chiro History watering hole

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I knew you were just the right DC to write on this chiropractic radio article. You are a wealth of knowledge and a wordsmith. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share these chiropractic relics and the stories behind them. And like Dr Lamar stated, the story is never finished. So we welcome any additional comments, stories and info to help us complete the the wonderful mosaics of chiropractic history . Todd -CP

Comment by Todd Waters

Great website and well researched. I love the memorabilia.

I have collected and published most of the chiropractic songs from those early days after finding them on ebay etc. You can view them and listen to snippets on the website. Most were sheet music I had professionally recorded and produced for digital distribution.
Enjoy the snippets.

Comment by Donald McDowall

Absolutely fascinating Dr. McDowall. So glad that you found our site. I’m very interested in listening to what you have.
– dr. tom

Comment by drlamar

Join the Conversation.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: