Filed under: Chiro-Picker, chiropractic history | Tags: BJ Palmer, Chiro-Picker, chiropractic history, DD Palmer, Harvey Lillard, Palmer School of Chiropractic, Ryan Block Building, Todd Waters
by Todd Waters, aka “The Chiro-Picker” – SpinalColumnRadio featured blogger
A brick sits on my desk. But this is not just any brick….
In 1888 DD Palmer moved his magnetic healing practice to Davenport, Iowa, renting rooms in the Ryan Block Building on the corner of Second and Brady streets. Palmer not only used these rooms as his office for his patients, but as his residence for his family. His vitalistic, hands-only, magnetic healing methods were so successful and sought after, that within four years he required the square footage of the building’s entire fourth floor. Room and board was made available for his most severe cases.
The Davenport newspapers reported that Palmer’s practice was more like a family gathering than a doctor’s office. Patients would meander the hallways in friendly conversations while enjoying the amusements. It was said that Palmer had assembled one of the largest and most impressive collections of wild game heads in the country. Moose, deer, elk, wild bear, buffalo, and reindeer were among his collection. He even showed off live, caged alligators. One patient even gave a gift of some Canadian black squirrels that Palmer released at the Rock Island Armory. Today, no doubt, many dark, fluffy tails of the Quad-Cities pay homage to DD’s trademark grizzly beard.
For fourteen years, thousands of patients circulated through DD Palmer’s office in the Ryan Block Building. His newsletter, The Educator, was filled with patient testimonials reporting miraculous cures. And while his motto was…
“Nothing succeeds like success”
…the scientist in Palmer never gave up searching for the cause of human disease.
He found that cause on, September 18, 1895.
The building’s janitor, Harvey Lillard, had been deaf for seventeen years. Mr. Lillard explained that he had lifted something heavy in a crouching position and “felt something give” in his back. He was hard of hearing ever since. Palmer was intrigued. Upon examining Lillard’s back, he noticed a bulge protruding from his spine. He convinced the trusting janitor to let him attempt to remove the cause of the bulge. With his patient lying on a wooden table, Palmer used his hands to rack the vertebra back into its normal position.
After a few of these “adjustments” Lillard claimed that his hearing was restored!
During this time, Palmer’s son, Bartlett (BJ), collected his father’s discarded notes of his new science. BJ clung to these pages and perhaps felt some connection to his father where he felt he had none before. Through these notes BJ became a “student” of his father’s closely guarded science. DD’s concern that someone would steal his method was so real that he was said to have removed mirrors in the office so patients would be unable to observe how his Chiropractic adjustments were done.
Eventually, BJ was able to convince his father that there were more sick in the world than the two could attend to by themselves. Chiropractic would serve humanity best if the method was taught to others. As such, the Ryan Block Building became home to the first Chiropractic school.
Despite Palmer’s successes, he faced many hardships while at the Ryan Block building. As he developed his new science of Chiropractic, DD Palmer was taken to court several times to face the charge of “practicing medicine without a license.” Palmer would argue that his patients were healed without medicine. He and his son were a formidable threat to the medical community who no longer owned their “monopoly on the sick.” In good conscious DD Palmer was able to defend his healing method and its contributions to humanity with success. Nevertheless, tomorrow’s court battle always seemed to loom in the wings, threatening to take away everything he stood for and owned.
Unfortunately, the founder got himself in a financial bind by over-extending his credit. In 1902, DD abruptly left Davenport, selling all assets from the Ryan Block Building and headed to California. He instructed BJ to raise a few hundred dollars to meet up with him.
BJ was faced with a choice: save the Chiropractic business and restore the Palmer name, or skip out of town, leaving behind his father’s $8,000 debt and unexpired lease. BJ chose the latter and stayed in Davenport, pledging to pay off the debt and while saving the credibility of the Palmer name. BJ truly found the “bigness of the fellow within” and succeeded in this herculean mission.
In 1906 BJ took up residence in a mansion up the hill on Brady Street. Together, he and his wife, Mabel, along with their newly born son, David, shared their new home with what was now the new home of the Palmer School of Chiropractic.
Seventy-four years later, in 1980, the Ryan Block Building met its demise with the wrecking ball. With one fell swoop, the building – a building that once housed the discovery of Chiropractic and the birth of a profession that would inspire change in the world – was reduced to a mere pile of bricks.
As I sit at my desk reflecting on this historic building of Chiropractic’s past, I stare at one of those very bricks that comprised its structure. It strikes me that while the original building that launched this profession was brought down to mere rubble, by contrast, despite numerous attempts, this underdog profession of Chiropractic continues to stand 118 years later.
‘Til next time. — CP
The DC Angle:
“Another Brick in the Wall”
First off…. where in the world does the ChiroPicker find this stuff? — A brick from the Ryan Building… UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
And secondly, the brick was an appreciation award given to Palmer College of Chiropractic president (1979-1987), Dr. Jerry McAndrews. Dr. McAndrews was one of the docs that went up against Political Medicine in the infamous Wilk v. AMA case — a court battle of David and Goliath proportions. His brother, George McAndrews, was the lead council.
Let me restate my question: Where in the world does the ChiroPicker find this stuff?
I titled my DC Angle after Pink Floyd’s famous “Another Brick in the Wall” song.
If the “bricks in the wall” are metaphorical for all the crap one faces in “the wall of life”… our profession has certainly seen its fair share over the past century-plus — whether it’s from the evil corruption of outside forces or the destructive infighting from our own.
Sometimes, I’m amazed our wall is still standing.
But, it IS still standing. And it’s standing because of chiropractors like Jerry McAndrews — and all those like him — who weren’t afraid to stand up for what is TRUE and what is RIGHT. It is still standing because we have patients who believe in us and who can see past the medical shell games of deception set before them.
So Happy Birthday Chiropractic… you don’t look a day over 118. –– TL
Dr. Thomas Lamar loves chiropracTIC and its associated history. 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.
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