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Dynamic Chiropractic – September 1, 1994, Vol. 12, Issue 18

Beyond the Green Books

By Joseph Keating Jr., PhD
I have always enjoyed visiting the used bookstores in Davenport, Iowa. The region is, of course, a rich source of chirohistory, but curiously enough the used bookstores seem not to be moving much of the literary treasure left behind by generations of chiropractors. Many items from the famous Palmer "green book" series (Wiese & Lykins, 1986) are readily available at the shops, but these volumes are typically priced so high that it's usually silly to buy any of them in Davenport. Authored by the faculty of the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC) and printed in abundance, the green books are readily and inexpensively available all around the country. So when I visit Davenport I make out like a bandit, buying everything else but the PSC series, fifty cents here, two dollars there. The rest of the chiropractic heritage seems to go unnoticed in the birthplace of the profession (which suits my wallet very well, thank you very much).

The green books are a rich source of insight into the lives and thoughts of their authors, among whom are B.J. Palmer; Stephen J. Burich (co-founder of the Lincoln College); John H. Craven, James N. Firth (co-founder of the Lincoln College); Arthur T. Holmes (attorney for the UCA and later the NCA); Mabel Palmer (anatomist); Ralph W. Stephenson (author of the classic Chiropractic Textbook); E.A. Thompson (radiologist); Harry E. Vedder (co-founder of the Lincoln College), and others. Moreover, since these faculty trained an estimated 75 percent of all the chiropractors produced through 1924 (that's A.C. 29 in BJ-speak, i.e., 29 years "after chiropractic"), they collectively and individually touched the lives of the overwhelming majority of the profession, this in addition to the influence their books had upon chiropractic in its first quarter century. Anyone who wishes to understand chiropractic today must at least review the PSC literary legacy, or fail to grasp one of our most important roots.

However, the green books in their entirety are still only necessary, but not sufficient reading for the DC who wishes a thorough understanding of the chiropractic story. Indeed even for those whose primary historical interest is in BJ, his school and his times, there are additional and frequently richer sources of historical data. Among these are the monthly magazine, The Chiropractor, which was founded by DD and BJ in 1904, and which provides a running commentary on professional thoughts and activities. Similarly, the Fountain Head News, BJ's personal, weekly newsletter, provides a journalistic gold mine of current events, correspondence among chiropractors, reprinted papers from other chiropractic and medical journals, and the text of many oral presentations of various significant players in the chirosaga. Curiously, one hears precious little about these sources, although a very complete collection of The Chiropractor and the Fountain Head News is readily available from the archives of the David D. Palmer Health Sciences Library in Davenport.

Certainly, the early history of chiropractic (e.g., pre-neurocalometer, 1924) involves a great deal more than the story of BJ and his faculty. The tales of BJ's rivals are extensive, and include, to name but a very few, people such as:

  • Charles Cale, ND, DC, founder of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic in 1911;


  • Willard Carver, LLB, DC;


  • Albert B. Cochrane, DC, president of the National Federation of Chiropractors in 1918-19 and president of the ACA in 1928;


  • H.C. Crabtree, MD, DC, founder of the Nebraska Chiropractic College and first chairman of the Nebraska Board of Chiropractic Examiners;


  • Arthur L. Forster, MD, DC, dean of the National College of Chiropractic;


  • John F.A. Howard, DC, founder of the National School of Chiropractic;


  • Lyndon E. Lee, DC, leader of the 50-year campaign in New York to establish a chiropractic law.


  • Joy M. Loban, DC, former PSC faculty and co-founder of the Universal Chiropractic College, from which Hugh B. Logan earned his doctorate;


  • Frank R. Margetts, LLB, DC, National graduate and president of the American Chiropractic Association from 1922 to 1928;


  • Francis X. Sauchelli, DC, probably the first person to speak about chiropractic on the radio;


  • William Charles Schulze, MD, DC, president and owner of the National College, considered primarily responsible for introducing physiotherapeutics in the chiropractic curriculum.

The list of people who were allied with BJ prior to the NCM debacle is equally significant and extensive. To name a few:
  • Ernest Duvall, DC, president of the Canadian Chiropractic College);


  • Anna Foy, DC, president of the first Kansas Board of Chiropractic Examiners in 1915;


  • Craig M. Kightlinger, DC, president of the Eastern Chiropractic Institute in New York City;


  • T.F. Ratledge, DC, founder of today's Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles;


  • Carl and Ruth Cleveland, PSC graduates and founders of the Kansas City school that bears their name).

Most of the stories of these people will not be found in the Palmer green books, but much is available in the periodic literature of their times. In addition to The Chiropractor and the Fountain Head News, the Palmer archives contain fairly extensive holdings of journals such as the National (College) Journal of Chiropractic; The Drugless Healer (published and edited by Alva Gregory, MD, DC, in Oklahoma City); the Scientific Head News (published by Willard Carver's Oklahoma school); and the Bulletin of the ACA (published 1924-1930). The story of chiropractic's middle ages is revealed in the pages of magazines such as BJ's Fountain Head News; the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, edited by L.M. Rogers, DC, published 1933-1963, (Hicks & Keating, 1988); the LACC's Chirogram, Simmons Service for Chiropractors; various state society journals, and several books (e.g., Turner, 1931; Homola, 1963).

In just the past few years several authors have provided insightful, scholarly works on the history of the profession. French chiropractor-historian Pierre Gaucher-Peslherbe, DC, PhD, has written a masterful assessment of D.D. Palmer's theories within the context of the evolving disciplines of orthopedics and neurology in the 19th century (Gaucher-Peslherbe, 1994). J. Stuart Moore, PhD, and assistant professor of medicine at Radford University in Virginia, offers a cerebral perspective of the chiropractic century which seeks (among other issues) to explain how the profession survived amidst the sustained persecution from political medicine (Moore, 1993). Professor Emeritus Walter I. Wardwell, PhD, of the University of Connecticut, a career-long observer of the chiropractic history at a number of our schools (Wardwell, 1992). Dr. Wardwell's gift to DCs is a reader friendly overview of the breadth of chiropractors' experience; if anyone ever thought the green books were the sum and substance of chirohistory, a short browse through Wardwell's contribution will quickly adjust that misconception.

Neither are the green books representative of the breadth of chiropractors' written contributions. Old Dad chiro's most lucid discussions of his theories appear not in any green book, but in the posthumously published (Palmer, 1914) collection of his essays known as The Chiropractor (not to be confused with the previously mentioned journal by the same name DD established in 1904 and BJ perpetuated). The ideas of chiropractors as diverse as Willard Carver, Carl S. Cleveland, Sr., Major B. DeJarnette, J. LaMoine DeRusha, James Drain, Clarence Gonstead, Stanley Hayes, A.E. Homewood, Fred Illi, Joe Janse, Hugh B. Logan, Ralph J. Martin, Leo Steinbach, C.O. Watkins, B.F. Wells and Clarence Weiant, to name a few, will not be found among the green books. The details of chiropractors' seven-decade struggle for licensure, their attitudes towards their oppressors, their languishing in jails and their remarkable efforts at self-improvement in educational standards and facilities are better sought elsewhere (the periodic literature) than among the famous Palmer volumes.

Who will write the history of the PSC? The research necessary to this task will require reading very far beyond those green books! Again the Fountain Head News comes to the fore, and all of those marvelous PSC yearbooks so faithfully preserved by BJ and now the archivists at the Palmer Library. The recollections and paper trails of people as diverse as August Dye, Morris Bealle, Frank W. Elliot, Bernarr MacFadden, Joe Maynard, Dave Palmer, Andy Peterson, W. Heath Quigley, Ronald Reagan, the Lincoln College's founders, the inspectors of the American Medical Association (e.g., Schools, 1928) and a host of other alumni and friends of the institution will have to be explored if justice is to be done to this story. I'm tempted to write the PSC's history there's a frightening thought!

The profession has a very rich history, full of wonders as well as warts. It is a disservice to the many chiropractors who sacrificed and contributed throughout the century to presume that the green books are all or even most of what constitutes chiropractic history. It's time for a little maturity in sizing up where the profession has come from. For better or worse, B.J. Palmer was an important figure, and his green books have an important place on the discipline's past. But his is only one part of that story, and DCs, including Palmer graduates, need to look past the "Developer" to that extensive treasure that BJ so faithfully preserved (in the elevator shaft): the literature beyond the green books.

Joseph C. Keating, Jr., PhD
Whittier, California


Gaucher-Peslherbe PL. Chiropractic: Early Concepts in their Historical Setting. Lombard Il: National College of Chiropractic, 1994

Hicks C, Keating JC. An author index to the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, 1933-1963. Bloomington MN: Northwestern College of Chiropractic, 1988.

Homola S. Bonesetting, Chiropractic and Cultism. Panama City FL: Critique Books, 1963.

Moore JS. Chiropractic in America: The History of a Medical Alternative. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Palmer DD. The Chiropractor, Los Angeles: Beacon Light Printing, 1914.

Schools of chiropractic and of naturopathy in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1928 (May 26);90(21): 1733-8.

Turner C. The Rise of Chiropractic. Los Angeles: Powell Publishing, 1931.

Wardwell WI. Chiropractic: History and Evolution of a New Profession. St. Louis: Mosby Year Books, 1992.

Wiese GC, Lykins MR. A bibliography of the Palmer green books in print, 1906-1985. Chiropractic History, (6):64-74, 1986.

Click here for previous articles by Joseph Keating Jr., PhD.

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