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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 16, 2006, Vol. 24, Issue 15

Milestones in the History of Chiropractic

By Joseph Keating Jr., PhD

I'm often asked to enumerate the most important events in the history of the chiropractic profession. Most recently, a request for 40 milestones in this 110-year saga has been received! When the number of potentially significant events gets that high, the choices become ever more arbitrary.

However, the editor of Chiropractic History reminds us that "history is not an unarguable litany of events."37 With that caveat, I offer the following list.

Chiropractic Milestones

  • 1896 (January/April): Dr. D.D. Palmer administers two adjustments to the spine of Mr. Harvey Lillard in an effort to improve his hearing.23
  • 1896 (Spring): Reverend Samuel Weed suggests Greek stems from which D.D. Palmer devises the term "chiropractic," meaning done by hand.35
  • 1896 (July): D.D. Palmer obtains a corporate charter for the Palmer School of Magnetic Cure, wherein he teaches chiropractic; Leroy Baker is D.D. Palmer's first chiropractic student.30,36,39
  • 1906: The Universal Chiropractors' Association (UCA) is founded in Davenport, Iowa, to provide legal protective services to chiropractors charged with the unlicensed practice of medicine; the UCA will gradually expand its services to educational and political actions.22
  • 1907: Shegetaro Morikubo, DC, a 1906 graduate of the Palmer School of Chiropractic, is the earliest known chiropractor to be acquitted of unlicensed practice - by a jury in LaCrosse, Wis. His legal defense will form the basis for future trials, "philosophy," and legislative efforts.22,32
  • 1910: D.D. Palmer releases his most important and best known book: The Chiropractor's Adjuster: The Science, Art & Philosophy of Chiropractic.26
  • 1913 (April 20): Kansas passes the first chiropractic statute; however, formation of a Board of Chiropractic Examiners is delayed because the governor refuses to appoint members of the board on the grounds that all chiropractors had practiced illegally prior to passage of the statute.27,34
  • 1913 (Oct. 20): D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, passes away at his home in Los Angeles. Death is due to typhoid fever, but son B.J. Palmer, DC, will be unfairly accused of patricide.12,29
  • 1918-1922: World War I ends and the U.S. government pays the tuition for returning veterans; chiropractic college enrollments skyrocket; the Palmer School of Chiropractic achieves a student body of 3,000.9,15,17
  • 1922: The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) is first organized in opposition to Dr. B.J. Palmer and the Universal Chiropractors' Association.16
  • 1924 (August): B.J. Palmer, DC, officially introduces the neuro-calometer.13,17
  • 1925: Wisconsin and Connecticut pass the first basic science statutes; these laws will eventually spread to 24 American states and a few Canadian provinces.10,21
  • 1926 (September): B.J. Palmer, DC, fails in his bid for re-election as secretary of the Universal Chiropractors' Association, and one week later, establishes the Chiropractic Health Bureau, later renamed the International Chiropractors Association (ICA).11,17
  • 1926 (September): The International Congress of Chiropractic Examining Boards is founded in Kansas City33; this federation will be reorganized as the Council of State Chiropractic Examining Boards in 1934, and renamed the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards circa 1970.
  • 1930: The National Chiropractic Association (NCA) is organized by amalgamation of the UCA and the ACA.16,18,22
  • 1931: Chittenden Turner authors The Rise of Chiropractic, an early history of the profession.33
  • 1933: Warren L. Sausser, DC, of New York City introduces the upright, 14-inch x 36-inch, full-spine X-ray to further Logan Basic Technique.28,38
  • 1940 (July 20): The Allied Chiropractic Educational Institutions (ACEI), which includes the Carver, Cleveland, Eastern, O'Neil-Ross, Palmer, Ratledge and Texas Colleges, issue an ultimatum to the National Chiropractic Association and its Committee on Education. The ACEI insists that instruction in physiotherapeutics and the lengthening of the chiropractic curriculum must cease. This marks the start of a vigorous, three-decade battle over chiropractic educational standards which will only be settled when the CCE is recognized by the U.S. Office of Education in 1974.21
  • 1941: The NCA publishes the first edition of Chiropractic Education: Outline of a Standard Course, authored by former COSCEB president John J. Nugent, DC, who is newly appointed as NCA's director of education.21,25
  • 1944: The Chiropractic Research Foundation (today's FCER) is established by the leadership of the National Chiropractic Association.20
  • 1945: World War II ends and returning veterans enjoy the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill; chiropractic college enrollments skyrocket.21
  • 1945 (December): The National Chiropractic Insurance Company (today's NCMIC Group, Inc.) is chartered by the board of directors of the National Chiropractic Association; it receives authorization to sell malpractice insurance from the Iowa Commissioner of Insurance in early 1946.22
  • 1947 (Aug. 4): At the urging of NCA Director of Education, John J. Nugent, DC, the NCA House of Delegates establishes the Council on Education, forerunner of today's Council on Chiropractic Education.21
  • 1961 (May 27): B.J. Palmer, DC, PhC, dies in Sarasota, Fla.24 His passing gives hope that greater unity within the profession is possible, and thereby prompts the formation of the American Chiropractic Association three years later.
  • 1962-63: The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) is founded and chartered by the officers of the Council of State Chiropractic Examining Boards (COSCEB).19
  • 1963 (November): The American Medical Association organizes its Committee on Quackery with the explicit intent to contain and subsequently eliminate the chiropractic profession.31,34
  • 1963-64: The current American Chiropractic Association is founded through merger of the NCA and a splinter group from the ICA.
  • 1965: William D. Harper, MS, DC, and Joseph Janse, DC, ND, testify in federal district court in Louisiana in the "England Case," an attempt to overturn the state's restrictive medical practice act which deems the practice of chiropractic as the practice of medicine; the case is lost and chiropractors will practice illegally until 1974, when a chiropractic statute is finally enacted.1,34
  • 1971: National College of Chiropractic achieves federally recognized regional accreditation from the New York State Department of Education; the first chiropractic school to achieve this distinction. Regional accreditation makes National alumni license-eligible in the Empire State, and buttresses the efforts of the Council on Chiropractic Education to achieve recognition from the U.S. Office of Education as a specialty accrediting body.4,21
  • 1972: The U.S. Congress authorizes payments to chiropractors for services rendered to Medicare patients.34
  • 1974 (Aug. 26): The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) is recognized by the U.S. Commissioner of Education as an accrediting agency for chiropractic schools.21,34
  • 1974: Louisiana becomes the 50th American state to authorize the practice of chiropractic.8,34
  • 1976 (October): Chiropractors Chester A. Wilk, Patricia A. Arthur, James W. Bryden, Steven C. Lumsden and Michael D. Pedigo file suit against the AMA and several other defendant organizations and individuals for violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. 2,6,341978 (March): The first issue of the Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, the profession's pre-eminent scholarly and scientific periodical, is issued. The JMPT will be indexed in Index Medicus commencing in 1981.14
  • 1980 (October): The Association for the History of Chiropractic is founded at Spears Chiropractic Hospital in Denver, and holds its first annual Conference on Chiropractic History the following year at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.7
  • 1987 (Aug. 27): Federal District Court Judge, Susan Getzendanner, finds in favor of the plaintiffs in Wilk, et al. v AMA, et al.; various appeals to higher courts sustain Getzendanner's ruling, which holds AMA, et al., in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.6,34
  • 1992: Walter I. Wardwell, PhD, authors, and Mosby-Yearbook publishes, Chiropractic: History & Evolution of a New Profession, a scholarly textbook of chiropractic history.34
  • 1994: The U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy & Research issues its Clinical Practice Guidelines for Acute Low Back Problems in Adults, which recommends spinal manipulative therapy for low back pain.5
  • 1995: The chiropractic profession celebrates its centennial with festivities in Washington, D.C. and Davenport, Iowa.
  • 1996: The Association of Chiropractic Colleges issues its "Paradigm" of chiropractic, which is widely endorsed by state, national and international chiropractic organizations.3

No doubt there are alternative events others might include in this compendium of the "top 40," but perhaps this list will serve as a useful starting point for future compilations. Enjoy.


  1. Adams, Paul J. Trial of the England case. ACA Journal of Chiropractic 1965 (May);2(5):13,44.
  2. AMA antitrust suit filed by chiropractors. Digest of Chiropractic Economics 1976 (Nov/Dec); 19(3):44-6.
  3. Association of Chiropractic Colleges. Position paper #1. JMPT 1996 (Nov/Dec);19(9):634-7.
  4. Beideman, Ronald P. In the Making of a Profession: The National College of Chiropractic, 1906-1981. Lombard, IL: National College of Chiropractic, 1995.
  5. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guideline No. 14. Rockville, MD: AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642, 1994.
  6. Chapman-Smith, David. The Wilk case. JMPT 1989 (Apr);12(2):142-6.
  7. Chiropractic historical society formed in Denver. Digest of Chiropractic Economics 1980 (Nov/Dec);23(3):4.
  8. Espina, Michael A., Jr. Governor Edwards signs new law. Digest of Chiropractic Economics 1974 (July/Aug);17(1):50-1.
  9. Ferguson, Alana K., Wiese, Glenda C. How many chiropractic schools? An analysis of institutions that offered the DC degree. Chiropractic History 1988 (July);8(1):26-36.
  10. Gevitz, Norman. "A coarse sieve"; basic science boards and medical licensure in the United States. Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences 1988;43:36-63.
  11. Gibbons, Russell W. Vision to action: a history of ICA: the first 60 years. ICA Review 1986 (Mar/Apr);42(2):33-64 (Supplement).
  12. Gibbons, Russell W. "With malice aforethought": revisiting the B.J. Palmer "patricide" controversy. Chiropractic History 1994 (June);14(1):28-34.
  13. Keating, Joseph C. Introducing the neurocalometer: a view from the Fountain Head. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 1991 (Sept);35(3):165-78.
  14. Keating, Joseph C. Toward a Philosophy of the Science of Chiropractic: A Primer for Clinicians. Stockton, CA: Stockton Foundation for Chiropractic Research, 1992.
  15. Keating, Joseph C. The influence of World War I upon the chiropractic profession. Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 1994;4:36-55.
  16. Keating, Joseph C. The short life and enduring influence of the American Chiropractic Association, 1922-1930. Chiropractic History 1996 (June);16(1):50-64.
  17. Keating, Joseph C. B.J. of Davenport: The Early Years of Chiropractic. Davenport, IA: Association for the History of Chiropractic, 1997.
  18. Keating, Joseph C. Roots of the NCMIC: Loran M. Rogers & the National Chiropractic Association, 1930-1946. Chiropractic History 2000 (June);20(1):39-55.
  19. Keating, Joseph C. Birth of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Journal of Chiropractic Education 2003 (Fall);17(2):89-104.
  20. Keating, Joseph C., Green, Bart N., Johnson, Claire D. "Research" and "science" in the first half of the chiropractic century. JMPT 1995 (July/Aug);18(6):357-78.
  21. Keating, Joseph C., Callender, Alana K., Cleveland, Carl S. A History of Chiropractic Education in North America: Report to the Council on Chiropractic Education. Davenport, IA: Association for the History of Chiropractic, 1998.
  22. Keating, Joseph C., Sportelli, Louis, Siordia, Lawrence. We Take Care of Our Own: NCMIC and the Story of Malpractice Insurance in Chiropractic. Clive, IA: NCMIC Group, Inc., 2004.
  23. Lillard, Harvey. Deaf seventeen years. The Chiropractic 1897 (Jan);No. 17, p. 3.
  24. Luckey, William L. Dr. B.J. Palmer dies at age 79; called developer of chiropractic. Digest of Chiropractic Economics 1961 (May/June);3(6):21, 31.
  25. Nugent, John J. Chiropractic Education: Outline of a Standard Course. Webster City, IA: National Chiropractic Association, 1941.
  26. Palmer, Daniel David. The Chiropractor's Adjuster: The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic. Portland, OR: Portland Printing House, 1910.
  27. Rehm, William S. Kansas coconuts: legalizing chiropractic in the first state, 1910-1915. Chiropractic History 1995 (Dec);15(2):43-50.
  28. Sausser, Warren L. New spinographic technique: the full length X-ray plate is a success. The Chiropractic Journal (NCA) 1933 (July);1(7):25.
  29. Siordia, Lawrence, Keating, Joseph C. Laid to uneasy rest: D.D. Palmer, 1913. Chiropractic History 1999 (June);19(1):23-31.
  30. The Chiropractor 1906 (June);2(7):20.
  31. Trever, William. In the Public Interest. Los Angeles: Scriptures Unlimited, 1972.
  32. Troyanovich, Stephen J., Keating, Joseph C. Wisconsin versus chiropractic: the trials at La Crosse and the birth of a chiropractic champion. Chiropractic History 2005 (Summer);25(1):37-45.
  33. Turner, Chittenden. The Rise of Chiropractic. Los Angeles: Powell Publishing Company, 1931.
  34. Wardwell, Walter I. Chiropractic: History and Evolution of a New Profession. St. Louis: Mosby, 1992.
  35. Weed, Samuel. The Chiropractor 1905 (Apr);1(5):16-7.
  36. Wiese, Glenda. New questions: why did D.D. not use "chiropractic" in his 1896 charter? Chiropractic History 1986;6:63.
  37. Willis, John C. Notes from the editor. Chiropractic History 1996 (June);16(1):2.
  38. Young, Kenneth J. Warren L. Sausser, DC: influence unrecognized. Chiropractic History 1997 (June);17(1):75-83.
  39. Zarbuck, Merwyn V. Chiropractic parallax. Part 3. IPSCA Journal of Chiropractic 1988c (Jul);9(3):4-6, 17-9.

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

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