Happy Anniverary, Chiropractic!

As we in the Quad-Cities finish cleaning up after this summer of high waters and strong winds, many of us will have cause to be grateful for the Palmer College of Chiropractic and their dedicated graduates who have kept our backs on the straight and narrow for over a hundred years. 


It is therefore fitting to note that this Friday marks the anniversary of the first chiropractic adjustment, which took place in Davenport on September 18, 1895.


Ten years prior, Daniel David Palmer brought his family to Davenport and set up a magnetic healing practice.  Magnetic healers believed that the human body had the innate ability to maintain wellness, and D.D. used non-surgical or non-medicinal methods to help his patients’ own systems cure their illnesses. 


As he continued to examine patients with a wide range of complaints, D.D.  began to theorize that disease was caused or worsened by maladjustments to the spinal column.  These maladjustments interfered with nerve impulses and so blocked the body’s ability to heal itself.  He continued to refine his theories and methods until one day he was able to put them into practice.


As one story goes*, D.D. was in the building of his clinic, when he overheard two men swapping a loud joke in the hall and paused to listen.  The joke was a knee-slapper, and someone, perhaps D.D. himself, did clap one of the men, Harvey Lillard, on the back before going on his way.  Soon after, however, Mr. Lillard came to the clinic and told D. D. a very interesting story. 


It seems that Mr. Lillard, a janitor in the clinic’s building, had been working one day when something had popped in his back, and found that he could no longer hear well.  His condition had worsened, and he had been virtually deaf for almost seventeen years.  He then told D.D. that the morning after he had been recently slapped on the back, he found that he could hear a little better.


Intrigued, D. D. invited Mr.  Lillard into the clinic and checked his spine.  He did find the bump of a misplaced vertebra and forced it back into place.  To the delight of both men, Mr. Lillard’s hearing immediately improved.


Encouraged by this validation of his theories, D.D. searched for similar misalignments among his other patients.  He tried the same methods he had used to adjust Mr. Lillard’s spine, with much the same success.  The word was passed among his well-adjusted patients, and the popularity of D.D.’s clinic grew.


By the following January, D.D. decided that his methods and theories needed a name.    He turned to a patient of his, Reverend Samuel H. Weed, who helped create a new term from Greek root words to name this new healing method that was “Done by Hand”: chiropractic.




*For further information about chiropractic, the Palmer family, and Palmer College, please try the following books that we just happen to have in our collections:


Gielow, Vern Old dad chiro: biography of D. D. Palmer, founder of Chiropractic.  (Davenport, IA: Bawden Bros.), 1981.


Palmer, David D.   The Palmers: a pictorial life story: memoirs of David D. Palmer. (Davenport, Iowa: Bawden Bros.), 1970.

Palmer, David D. Three generations: a history of chiropractic.  (Davenport, Iowa: Palmer College of Chiropractic), 1967.

Peterson, Dennis. Chiropractic: an illustrated history.  (St. Louis: Mosby), 1995.

(posted by Sarah)


This entry was posted in Local History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Happy Anniverary, Chiropractic!

  1. Anthony Wilson says:

    my dad is a chiropractor and he often amazes me how he could treat my sprains.`”;

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *