The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 10, 2013

The Great Chiropractic Debate

By Gary Herrity
Special to the Herald

Although Chiropractic was founded by D.D. Palmer in Davenport, Iowa, Clinton is also a root of this modern practice of spinal manipulation for healing. A patient of Palmer’s took the Greek words cheiros-(healing) and pracktikos- (with hands) to coin the word “chiropractor.” Both chiropractic and osteopathy were developed just before the turn of the Twentieth Century, and the first class to be graduated from the Palmer Chiropractic Infirmary was in 1897.


Dr. A.T. Stills was a Civil War physician and started Osteopathy in 1874. Stills and Palmer both felt a strong abhorrence to the medical field of their day, with its blood- letting and leeches, unsanitary surgeries, unnecessary amputations, and patent medicines. Their new areas of expertise both centered on manipulation of the spine, but disagreed as to the primary cause of disease. Dr. Palmer focused on subluxation or misaligned vertebrae, with concentration on nerves. Dr. Still’s theories centered upon bones, muscles, and uninterrupted blood flow through the arteries.


Back in about 1906, an unusual occurrence happened in Clinton -- witnessed and retold by Dr. B.J. Palmer, who was in his mid-twenties about that time. He referred to it as “The Bonesetters’ Summit.” As noted previously, The Mississippi Valley Spiritualist Association held annual summer Chautauqua’s at Mt. Pleasant Park and, that year’s highlight was a rather heated exchange between Dr. D. D. Palmer, of Davenport, and Dr. A. T. Stills of Kirksville, Mo. It might have been an impromptu debate, since both men were interested in spiritualism and regularly attended these events, or it may have been a formally scheduled one.


The shouting started almost immediately as Stills open with a burst of “You’re a Thief! You stole my work and labeled it chiropractic!” As B.J. remembers it, “Old Dad Chiro” (as D.D. referred to himself), countered with, “How can I steal that which you never owned?”


“I am a physician” shouted Stills, and Palmer responded in the same tone, “I am not a physician!” He went on to state that being a physician clouded Stills’ mind with erroneous prior learning which would always intrude upon Osteopathy, and asserted, “It will not remain pure and will revert to its background in medicine and surgery.”

The two men carried on at length with strong, short barrages on those tenets and theories and, alternately, argued the attributes of the new practices of chiropractic and osteopathy.


The Clinton City Directories tell us that osteopaths got a head-start here and, in 1913, there were six of them listed, but only two chiropractors. But, in a few short years, the numbers were reversed! Early osteopaths like Dr. J. R. Johnson had a directory ad that stated: “NO DRUGS, NO KNIFE, NO FAITH CURES,” so at that time their two approaches to healing were very similar.


In 1913, Dr. C. D. Corwin was Clinton’s first chiropractor, with a practice at 613-2nd St. One of the most famous early chiropractors was Dr. C.P. Huey, who had his office right above the Korn Bakery Lunch Room on 5th Avenue …. later Allen’s Tea Room. He befriended Otto Korn and the two of them imagined and created the wonderful 1920 Boy Scout trip to Yellowstone Park! (He practiced in Clinton until 1935.)


Through the years many names in the chiropractic field have been well known in Clinton: Droste, Stitzell, Forrest, Weigandt, Burkert, Hoffman and others. Dr. George Blohm started his practice in 1925, and it is the oldest continuous one in the city. Clinton chiropractors have long been active in many civic activities, such as Dr. Herb Burkert, who was president of the Jaycees.


In the 1920’s, a young asthmatic by the name of Patrick McAndrews met and received help from Dr. B. J. Palmer, and decided to give up his Purina sales position to become a chiropractor; then about 1928, he settled in Clinton on 6th Avenue So. He and his wife Ruth raised a large family of exceptionally bright and tall children. Two children, Dr. Virginia Clark and Dr. Jerome McAndrews, became chiropractors. Indeed, “Jerry,” who died recently at age 73, rose to the position of President at Palmer for over a decade. He started his education here in Clinton at St. Mary’s and was a tremendous basketball player, graduating in 1951 and going on to play at Palmer. (At the September 2006 Convention of the American Chiropractic Association, Dr. Jerome McAndrews was voted Chiropractor of the Year, posthumously.)


The McAndrew’s fame didn’t stop there. What “Jerry” began, the other boys continued, with a State Championship in 1953 (more about that later). George and Tom played on that team and David followed, in 1957. Jack and Monica were other family members of note, with the two latter sons working in management for DuPont’s.


It doesn’t end there either. In 1983, while Jerry led Palmer, Notre Dame law graduate George McAndrews was a key player in the Wick vs. AMA anti-trust lawsuit, the results of which brought about third party payment status and chiropractic inclusion in Medicare and other insurance programs. Broader acceptance in state licensing also ensued. Upon winning the case, George looked skyward toward the heavens and said, “That’s for you, Dad,”


All of these things regarding Chiropractic and Osteopathy occurred in Clinton, Davenport, and Kirksville, Mo. Much information about them can still be found in old newspaper accounts, and research of recently-discovered records at the Mississippi Valley Spiritualist Camp may yet surrender more details about early Chautauquas.