By Michael Dorausch, D.C.
I don’t know if chiropractic history is still taught in chiropractic schools, but I would imagine most chiropractors hopefully know that chiropractic was founded by DD Palmer in 1895. The birthplace of chiropractic is Davenport Iowa and the Palmer School of Chiropractic located in that city is commonly referred to as the Fountainhead. Chiropractors, including DD Palmer himself, began appearing on record in other US states shortly after the 1890s. The first record I have of a chiropractor practicing in Los Angeles California is in the year 1902. Chiropractic in the Los Angeles County area was receiving newspaper attention by 1905. Not much of the press was good, as some medical doctors in those days, felt this new science of chiropractic was invading on their turf. This newspaper clipping comes from June 21, 1907 and it appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper clipping involves the profession and it was for a test case in where a chiropractor was arrested (C.D. Greenall) so that courts could determine whether chiropractors had a legal right to practice in the State of California. The chiropractor was represented by a young graduate from the USC Law Department, Philaletha S. Michelson. In the newspaper clipping chiropractic was defined as “a method of removing the cause of disease without the use of drugs or the surgical knife.”
The newspaper clipping reads: Greenall was represented at his arraignment in Justice Seiph’s court by Philaletha S. Michelson, a young woman graduate of the U.S.C. law department. Thoroughly in sympathy with her client in his methods of treating certain forms of nervous troubles, she says the case will be carried to the highest court in order to establish the exact status of chiropractors. She claims that those expert in this system should have a legal right to treat patients who desire such treatment. Chiropractic was defined by the young Portia as a method of removing the cause of disease without the use of drugs with a surgical knife. Treatment is given to the spinal cord, and it is claimed to have proved successful in certain forms of disease.
While this is just one newspaper clipping, I find it fascinating that chiropractic is older than the beach city I live in (Venice of America – where development didn’t begin until 1905). Most chiropractic related history I’m unearthing for California is centered in downtown Los Angeles, with some pre-1910 activity taking place in Pasadena, and Long Beach. Chiropractic does live in California, and it’s now been in existence longer than many of our cities, streets, colleges and traffic jammed freeways.
The first chiropractors in the LA area were practicing in downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach, Glendale and the San Fernando Valley. I’ve yet to do research on chiropractors in the surrounding desert areas (like Riverside County, Palm Springs and Indio) but I expect we’ll see chiropractic practice beginnings in those locations not long after 1910-1920.
For those who live in LA, be reminded that in the early 1900s, there was a spectacular transportation system in place (provided mostly by the Pacific Electric Railway) throughout the LA County area. Nearly all trains routed through Los Angeles Street (P.E. Building) and the downtown area was quite a hub for commerce, business, and even education. I’ve also noticed a large amount downtown Los Angeles dental offices in existence during this period.