Sunday, January 31, 2010

1912 - The First Chiropractic-related Patent?

Was this chiropractic table, granted a patent on Aug. 6, 1910, the first patent for something related to chiropractic? It's the earliest I've been able to find.

The patent was filed on Dec. 3, 1910 by John H. Schenck of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Presumably, Schenck was a doctor of chiropractic, but that remains unknown at this time. I was under the impression that Williams (founder of the current Williams Healthcare Manufacturing company) was the original producer of a Hylo style table (a table that raises up like this one), but maybe Schenck's design was first and never went into production. According to my patent search, William G. Williams' patent for a Hylo style table didn't come about until 1924, and was granted in 1929.

According to the patent, Schenck's purpose for this table was so that the table "may be elevated into vertical position so that the patient may be properly positioned upon the table while erect and lowered into a horizontal position for treatment and again raised into upright position so as to leave the table without producing any ill effects of an undoing of the good effects produced by the treatment."

In the picture from the patent, note that there is no split cushion or space for the face, necessitating that the patient always have their head rotated during an adjustment. I always find it fascinating that it took so long to figure out that they could use a split cushion or put a hole in the table for the face for patient comfort! Gee...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

1924 Chiropractic Invoice

Spotted this envelope and invoice recently, from 1924. I had high interest in it because of the "Keep Smiling" logo on the envelope (more on the story of Keep Smiling in a future post), but someone else was a lot more interested in it than me! At least I grabbed a couple photos. Several things strike me about this piece of history... I'm always amazed by the handwriting of people from times past. That address is a work of calligraphic art in and of itself, beautifully written with a fountain pen or possibly even a pen dipped in ink. The pre-printed envelope is great, too, of course. Sheldon and Sanborn are two towns in northwest Iowa, not very far from each other. I wonder if Dr. Scanlon had a little office in each, or if he just served that area from one office. (You can always see the full-size images by clicking on the photos themselves!)
The invoice inside the envelope is neat, too. Same handwriting, just as beautiful, and it looks to be dated from 5/1/24. The invoice is for 33 adjustments at, get this, $1.25 each! According to an inflation calculator, in today's dollars, that's still only about $15.61/adjustment, for a total equivalent of $515 for the entire course of care. Still pretty reasonable, but for those new docs who may be reading this, don't want for your patient to owe you that much money before you send a bill! It's unfair to you AND them!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1940's On-Set Chiropractic

I'm always combing the web for interesting history stuff, and I spotted this recently, a photo of actor
Robert (Bob) Cummings getting an adjustment on the set of one of his films, Tell it to the Judge. Also in the photo are Rosalind Russell and director Herman Foster. Who the doctor is remains unknown.
With BJ's strong involvement in the entertainment industries, I wonder if on-set chiropractic was common back in those days? Learn more about Bob Cummings' life and career here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flyer from the 28th Annual Iowa Chiropractic Society Convention

A friend recently sent a copy of this flyer to me from the 28th Annual convention of the Iowa Chiropractic Society. The dates were April 18-20, 1959. What I find interesting is that fact that Dr. Weldon Derifield taught several hours on Pelvic Sacral Technic while Dr. Clay Thompson did one hour of a film and talk about his trip to Europe, presumably to 1958's World's Fair in Brussels! BJ showed up on Sunday for an hour and a half, too. One of the exhibitors was Vitamin Products Co., which was the name of Royal Lee's supplement company before it became Standard Process, Inc. Enjoy!

Some New Material Coming In

Just got some interesting new stuff to comb through, hopefully to find some good historical tidbits. Hopefully I'll find some time to start working through it all, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Panel discussion from the Palmer School. Date unknown, 45 minutes long. I believe it's pre-1961 (although they refer to it as Palmer College of Chiropractic, which was post-1961, I think...). Audio isn't the best, but it sounds like an introduction by Dr. Ron Frogley (was he there that long ago??) with Dr. Galen Price (at this time, Dean of Faculty) as moderator. Wait until you see the list of people on the panel: Clarence Gonstead (founder of Gonstead Technique), Ralph Gregory (founder of NUCCA), Major Bertrand DeJarnette (founder of SOT), William Blair (founder of Blair upper cervical technique). Wow! I think this is from Homecoming/Lyceum. Can't wait to listen to this and put up some choice quotes or even soundbites, if I can figure out that part of it!
  • 46-minute audio with Clarence Gonstead. Sometime after 1964. Speaking at Palmer College of Chiropractic. I'm not sure if this is from an assembly, graduation, or what. This should also be GREAT!
  • 40-minute audio with J. Clay Thompson. Anyone who knows me knows this will be the first thing I really dive into. Not sure of the date, or what the topic is. Lots of laughter, may be an assembly or possibly a seminar. Starts off with very strong philosophy, so we'll see once I listen to it. This would be awesome as a transcription...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aleck August Wernsing - Upper Cervical Chiropractic Pioneer

Without the contribution of Dr. Aleck August Wernsing, it's questionable if B.J. Palmer's focus on the upper cervical area of the spine would have been as strong as it was, or whether upper cervical techniques would look much like they do today, or even exist at all!

A.A. Wernsing was a 1926 graduate of the Palmer School of Chiropractic. He practiced in Hollywood, California. Like many early chiropractors, his discoveries began with a personal experience with a health problem. In his 1941 book, The Atlas Specific, Wernsing wrote:
It was by force of circumstances, in 1932, that I was led more definitely into this field of research for the relief of a condition from which I myself was suffering, and for which I had been unable to find relief. Noting that pressure applied to the neck just inferior to the mastoid bone gave instant relief, my natural reaction was that an actual correction of vertebral malposition at that point would give me lasting benefit. Further research justified that opinion and enlarged its scope.
Wernsing "credits" the Great Depression with "allowing" him the time to work on his research and refine his x-ray and adjusting techniques, due to the fact that there were so few patients who could afford to pay him for his service! At the time, in the middle of the country in Davenport, Iowa, Dr. B.J. Palmer was busy at work on his own theory of the importance of the upper cervical area of the spine and their paths would soon intersect.

Beginning in mid- to late-1920's, B.J. was working on a theory, through clinical research, that there were true subluxations of the spine as well as compensations (majors and minors). By using an instrument called the Neurocalometer (NCM), which B.J. opined gave direct insight into the "flow of mental impulse" along the nerves, B.J.'s team of doctors was able to note that, often, one adjustment would balance the paraspinal temperature and normalize the NCM readings. From this, B.J. developed an idea of a "Hole-in-One" adjustment, or one adjustment that would "clear" all of the patient's subluxations. B.J. was convinced that the ideal adjustment was the one given at the right place, in the right manner, at the right time, and his ideal view of the perfect adjustment was one that needed to be done, just once, to make a person subluxation-free for her lifetime. While B.J.'s goal was too idyllic to be possible in reality, he did find that, according to clinic records, the adjustment that seemed to clear out the NCM reading the most efficiently in most patients was that of the upper cervical spine (C1 or C2).

By the early 1930's, B.J. was teaching this Hole-in-One theory, and in 1934 he wrote and published a massive tome titled The Subluxation Specific - The Adjustment Specific. This was after he had met with A.A. Wernsing, however. Back in California, Wernsing was intently studying the anatomy and biomechanics of the upper cervical spine, specifically the C1, or atlas, vertebra. At the center of Wernsing's research was the idea that the atlas moves relative to the occipital condyles (base of the skull), "as if on the rim of a circle." In other words, as the atlas moves laterally, it also moves superiorly, as shown in the diagram here I've rendered.

Through the use of x-rays, Wernsing discovered that this type of movement was not as free as the other ranges of motion between the atlas and occiput, so he felt like it was this lateral-superior shifting of the atlas that was, essentially, the most important aspect of the C1 subluxation complex. Because the atlas moved in this way, Wernsing decided to describe this misalignment in degrees, and was the first chiropractor to "list" the misalignment component of subluxation in such a way.

In order to demonstrate the movement to others, Wernsing built the Mechanical Anatomical Demonstrator in March of 1934. Building this anatomical model required Wernsing to know "the relative position of an atlas in relation to its condyles in degrees of movement" and led him to invent an instrument called the Orthoprotractor No. 2, the first instrument used to do precision x-ray analysis in chiropractic.

As mentioned, Wernsing depended on x-ray for his biomechanical research. He invented a method of x-ray analysis he called True Plane Radiography, and utilized the Orthoprotractor No. 2 and Orthoprotractor No. 1 (another analysis instrument), to gain precise measurements from the x-rays. With some modification, Wernsing's methods for analyzing x-rays are essentially the basis of the majority of upper cervical techniques still in use today, as well as some of the postural techniques such as those of Pettibon and Chiropractic Biophysics©.

A.A. Wernsing's True Plane Radiography method required six films of the upper cervical spine: Scout A.P., True Lateral, Scout Lateral, True A.P., A.P. 45 and Superior Inferior view. The x-rays began with the Scout A.P., which was used to measure the true plane of the atlas vertebra, which is different in every patient. Without getting too technical, the point of True Plane Radiography was to take accurate x-rays of the atlas vertebra relative to the occiput in such a way so as to minimize projectional distortion that can happen with less carefully shot pictures.

In 1933, Wernsing attended a lecture in Oakland, California, given by one of B.J.'s upper cervical instructors, on the Hole-in-One (HIO) theory and his burgeoning chiropractic technique of the same name. Wernsing felt that B.J.'s work had serious flaws, and had this to say in an article in 1959:
After we had completed the class, we both knew that the Palmer School had no information on the advanced work I was doing in my office. Two of the basic differences between my work and that taught by the PSC were as follows, my work was and is based on determining the malposition of the atlas in relation to the occipital condyles: the HIO work taught by the PSC was based on the axis rule.
On January 5, 1934, Wernsing arrived in Davenport, Iowa, for a meeting with B.J. Palmer, Dr. "Laddie" Heath (B.J.'s brother-in-law) and Dean Herb Hender. Wernsing recalled seeing the trio reviewing a galley copy of a book titled The Atlas Subluxation and the Axis Adjustment, which was a textbook on the HIO material B.J.'s instructors were presenting around the country. B.J. was highly impressed by Wernsing's research, and after their meeting Wernsing had agreed to keep B.J. updated on any new developments. For his work, Wernsing was mentioned in the foreward of B.J.'s renamed book, published later in 1934, The Subluxation Specific - The Adjustment Specific, which incorporated most of Wernsing's ideas.

A month later, on February 5, 1934, Wernsing received a letter from B.J. exclaiming the value of Wernsing's work. An excerpt from B.J.'s letter clearly shows the excitement he felt:
We are working, testing, trying. IT WORKS. We are very much pleased with the idea. Have written it into the book as a verifiable idea worth knowing and using. Have given you an appreciation in the Preface of the book. You have rendered a REAL service. Shall try your idea of plane lines in x-rays and see what it produces. Always open to further suggestions you may render the cause. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if we had 1,000 like you thinking along CHIROPRACTIC lines?
Wernsing continued to refine both his analysis and adjusting technique over the years. In 1939 B.J. invited Wernsing to present his material to a rather lukewarm crowd at the Palmer Lyceum, but in the 1940's interest in Wernsing's work seemed to grow. Between 1940 and 1941, Wernsing wrote a series of five articles on his work for Los Angeles College of Chiropractic's Chirogram, and in it he made the first description of adjusting the atlas from a side-lying position. Wernsing had invented what he called a vernier adjusting table, allowing the patient to lie comfortably on her side while the headrest cushioned and blocked the occiput during the adjustment. This table could also accommodate the shoulder width of the patient in this position. At this same time, B.J.'s HIO technique was still using a knee-chest position, with the patient kneeling on a table and their head in full rotation, undoubtedly a less comfortable proposition for the patient.

The exact mechanics of Wernsing's adjustment are difficult to ascertain from his writings, but as far as I can tell, it involved a double-thumb (reinforced thumb) contact with a sustained, relatively light pressure, over the atlas transverse process, as opposed to the more dynamic Palmer Toggle-Recoil thrust used in HIO.

Wernsing published his work in a 1941 book called The Atlas Specific. He clearly had a huge influence on B.J. Palmer, and through Palmer's teaching of HIO, later adoption of a side-lying posture for adjustment (thanks largely to Clay Thompson's invention of the drop headpiece) and establishment of a group of loyal upper cervical collaborators called the Palmer Standardized Chiropractors Council, Wernsing's work went on to, perhaps unbeknownst to them, influence major players in the upper cervical technique world like John Grostic, Cecil Laney, Ralph Gregory and others.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dossa Dixon Evins - Inventor & Innovator

One of the most controversial moments in chiropractic history happened in August, 1924, when B.J. Palmer gave his Lyceum speech, The Hour Has Struck. In his speech, B.J. vilified the majority of chiropractors for their mode of practice, and also introduced a new instrument with the proclamation that if you claimed to be practicing chiropractic, you had to be using this instrument. The enrollment at the Palmer School dropped 90% for the five years following B.J.'s speech, and it was a major turning point in Palmer's influence over the profession his father, D.D. Palmer started. The whole controversy began with a relatively unknown chiropractor and engineer named Dossa Dixon Evins who simply wanted to improve how chiropractors assess their patients.

Dossa Dixon Evins was born February 13, 1886 in Blodgett, Missouri. Not much is known about Evins' early life, but he did attend the University of Arkansas and earn a degree in electrical engineering. In World War I, Evins worked for the Secret Service and developed a radio receiver to discover high-powered transmitters, leading to the capture of German spies.

Around 1914, Evins contracted tuberculosis and spent several years in a sanitarium to try to recover. Along the way, he became interested in chiropractic through San Antonio chiropractor Dr. R.S. Marlowe. Evins was interested in Marlowe's method of assessing patients, which involved him using the back of his hand to feel "hot boxes," which he theorized were areas of inflammation caused by vertebral subluxations. Around 1910, B.J. Palmer and Dr. James Wishart developed a tedious method of assessment called "nerve tracing." In this procedure, the doctor would use the back of his hand to feel for warmer areas, then would use palpation to trace the tenderness and pain away from the spine to wherever it would take them. Interestingly, photos from 1911's, The Science, Philosophy and Art of Chiropractic Nerve Tracing show in photos that these nerve tracings often followed the dermatome patterns.

Because of his electrical engineering background, Evins went about creating an instrument that would find these heat abnormalities in the spine, and due to his success with chiropractic as a patient, he enrolled in the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC) in August, 1920. While still a student, Evins continued to refine his heat-reading instrument, which he called the Neurocalometer (NCM), as well as inventing the first hydraulic Hylo table, called the Palmer-Evins Hylo.

After graduating in 1922, Evins moved to practice in Kansas City, Missouri, where he continued to work on the NCM instrument. Evins tested the instrument for about a year, then approached Registrar of the Palmer School, Frank Elliott, who helped Evins present it to B.J. Palmer. B.J. felt like this NCM was one of the most important innovations in the history of chiropractic, believing it to be objective proof of where the "flow of mental impulses" was being impeded by vertebral subluxations. Palmer, Elliott and Evins tested the NCM for almost another year before B.J.'s fateful unveiling of the instrument at 1924's Lyceum.

Evins patented the instrument in 1925, and part of the controversy surrounding B.J.'s speech in 1924 were the terms of selling the instrument, which was by lease only. The lease was relatively expensive when inflation rates are accounted for, involving a total cost of $2,000-$2,500 spread out over ten years. By 2010 standards, accounting for inflation, that's the equivalent of $25,000-$31,000!

Unlike B.J., Evins weather the NCM storm quite well. By all accounts, he was a well-liked, humble gentleman. Evins wrote an article in the September, 1925 issue of The Fountainhead News, Palmer's newspaper, putting to rest many rumors about B.J.'s supposed mistreatment of him. Evins continued to develop medical instruments, musical instruments, and was even working on an improved x-ray tube technology when he passed away. Evins was also director of B.J.'s Central Broadcasting Company and was responsible for synchronizing the radio signals from B.J.'s two stations, allowing WOC to broadcast to a wide audience.

At some point, Evins and his wife, Billy, had been vaudeville entertainers, and "Doss" still enjoyed playing the English coronet. Because of his history with tuberculosis, Evins had scars on his lungs that would sometimes open up and bleed. As such, Billie wouldn't allow him to play the instrument whenever she was around. Billie traveled to Arkansas to visit family in 1932, and Doss took the opportunity to play his coronet daily, which reopened many of his lung scars. He bled internally for several days without knowing it, and by the time he realized what had happened, it was too late to save Evins' life. Evins died of pneumonia on November 15, 1932. Five years later, Billy remarried to W.L. "Laddie" Heath, Jr., Mabel Palmer's brother and an important confidante of B.J. in his own right.

Welcome to Chiropractic History

There are some really great chiropractic blogs around, but none of them are dedicated to the fascinating history of the characters and events that make up this wonderful profession. I hope to post regularly on the Chiropractic History Blog and I hope you learn something new and are entertained in the process!