By Dr. Christopher Kent

Many chiropractors today face challenges in their quest to realize the vision of worldwide leadership of health care with the chiropractic model. Some feel overwhelmed as they deal with the economics of 21st century American health care.

Barriers have been erected by third party payers and managed care organizations, by creating economic disincentives to persons seeking chiropractic care. Recent graduates are encumbered by student loan obligations. Life seems tough.

Yet, the challenges we face today pale compared to those who went before us. Consider those courageous chiropractors who went to jail rather than abandon their goals and moral values.

The first chiropractor to be incarcerated for practicing medicine without a license was the discoverer, D.D. Palmer. A 1906 newspaper article [1] chronicles an interview with D.D. at the Scott County Jail, where he was confined in a cell 8×11 feet. The Court offered him the alternative of paying a fine. D.D. chose jail, stating, “After I went to jail, several parties phoned to my home and others called offering to lend me money with which to pay my fine. I am not in cell for lack of princiPAL but for an abundance of princiPLE.”

The resolve of the discoverer becomes clear when the interviewer writes, “Dr. Palmer states he is treated well by all the jail officials and has no complaint to make. ‘Only one thing I would like to do which they will not allow me,’ stated the doctor, ‘is to hang out my sign over the window to my cell.’”

Other early chiropractors did not fare as well while serving time, and the sentences were sometimes harsh. Callender noted that, “In 1923, B.F. Lear and W.E. Quartier were fined $500 or 833 days in jail, the maximum sentence for a first offense. They chose the Trumbull county jail in Warren, Ohio.” [2] If you do the math, that’s more than two years.

Jail life could be severe. Another chiropractor, W.D. Adrian, was sentenced to 500 days. Portions of a letter from Morgan County Jail reads, “…We see an occasional rat, but all the bugs apparently were killed last summer in a big raid on the jail. I could stand some springs or a mattress on the bars I sleep on, but outside of this and the disagreeable dispositions of some of the prisoners, I am getting along nicely.” [3]

The 1923 Palmer Lyceum was dedicated to those who served jail time for chiropractic. Callender quotes Mac Searby, “It takes a real man, a real woman to go to jail. Some are parted from their families; little baby fingers and arms and lips are far away when bedtime comes. Mother is worrying. Sunshine is nowhere behind the bars except in the hearts of these boys and girls, and the least of their worries is that their business is all shot to pieces. They have cut themselves off from every tie, every support that the free man has, and they have gone back to the cells again when the test came a second time.” [2]

Some paid the ultimate price. Consider the following obituary: “Dr. Albert Ivnik, chiropractor, Cleveland, Ohio, died yesterday at seven p.m. He never recovered from the effects of the exposure at Warrensville Workhouse, and has been in bed from time to time since resuming his practice in February, and finally passed away last night. He leaves a wife and…four children.” [4]

Today, chiropractic is strengthened by members of a cultural revolution that seeks “health care alternatives…more congruent with their own values, beliefs, and philosophical orientations toward health and life.” [5]

Thankfully, we are not asked to give our lives for chiropractic. Instead, we merely need to commit our lives to chiropractic. As we place our current challenges in perspective, let us not lose sight of the sacrifices made by our courageous pioneers.


1. Dr. D.D. Palmer talks in jail. Davenport Democrat 4/2/06.

2. Callender A: “Buckeye chiropractic: turbulence in a limited branch of medicine, 1915-1975.” Chiropractic History 1995;15(2):79-89.

3. Fountain Head News 1923;13(7):6. Quoted in Callender (2).

4. Fountain Head News 1923;12(46):1. Quoted in Callender (2).

5. Astin JA: “Why patients use alternative medicine.” JAMA 1998;279(19):1548.

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