Chiropractic History

D.D. Palmer - Founder

B.J. Palmer - Developer

Chiropractic History - The beginning

The profession of Chiropractic was founded in Davenport, Iowa, 1897 by Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer. D.D. Palmer is also know as the "Founder of Chiropractic". Rev. Samuel Weed, suggested the name, which is derived from the Greek words praxis and cheir meaning practice by hand. Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport in 1897 and remains a major Chiropractic college today. D.D. Palmer's son Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer further developed the profession and is know as the "Developer of Chiropractic".

Harvey Lillard

The Story

There are many accounts of the famous first chiropractic adjustment given by D.D. Palmer to Harvy Lillard. The account by D.D. Palmer, the account by Willard Carver, the account by Harvy Lillard’s daughter Valdeenia Simmons.

The account of D.D. Palmer

“Harvy Lillard, a janitor, in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped stooping, position, he felt something give in his back and immediately became deaf.”
“An examination showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored. With this object in view, a half-hour’ talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it.”
“I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever and soon the man could hear as before. There was nothing ‘accidental’ about this, as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained. There was nothing ‘crude’ about this adjustment; it was specific, so much so that no Chiropractor has equaled it.”

Willard Carver

The account of Willard Carver

Harvy lillard was the janitor of Ryan Block, and in September 1895, came to Dr. Daniel David Palmer for general restoration; but particularly because some seventeen years before he had been lifting in a stooped and cramped position, in the room of mine, when he suddenly felt the sensation of something giving away in his back, from which moment he ceased to hear out of his left ear. Dr. Palmer gave him the manipulations of the magnetic healer called the long passes of the spine or back. Incident to these, he observed that there was an area near the forth thoracic vertebra that when undisturbed was too light colored, and when manipulated became excessively red, and he noticed that either color changed slowly.
The facts led Dr. Daniel David Palmer to make a close investigation of the tissues of Lillard’s back, as a result of which he arrived at the conclusion that a segment (vertebra) was not in its right position; that is, was out of relationship with its fellows.
So soon as Dr. Palmer reached the conclusion mentioned, he ban to devise ways and means of ascertaining whether his conclusion was sustained by fact; an das it always true, this was the real thing of importance to be accomplished; and it was found to present many difficulties and it might be said, parenthetically, that the same phenomena still presents many difficulties to many persons.
However, at the expense of a good deal of effort, and the study of the situation for more than a week, Dr. Palmer reached the conclusion that the forth thoracic vertebra was disrelated in a certain direction, and the segment should be moved in the reveres direction to restore relationship.
However, the distortion stubbornly resisted all his efforts to correct it. He preformed all of the manipulations known to his system, but failed to make apparent correction of the situation.
Finally, on the 18th day of September, 1895, Dr. Daniel Palmer, became impatient, struck the vertebra a short, sharp blow, with the ulnar side of his fist or closed hand, with the happy result that, although it hurt considerably, there was a snap and the bump changed appearance markedly, with the startling, but nevertheless true, result that the left ear was almost instantly unstopped, and remained so permanently.

Mrs. Valdeenia Simmons

The account of Mrs. Valdeenia Simmons

Harvy lillard’s daughter, Mrs. Valdeenia simmons, recalled what had been told to her by her father many years before. According to Mrs. Simmons, her father and a friend were telling humorous stores outside the open doorway leading to D.D. Palmer’s office. D.D. was reading a book in his favorite chair. Overhearing the loud conversation, Palmer decided to join the two men and walked into the hall where they were standing.
Obviously enjoying the story’s climax, D.D., laughing heartily, struck Harvey on the back with the book he had carried with him. Several days later Lillard commented to Palmer that he though he could hear a bit better following the merriment of the storytelling and the back-slapping incident.
D.D. commented, “We’ll try to do something about that.” Shortly, he began working with Lillard to restore his hearing. Valdeenia’s explanation of the circumstance leading to the first adjustment is supportive of Palmer’s comment that the first adjustment was “accomplished with an object in view.”

Milestones in Chiropractic

  • 1895 – D.D. Palmer commences practice as a “chiropractor” in davenport, Iowa.
  • 1897 – The Palmer School of Chiropractic, the first chiropractic educational institution, opens.
  • 1913 – Kansas becomes the first U.S. state to recognize and license the practice of chiropractic. Louisiana becomes the last state in 1974.
  • 1923 – Alberta becomes the first province to license chiropractic practice in Canada. Ontario follows in Newfoundland is the last province, in 1992.
  • 1933 – the U.S. Council of State Chiropractic Examining Boards is established with a mandate to provide unified standards for licensure. Renamed the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) in 1974.
  • 1939 – The Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, becomes the first jurisdiction outside North America to license the practice of chiropractic.
  • 1944 – The Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER) is established and, to the present time, is the profession’s foremost agency for funding postgraduate scholarship and research.
  • 1963 – The U.S. National Board Of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) is established to promote consistency and reciprocity between state examining boards.
  • 1974 – The U.S. Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) is recognized by the federal government as the accrediting agency for schools of chiropractic. This leads to the development of affiliated accrediting agencies in Canada, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
  • 1979 – Chiropractic in New Zealand, the report of the NZ Commission of Inquiry to Chiropractic, is published. This was the first government commission to adopt a full judicial procedure, hearing evidence on oath and subject to cross-examination when examining patients, chiropractors, medical doctors and other on the role of the chiropractic profession. The Commission’s recommendations strongly endorse chiropractic services and call for medical cooperation. The report has a major impact internationally.
  • 1988 – World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) is formed. The WFC, whose members are national associations of chiropractors in over 70 countries, is admitted into official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) as a non-government organization or NGO in January
  • 1993 – The Manga Report in Canada, the first government-commissioned report by health economists looking at the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic services, recommends a primary role for chiropractors with back pain patients on grounds of safety, cost-effectiveness and patient preference, and concludes this will save hundreds of millions annually in direct health care costs and work disability payments.
  • 1994 – Government-sponsored expert panels developing evidence-based guidelines for the management of patients with back pain in the U.S. and the U.K. provide the first authoritative reports that manipulation is a proven and preferred treatment approach for most acute low-back pain patients.
  • 1996 – U.S. government begins official funding support for an ongoing agenda for chiropractic research. To continue this agenda the Consortia Center for Chiropractic Research is formed in 1997, comprising chiropractic schools, university research departments and federal government agencies, and is based at Palmer College of Chiropractic.


  1. Smith, David. The Chiropractic Profession: Its Education, Practice, Research and Future Directions. West Des Moines, IA: NCMIC Group, 2000.
  2. Peterson, Wise, Chiropractic An Illustrated History, Mosby-Year Book, Inc., 1995.
  3. Gibbons, Russell. D.D. Palmer: The origins of the Palmer School and Itinerant Schoolman, 1897-1913. Chiropractic History, 1998; 18 (2):39.
  4. Wardwell, Walter I., Chiropractic: History and Evolution of a New Profession, Mosby, 1992.