-- By Erica Sastre, LMT
Hey everybody, Erica here with this week's Q&A. February is Black History Month, I thought I would endeavor to learn a little about more about African American History in the Chiropractic profession. I’m kind of a history nerd, and I thought this project would be a lot of fun. Well, I learned a lot! So for this week’s Q & A I’d like to share the story of Harvey J. Lillard, the man at the heart of the chiropractic story.
Harvey J. Lillard was the first chiropractic patient. The very first adjustment was performed on him, and restored his hearing. This is the miracle that blew up chiropractic interest, and established a lasting profession. The founder of Chiropractic medicine was a man named Daniel David Palmer.
Dr. Palmer was not yet famous when he met Lillard. At that time he was a small-time entrepreneur in Davenport, Iowa who was trying to make a living with magnetic healing and other popular modalities of that time. Lillard owned the custodial company that took care of the building where Palmer was renting his office. Palmer heard Lillard’s story of how he lost most of his hearing. An incident that apparently was accompanied by a strange ‘popping’ noise in his spine.
His daughter, relates the legend...
“Chiropractic came into being because of my father. "
"Evidently my father was a tale-teller. He and a man that worked for him stepped in front of D.D. Palmer’s office while my father was finishing the story. Well, Dr Palmer was reading a book. The Doctor stuck his fingers between the pages and walked out to listen to the end of the tale. The Doctor was so tickled that he hit my father in the back with a book.”
Based on the story, Palmer came up with a theorized that the deafness was related to Lillard’s spinal alignment, and offered to work with him to invent a treatment. The first adjustment was in 1895, and it cured Lillard's hearing!
“I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good." - Harvey Lillard
This miracle story is the foundation of chiropractic medicine, it was used to market and legitimize the technique, which rapidly grew across the country and into an established medical profession.
Little is know about the other details of Harvey Lillard's life. He had a wife and daughter, Lillard and his family left Davenport Iowa in 1907 and moved to Seattle. He was a deputy sheriff there until his death in 1925. Fun fact: He is buried in the same graveyard as Bruce Lee! His grave is much smaller than Lee's, but, if you enjoy chiropractic treatments and want to say thank you next time you are in Seattle, stop by the Lake View Cemetery and see Harvey.
Sadly, despite working with Lillard on creating chiropractic, Dr. Palmer did not teach African Americans. The Palmer School of Chiropractic blatantly stated, `Negros not accepted'. All major chiropractic schools until the 1950's did not accept blacks or minorities.
Yet, African Americans continued to participate in and contribute to the chiropractic profession. For example, Fred H. L. Rubel, established The Rubel College of Chiropractic in 1914 “to open the field of instruction to all races, no matter what the color of their skin may be, so as particularly to give members of the colored race an opportunity to learn one of the greatest modern professions—Chiropractic...”
As you can see, Harvey Lillard's story was just the beginning of a rich, complex, and diverse chiropractic history.
Check out this timeline to see a more complete list of events, notable figures, and facts about African American chiropractic history, check out the links below for further reading on this topic.
Now we know who to thank for the chiropractic treatments we enjoy today. Don't forget to submit your own questions for us to answer! Send them email@example.com, your question could be answered in next week's Q&A!
--Erica Satstre, LMT
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