History of Osteopathy
(and Twentieth-Century Medical Practice)

E. R. Booth, Ph.D, D.O.



Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. - Huxley.

The story of the development of Osteopathy is co-extensive with the life of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. The two are so closely allied that it is almost impossible to separate them. It is only because of the wealth of materials and convenience of reference that the subject is divided. It is true that the idea of Osteopathy as a complete science did not enter Dr. Still's mind till he was about forty-six years old; but his earlier life was a daily preparation in the school of independent action for the work he did later and will continue to do as long as he lives. His experiences before he began his life's work, remind us of what John Milton said of Oliver Cromwell's preparation for leadership of the people of England, in their revolt against the tyranny of Charles I:

"He [Oliver Cromwell] was a soldier disciplined to perfection in the knowledge of himself. He had either extinguished, or by habit had learned to subdue, the whole host of vain hopes, fears, and passion which infest the soul. He first acquired the government of himself, and over himself acquired the most signal victory; so that on the first day he took the field against the external enemy, he was a veteran in arms, consummately practiced in the toils and exigencies of war."

So Dr. Still was disciplined by all his experiences in life to do the very work which later attracted the attention and commanded the respect of the world.


No great thought ever springs into existence in the twinkling of an eye. The Pivotal idea may be born in a moment, but a long period of gestation or incubation must have preceded its birth. So it was in the development of Osteopathy. The pivotal idea seems to have been grasped by Dr. Still and formulated in 1874, but many apparently radical ideas had entered his mind long before that.

Probably the first incident in the life of Dr. Still, that had any bearing upon Osteopathy, was that recorded on pages 31 and 32 of his Autobiography. It shows his independence of thought and action, his ever-present tendency to associate cause and effect, and his practical ingenuity in adapting means to ends, while yet a child.

"One day, when about ten years old, I suffered from headache. I made a swing of my father's plow-line between two trees; but my head hurt too much to make swinging comfortable, so I let the rope down to about eight or ten inches of the ground, threw the end of a blanket on it, and I lay down on the ground and used the rope for a swinging pillow. Thus I lay stretched on my back with my neck across the rope. Soon I became easy and went to sleep, got up in a little while with headache all gone. As I knew nothing of anatomy, I took no thought of how a rope could stop headache and the sick stomach which accompanied it. After that discovery I roped my neck whenever I felt those spells coming on. I followed that treatment for twenty years before the wedge of reason reached my brain, and I could see that I had suspended the action of the great occipital nerves, and given harmony to the flow of the arterial blood to and through the veins, and ease was the effect, as the reader can see."

The late Col. A. L. Conger, in an admirable article that appeared in the Cosmopolitan Osteopath for November, 1898, on "The Birth of Osteopathy," quotes Dr. Still's words as follows, relating to an incident that occurred about the year 1858:

"In the days of the John Brown trouble in Kansas, when I and some of my co-workers in the stirring events of that time were driven from our homes and were in hiding in the woods or bushes to keep beyond the reach of the pro-slavery element, a comrade of mine by the name of Major Abbott, who was my close, personal, and intimate friend, said to me one day during a discussion in that lonely spot, in speaking of medicine: 'Do you know that I have lost all faith in medicine? I am satisfied that it is all wrong, and that the system of drugs, as curative agents, will some day be practically overturned, and some other system or method of curing the sick without drugs will take its place in healing the sick."'

Dr. Still is always willing to give credit to whom credit is due. He never forgets a friend. He always has a warm place in his heart for those who have battled for truth. Concerning Major Abbott and the intimacy existing between him and Dr. Still, Col. Conger gave the following important facts in the article mentioned above:

"Major Abbott was formerly from the State of Connecticut; a man who was thoroughly scientific and had great learning. The words of Major Abbott made a deep and lasting impression on the mind of Dr. Still, and the more he thought of the suggestion, the more it seemed to him that he was to be the instrument through which this overthrowing of drugs was to be brought about, and some other and better system was to be given to mankind. And from the reading of Dr. Still's Autobiography and incidents related by him, it is safe to say, and be recorded in history, that Major Abbott was the first person to offer the suggestion to Dr. Sill in this line.

"Several years since, Major Abbott, who was then a resident of Kansas, paid a visit to Dr. Still at Kirksville, Mo., to revive and talk over the incidents in the days of the early troubles in Kansas, in which they both played an important part. Dr. Still and his brother, Thomas Still, with Major Abbott, were known as three of John Brown's and Jim Lane's trusted lieutenants, and while Major Abbott was on this visit to Kirksville they all sat for their pictures, in memory of some of these stirring events of the former days. Dr. Still presented a set of these pictures to Mrs. Senator Foraker, as well as to the writer. Mrs. Foraker took her pictures and fastened them together in a group with a red, white, and blue ribbon, and hung them as an appropriate decoration on the wall of her cottage.

"Some months later, when residing at Kirksville, Mo., we were then occupying the cottage of Mrs. Senator Foraker where these pictures decorated the wall. One morning Dr. Still came to the cottage looking very sober, and Mrs. Conger said to him: 'Doctor, what is the matter?' He responded: 'I have some very bad news this morning.' He then took from his pocket a letter informing him that Major Abbott had died the day previous at his home in Kansas. When words of sympathy were offered to him at the loss of his friend, he took his cane and touching the picture of Major Abbott, which was hanging underneath the others in the group, turned its face to the wall. Mrs. Conger remarked to him: 'Oh! Doctor, why do you do that?’ He said: 'It is hard to bear this separation.' And his eyes quickly filled with tears, showing the deep love and affection he bore for his former friend and comrade. And then turning the picture back again, he said: 'That was one of the best friends I ever had. He was the first man who put into my head the idea of Osteopathy, or the science of healing without drugs.’”


Dr. Still's residence upon the frontier during the long years in which he was developing his science was not a mere incident. Primeval nature was an essential environment for the independence necessary to accomplish his work. Traditions in medical practice had to be ignored, functions of the human mechanism not described in the books had to be discovered. The effects of artificial influences acting upon the human body, both in health and in disease, had to be cast aside; the power of nature had to be revealed, and means devised by which nature would be permitted to exert her inherent powers.

It has been said, in derision, by the opponents of Osteopathy, that Dr. Still was only an uneducated country doctor, and, therefore, unqualified to evolve anything of value. True, according to the standard of those critics whose days and nights have been spent following traditions; true, in the opinion of those who never studied a plant or an animal without a book or a teacher to tell them what to look for, and then tell them what they had found. No great discovery was ever made by one who stuck to the paths already established. Analyzing plants with Gray in hand never made a great botanist. Studying the human body under the ever-guiding and controlling influence of a book or a preceptor, never made a great anatomist. Agassiz, the greatest science teacher of the ages, would not permit his pupils to use these guides, or tell them anything till they had made a thorough study of the object under consideration, without the aid of a preceptor. This was the method of Dr. Still. The field of nature was his laboratory; not the modern laboratory with its array of unnatural specimens and bewildering aggregations of instruments. Dr. Still is not the only man evolved in nature's school instead of the artificial surrounding of a college, who has been misjudged. Even Wendell Phillips, later a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, said of him in 1862: "Of no mind whatever," "neither insight nor prevision nor decision;" "a first-rate second-grade man;" "as honest as the measure of his intellect and the circumstances of his life allow." It has been said that Shakespeare could not have been born anywhere but in England, and any time but in the sixteenth century. Abraham Lincoln could not have been evolved anywhere else than upon the soil of slavery in the South and of abolitionism in the North. So Dr. Still could not have been evolved elsewhere than upon the plains of Missouri and Kansas.

The following is taken from the Autobiography, and shows his views upon the influences of his environment in the development of Osteopathy:

"I, who had had some experience in alleviating pain, found medicines a failure. Since early life I had been a student of nature's books. In my early days in wind-swept Kansas, I had devoted my attention to the study of anatomy. I became a robber in the name of science. Indian graves were desecrated and the bodies of the sleeping dead exhumed in the name of science. Yes, I grew to be one of those vultures of the scalpel, and studied the dead that the living might be benefited. I had printed books, but went back to the great book of nature as my chief study.

"My science, or discovery, was born in Kansas under many trying circumstances. On the frontier, while fighting the pro-slavery sentiment and snakes and badgers, then later on through the Civil War, and after the Civil War until, like a burst of sunshine, the whole truth dawned on my mind, I was gradually approaching a science by study, research, and observation that the world is receiving.

"Is the frontier a place to study science? our college-bred gentleman may ask. Henry Ward Beecher once remarked that it made very little difference how one acquired an education, whether it be in the classic shades and frescoed halls of old Oxford, or Harvard, or by the fireside in the lonely cabin on the frontier. The frontier is a very good place to get the truth. There is no one there to bother you. The frontier is the great book of nature. It is the fountain-head of knowledge, and natural science is here taught from first principles. How does the scientist learn of the habits and manners of the animals which he wishes to study? By the observation of the animals. The old frontiersman knows more of the customs and habits of the wild animals than the scientist ever discovered. Agassiz, with all his knowledge of natural history, knows not as much of the mink and beaver as the trapper whose life business has been to catch them.

"Indian after Indian was exhumed and dissected, and still I was not satisfied. A thousand experiments were made with bones, until I became quite familiar with the bony structure. I might have advanced sooner in Osteopathy had not our Civil War interfered with the progress of my studies.” - Autobiography, pages 94 to 97.


It has been said that the trouble with most men is not that they know too much, but that they know so much that is not true. When we think of the abandoned theories and the discarded practices of the medical profession, we conclude that that saying applies especially to those -whose very title, doctor, designates them as learned. What Dr. Still learned from nature was true and did not have to be unlearned. Whenever he got a scent of truth he followed the trail wherever it led. If to error, he abandoned it; if to truth, he laid firm hold upon it.

The world has furnished but few examples of such sturdy self-sacrificing devotion to principle as Dr. Still. The practice of allopathy had convinced him that the drug theory was radically wrong, and from his own researches he thought he saw the dawn of a better system. He determined to get closer to nature and learn from her the exact truth. To pursue his new idea, it was necessary to forsake the tenets of the drug system. This meant sacrifice of his medical practice, and great pecuniary loss, for his business life up to that time had been successful, and he had accumulated property of considerable value. But he had the courage of his convictions; truth was more to him than wealth, or even the comforts of life. Then began his most remarkable struggle of over twenty years, in which poverty, false accusations, the desertion of friends, and the scoffs and jeers of ignorant and prejudiced neighbors seemed only to strengthen his determination to complete the work which he felt was his to do.


It was in the spring of 1864, that he was aroused as never before, and completely lost faith in the efficacy of drug medication. He had not only come to the conclusion that "the artery is the father of the rivers of life," but by the tragedy of death in his own family, he was led to the decision, once for all, that an All-wise Creator was the designer of our bodies as well as the author of our spirits, and that the human body is, therefore, a perfect machine. This was his first fundamental thought in the development of his science. Note his words:

"Not until I had been tried by fire did I cut loose from that stupidity, drugs. Not until my heart had been torn and lacerated with grief and affliction, could I fully realize the inefficacy of drugs. Some may say that it was necessary that I should suffer in order that good might come, but I feel that my grief came through gross ignorance on the part of the medical profession. It was when I stood gazing upon three members of my family, - two of my own children and one adopted child, - all dead from the disease spinal meningitis, that I propounded to myself the serious question, 'In sickness has not God left man in a world of guessing? Guess what is the matter? What to give, and guess the result? And when dead, guess where he goes.' I decided then that God was not a guessing God, but a God of truth.

"And all His works, spiritual and material, are harmonious. His law of animal life was absolute. So wise a God had certainly placed the remedy within the material house in which the spirit of life dwells.

"With this thought I trimmed my sail and launched my craft as an explorer. Like Columbus, I found driftwood upon the surface. I noticed the course of the wind whence they came, and steered my vessel accordingly. Soon I saw the green islands of health all over the seas of reason. Ever since then I have watched for the driftwood and course of the wind, and I have never failed to find the source whence the drifting came.

"Believing that a loving, intelligent Maker of man had deposited in this body some place or through the whole system, drugs in abundance to cure all infirmities, on every voyage of exploration I have been able to bring back a cargo of indisputable truths, that all the remedies necessary to health exist in the human body. They can be administered by adjusting the body in such condition that the remedies may naturally associate themselves together, hear the cries, and relieve the afflicted.

"I have never failed to find all remedies in plain view on the front shelves of the store of the Infinite." - Autobiography, pages 97 to 100.

In his address to the graduates of the American School of Osteopathy on what the Journal of Osteopathy, July, 1897, says was the "First Commencement day of the American School of Osteopathy, June 22, 1597," Dr. Still made the following statement in his characteristic way:

"I wish to say to the graduates who are to go out into the world, that when I entered this contest I took as my foundation to build upon that the whole universe, with its world, men, women, fishes, fowls, and beasts, with all their forms and principles of life, was formulated by the mind of an unerring God, and that He had placed all the principles of motion, life, and all its remedies to be used in sickness, inside the human body - that He had placed them somewhere in the structure, if He know how, or He had left his machinery of life at the very point where skill should have executed its most important work."

That this fundamental principle is still foremost in Dr. Still's mind is evidenced by remarks made at the reunion of the graduates of the June class, 1900, held at the World's Fair, St. Louis, July 13, 1904. In substance he spoke, in part, as follows

"I have been thinking over a subject of great importance and would like to have you appoint a committee of investigation, or perhaps the class could constitute a committee of the whole and report a year hence. The question is whether God made man with the right number of toes, fingers, and legs all the proper length, vertebrae of correct shape and in right position, stomach suitable in size and structure and capable of secreting the elements necessary to carry on digestion and so on for all parts of the body. If a mistake has been made the committee ought to so report, and we could then ask God to correct His mistakes."

Of course all present saw the point.

Once in a great while, we find an M. D. confident that the human body was made about right. Dr. Still was not more radical on this subject than Dr. Rabagliati is as to the wisdom of putting an appendix in the human body and leaving it there. He says in "Air, Food, and Exercise," pages 21, 22, and 23

"When a surgeon takes upon himself to say that a natural structure is 'obsolete and out of date,' suggesting, by implication at least, that all might yet be well if he were called in to remove it by surgical operation, his mental attitude as well as the language in which he expresses it, strikes us as with a jar. It does seem a pity that men so able and so knowing had not been entrusted with the making of man and of the world on which he was to dwell. They could lave done the work so much better. And what a number of useful hints have been lost because they were not consulted when the thankless task of fashioning them was in course of being accomplished. A structure rich in lymphoid elements has probably a useful part to play in the economy, and it would be far more useful to poor and suffering humanity though possibly less immediately beneficial to the prophets, to advise it how to keep the appendix vermiformis and other parts sound and healthy than to proceed to remove them in the way that is now so freely proposed and carried out. Even after the appendix is removed the caecum or other parts of the intestine may become inflamed, and the appendix less patient may still suffer from inflammation of the caecum or of the bowel, from perityphlitis or enteritis. Are we to excise the caecum in order to prevent typhilitis or perityphilitis? or the bowel, in order to prevent enteritis? Or would it be wise to amputate the head in order to prevent neuralgia of the face?"


The second thought to which attention is called is the fundamental idea of the importance of the artery and other tubular structures through which the nutritive elements are carried to their destination and the waste materials of the body are carried away to be expelled.

"Today I am, as I have been for fifty years, fully established in the belief that the artery is the father of the rivers of life, health, and ease, and its muddy or impure water is first in all disease." - Autobiography, page 33.

"In the year 1874, I proclaimed that a disturbed artery marked the beginning to an hour and a minute when disease began to sow its seeds of destruction in the human body. That in no case could it be done without a broken or suspended current of arterial blood, which by nature was intended to supply and nourish all nerves, ligaments, muscles, skin, bones, and the artery itself. He who wished to successfully solve the problem of disease or deformities of any kinds in all cases without exception would find one or more obstructions in some artery, or some of its branches. At an early day this philosophy solved to me the problem of malignant growths and their removal by reproduction of the normal flow of the arterial fluids, which, when done, transfers the blood to the venous circulation for return and renewal after the process of renovation is completed by the lungs, excretories, and porous system. Fevers, flux, headaches, heart and lung troubles, measles, mumps, and whooping-cough, and all diseases met and treated since that time, have proven to my mind that there is no exception to this law. The rule of the artery must be absolute, universal, and unobstructed, or disease will be the result. I proclaimed then and there that all nerves depended wholly on the arterial system for their qualities, such as sensation, nutrition, and motion, even though by the law of reciprocity they furnished force, nutrition, and sensation to the artery itself, and further proclaimed that the brain of man was God's drug-store, and had in it all liquids, drugs, lubricating oils, opiates, acids, and antiacids, and every quality of drugs that the wisdom of God thought necessary for human happiness and health." - Autobiography, pages 218 and 219.


The third thought is that of the influence of the nerve and the part it plays, especially in the control of the fluids of the body.

"This year (1874) I began a more extended study of the drive-wheels, pinions, cups, arms, and shafts of life, with their forces and supplies, framework, attachments by ligaments, muscles, origin, and insertion. Nerves, origin and supplies, blood supply to and from the heart, and how and where the motor-nerves received their power and motion; how the sensory nerves acted in their functions, voluntary and involuntary nerves in performing their duties, the source of supplies and the work being done in health, in the obstructing parts, places, and principles, through which they passed to perform their part of the functions of life; all awoke a new interest in me.

"I believed that something abnormal could be found some place in some of the nerve divisions which would tolerate a temporary or permanent suspension of the blood either in arteries or veins, which effect caused disease.

"With this thought in view I began to ask myself, what is fever? Is it an effect, or is it a being, as commonly described by medical authors? I concluded it was only an effect, and on that line I have experimented and proven the position I then took to be a truth, wonderfully sustained by nature, responding every time in the affirmative. I have concluded after twenty-five years' close observation and experimenting that there is no such disease as fever, flux, diphtheria, typhus, typhoid, lung-fever, or any other fever classed under the common head of fever. Rheumatism, sciatica, gout, colic, liver disease, nettle-rash, or croup, on to the end of the list of diseases, do not exist as diseases. All these separate and combined are only effects. The cause can be found, and does exist, in the limited and excited action of the nerves only, which control the fluids of parts or the whole of the body. It appears perfectly reasonable to any person born above the condition of an idiot, who has familiarized himself with anatomy and its working with the machinery of life, that all diseases are mere effects, the cause being a partial or complete failure of the nerves to properly conduct the fluids of life.

"On this stone I have builded and sustained Osteopathy for twenty-five years. Day by day the evidences grow stronger and stronger that this theory is correct." - Autobiography, pages 106, 107, and 108.

It will be seen from the above quotations that Dr. Still sought and found certain fundamental principles. These became fixed ideas in his own mind early in the development of his science. With the thought that man is a perfect machine, it will be seen at once that his mechanical turn of mind would naturally lead him to try to correct any abnormality, if he found the body working badly, just as a watch-repairer, or a wagon-repairer, or any other mechanic would go about his work, if he found his Machine ineffective.

The study of the human body revealed the fact that it is a very complicated structure. Although the non-performance of duty on the part of vessels and nerves was held responsible for disease, it was evident to Dr. Still's mind that they were not primarily responsible for the disturbance. Something must be out of order or these would, of necessity, perform their functions. Knowing the structure and location of the nerves and the blood and lymph vessels, he saw clearly that the other tissues would interfere with them if all were not perfectly normal. As the relations of all the tissues of the body are determined by their relations to the bony framework, his system naturally became crystalized about the skeleton.


Like many a good Methodist, who can give the exact moment of his conversion, so Dr. Still can give the exact moment when he first saw the light of unobstructed truth and the day dawn of Osteopathy made its appearance. It was June 22, 1874, at ten o'clock in the forenoon. Then it was that the full force of the light of truth penetrated his mind as never before. He had been theorizing and putting his theories into practice. He had been questioning nature, and her answer to his queries had revealed to him knowledge not recorded by the schoolmen. The fundamental principles underlying the healing art had been discovered, formulated, and, as in the twinkling of an eye, they were recognized as a complete and harmonious whole. Much remained to be done by Dr. Still himself, but the future work was to follow along the lines irrevocably established. Any departure from the convictions of that June morning would have been as heretical as for a Methodist to question the goodness of God or His power to forgive sins.

Dr. Still's first patients were among the poor and unfortunate. Many a time was he refused admittance altogether, or compelled to enter by the back door for fear he might be seen, and the fact that he had been called result in ridicule, abuse, or perhaps ostracism of the patient's family. The fact that it was necessary for him to come in contact with a large number of people to get sufficient material upon which to demonstrate his claims, made it necessary for him to go from place to place to secure practice.

As early as 1872, he made trips through the country and saw every chronic case he could find. On one of these early trips he cured a boy who had a prenatal intolerance to light, so he was practically blind, which caused those who were familiar with the case to look upon Dr. Still as a miracle worker. It was several years before be entirely discarded the use of drugs. Once when called into the country about ten miles to see a lady with pneumonia, he forgot to take his medicines with him. He resorted to manipulation and cured the case more promptly than usual by the use of drugs.

Dr. Still lectured in every school house in Adair County, Missouri. His subject was "Man's Lost Center." Of course what is now known as Osteopathy was his theme. He always found the common people good listeners. The points made were illustrated by treating the afflicted of his audiences. Often his lecture and his treating would hold his audience till after midnight. Generally one of his sons was with him and would assist by holding some portion of the patient's body, as directed, while he did the specific work, While many of his treatments were more general than he advocates now, his chief purpose at all times was to locate all possible causes of the trouble and remove them by direct and specific manipulation.


The following is taken from an article entitled "Some Early recollections of My Father in the Discovery and Development of Osteopathy," furnished for this book by Dr. Harry M. Still. This article shows up many interesting traits of Dr. Still's character and many thrilling incidents in his early work with his new science, which are omitted here, only to allow space for the testimony of others along the same lines.

"On account of my being the bad boy of the family, father almost always took me with him on trips to the country. I was of a very nervous and very sensitive temperament. Consequently, when I heard anybody rebuking or making fun of my father's theory, or treatment, it was like shaking a red rag at a bull, or touching off the fuse of a charge of dynamite; it simply meant fight on my part. Many a time on the streets I have heard the boys say: 'There goes that old crazy crank.' These boys' words simply ignited the fuse which caused a volcanic explosion from me. That boy either apologized to me or one or the other of us took a thrashing. It was not the boys alone who talked about father, but men and women as well. Many a time I have heard the men make the same remark as the boys.

"Spending most all of my time with father, as a boy, I have been in a position to watch the growth of Osteopathy from its infancy to the present. I was much impressed with the most I saw father doing every day of my life. One day, when I was about ten years old, I went with him to the country to see a patient. On our way back, we saw an old gentleman sitting out in his front yard almost choking to death, suffering with the dreadful disease called asthma, struggling to the last ounce of his strength for the breath of life. Father stopped and went over to see the suffering man. He said: 'Hello, Joe! What are you trying to do?' He answered, 'Make a die of it, I guess, Doctor.' So father began to examine and manipulate his spine, and in a few minutes time the man was as easy as ever he had been in his life. The man was really frightened at the rapidity of his relief. I will never, as long as I live, forget the language that man used. He said in a frightened tone of voice, 'My Good! Doctor, what have you done to me? My lungs are as free as ever they were in my life.' About two months later father met the gentleman, and he said that he had not even had symptoms of a return of the asthma. The poor fellow was dumfounded, and from that day to this he has never had asthma. It was always a mystery to Joe what cured him. I guess father even was really guessing just what nerve was tied up in the lesion. This is but one instance out of hundreds.

"The following year, I think in 1878, we went to Holden, Johnson County, Missouri. He spent several months in Johnson County in 1878-79 in the practice of his new profession - you might say just born and unnamed. Here is where I was converted enough to know that father could treat and cure any curable disease on earth without the use of medicine. People came from great distances to see him, the wonderful faith cure doctor, as they called him. It looked to me just like the old-fashioned camp-meeting, as everybody who was treated went off happy and shouting. My father spent several years going from place to place, treating all classes of patients who were not afraid to come to him. Almost all of the patients he treated free of charge. The poor always got their treatment free, and if they did not have car-fare and board they got it from father, providing he had it or could borrow it. Those days he was very poor, as he had given up the practice of medicine, and had spent the best part of fifteen years in hard work and study, without a friend to encourage him. With all of these adversities and stumbling-blocks nothing could shake him. His convictions and belief were a permanent fixture in his gray matter. There is not one man out of a million who would have gone through what he did. We were so poor that I had to spend several years of the best part of my life at work trying to help support our family, instead of being in school.

"In the year of 1884-85, after reading anatomy and physiology with father, I accompanied him to Hannibal to assist him in the practice of his new profession. At that time they called him 'the Lightning Bone Setter.' Here is where he had some wonderful cures. Patients came to him from all parts of the country. I believe I would be safe in saying that in the six months we practiced at Hannibal we accumulated a dray load of plaster Paris casts, crutches, and all classes of surgical appliances. We went from Hannibal to Nevada, Missouri, where the State Insane Asylum is located. Here we made fully a hundred cures; some most wonderful. I remember one very interesting case. This lady had been in the asylum for several years. It seemed that she had lost her mind suddenly while playing a piano. Father examined her neck and found a lesion of the atlas. In less time that I have taken in the telling, the girl was as rational as ever. Strange to say, the first thing she said was, 'Where is my piano and music?' She was anxious to finish the piece she had started playing three years before. By this time father was becoming so well known, through his work, that he desired to return to Kirksville, Missouri, for practice. For nearly two years he and I did all the work. The practice grew so beyond our expectation that we were snowed under with work. In the meantime brothers Charles and Herman were studying. Then we all together could not do the work. Father began to think, 'What are we to do with all of these patients flocking from all parts of the country?' He said, 'I have taught my boys to be successful in the practice of Osteopathy. Why not start a school?’ The first class consisted of three regular students besides his sons, Dr. Wilderson, Dr. Hatten, and Dr. Ward."


Dr. Charles E. Still says in the Journal of Osteopathy, February, 1898:

"About the year 1880 my father took my brother Harry and myself to Holden, Johnson County, to assist him in his work, for he was then an itinerant Osteopath, treating in many places months at a time. Nearly all the cases he had were of a chronic nature, which had been given up by the medical doctors, and the cures which followed seemed marvelous to the people.

"From Holden we came back to our home in Kirksville, and I continued to work and study occasionally under my father, but never attempted anything alone. A year later I went with him to Hannibal, and remained awhile studying and operating under his directions. From 1880 to 1893, I never did any work save in conjunction with my father, or under his direction, and will frankly state that I did not know that I cured any one. I treated many who were cured, but as I practiced with my father and under his directions, I gave him credit for it all. As yet my father, A. T. Still, was the only person known as an Osteopath, and with the masses it was supposed to be a power he possessed, which would die with him. It was the general remark, 'There will be no Osteopathy after Dr. Still is gone.'

"About July 16, 1893, I left home - the first person, after my father, to go into the world and establish the fact that Osteopathy was a science which could be imparted to others. On reaching Minneapolis I took offices in the Windsor Hotel. On my arrival I found a letter from Dr. Thomas McDavit, Secretary of the Board of Health, notifying me if I did not get out of the town he would at once institute proceedings against me. I replied through my attorney, Hon. F. F. Davis, that in future all correspondence with him must be through my attorney. Patients poured in upon me so rapidly that hunting and fishing were impossible, and I never shot a bird nor cast a hook while there. This was the first time that I learned that I was able to handle disease alone."


Dr. A. G. Hildreth gives the following account of his personal introduction to the science of Osteopathy:

"One time, along about '84' or '85,' before Dr. Still had even named his treatment, my wife and I were in Kirksville one Sunday visiting her parents. Early in the morning I walked over to call on Dr. Still. He was living at that time near my wife's people on the east side of town in a small four or five room cottage. I found him at home, and had not been in the house long when he said: 'Come out here, I want to show you something.' He took me around behind the house, and pulling a great big goods box, perhaps five feet square, away from the side of the house, for the open side of the box was against the side of the building, drew from the box a coffee or gunny sack, as they are sometimes called, full of bones, and I soon learned they were human bones. He began putting them together and telling me what he believed to be their relation to the health of the human structure, and it was then he first told me of the proposed name for his new method of treatment that he proposed to introduce, and that would in time revolutionize the theory and practice of medicine. I listened intently to what he had to say. But, like all others at that time, more or less incredulously. Yet I knew him well enough to know that he was a man who usually did whatever he said he would do, and that interview and visit set me to thinking. I presume that that sack of bones was among the first considerable collection of bones which had to do with the discovery of Osteopathy. It was the first that had to do with my ever thinking of studying the subject."


The following from Dr. Herbert Bernard, of Detroit, Michigan, indicates the methods of work of the founder of Osteopathy as observed by others, and the estimation placed upon him and his science early in its development:

"My early boyhood days were spent in Kirksville, my family being neighbors of Dr. Still. His boys, Charles, Harry and Herman, were playmates of mine, so that I had the advantage of seeing the old doctor study Osteopathy. The first thing that I can remember of him was that he seemed to be constantly absorbed in some deep study. It was this, and the carrying around with him of a handful of bones, that led people to believe that he was slightly demented. The medical men called him, 'That old crank, Still.' Many times have I seen him sitting on a stump in the woods with a handful of bones, so engrossed in their study that he would not bear the approach of us boys. He would have the joints of the bones fastened with 'sling-shot' rubbers, dislocating and resetting them; or he would be running his fingers over their rough places studying the points of muscular attachments. He would often scare me by catching me up and running his fingers over my spine, never saying a word but 'man is a machine.' I presume I have heard him mumble that sentence a thousand times. Of course I gave him a wide berth, as I, too, thought he was a little off.

"My early understanding of his theory was that he replaced the machinery of the body, when he found it disturbed, and in that way cured disease. The first case I ever knew him to treat was a servant of ours, a Miss Barbara Morehouse, who was suffering with a curvature of the spine. He treated and cured this case, I think, in the latter part of the seventies, probably 1878 or 1879. Afterward, probably about one year, he treated and cured my mother of severe headaches. He said there was a bone out of place in her neck. And the M. D.'s used this as another proof of his reported insanity.

"We moved away from Kirksville in 1852. I returned there on a visit in 1887, and went over to see the old Doctor. He got down his box of bones and explained his theory of Osteopathy to me. I remember in that conversation a few things he said. One was 'People think that no one but Still can do this work, but I am going to have Harry give up the grocery business and go with me. I will then buy Charlie and Herm out of the regular army and have them also study and practice Osteopathy. Some day I will have a school, and in twenty years there will be at least 1,000 Osteopaths in the United States.

"I have seen Osteopathy grow through three stages: First we were considered no more than harmless lunatics or criminals. Six years ago I was requested to go to the back door in several instances when calling upon a patient. Quick results were dangerous in those days, as the patients would think there had been some rabbit's-foot business worked upon them. They were afraid to tell of their relief or cure, thinking people would take them for faith-cure followers. It was almost impossible to get a woman to tell of a cure, especially if it were female disorders. The next stage was one in which we and our patients were considered faddists, and the fad Osteopathy would soon disappear. Now they think there is some good in it, as there is always good in massage. I notice that now people are giving it a better chance in acute diseases and obstetrics than ever before. Once, when I first came to Detroit, a woman telephoned me, asking what price I charged to pray for people. Another one looked all over one of my operating tables trying to find the electric wires that he thought were hidden."


J. O. Hatten, M. D., D. O., probably saw more of Dr. Still's early work than any one else except his sons. The following account by Dr. Hatten is taken from an elaborate article which he furnished for this book. Many interesting points are omitted simply because they appear, in their essential features, elsewhere in this volume. Dr. Fatten says:

"In the spring of 1887 1 made arrangement to study his theory of bone-setting, so-called at that time. I made it my business to investigate everything coining in the line of curing diseases without the use of drugs, and Dr. Still's success was most wonderful.

"I first met Dr. A. T. Still at Nevada City, Missouri. His son Harry accompanied him on all his rounds. There was where I first joined him in my pursuit of Osteopathy, and I stayed with him until he organized the American School of Osteopathy, and I worked in the operating rooms until after the first class was graduated. We traveled over all the Southern and Western part of the State of Missouri, collecting all of the information that we could from all classes of people and studying diseases, cripples, and deformities of all kinds that the mind could conceive of. We treated everything and examined everything that came in our way.

"Coming in contact with Dr. Still my eyes were opened to the truth, the true philosophy of the science. He taught me to see the squirrel's tail and so we went after the squirrel. I traveled on the road with him and had the opportunity of seeing thousands of cases of all kinds and varieties treated. He would always have something new to explain. He would give his lecture on his discoveries and explain his theory and make it so simple that any one could understand it.

"Later on we were called to Eldorado Springs, Missouri, to treat a man for asthma, who was a great sufferer. He was soon relieved of all his trouble and the people crowded in by the hundreds. We had such crowds of people that we could not begin to see all of them, let alone to treat them. We used only sixteen rooms in the St. James Hotel, and the sidewalk was so crowded that we were compelled to retreat to the suburbs of the town for room for the people with all their curiosity.

"At Nevada City people came 150 miles in covered wagons, and came with tents on the train from far and near. We had to go out from the square where there were side streets. They filled the side streets with wagons and tents and stayed as long as we would stay. We were located on a street-car line so the people coming on trains could come to us on street cars. Those passing would often ask: 'Is that a funeral ?' 'Oh, no, it's Dr. Still, the bone-setter, in town. We could not see half of the people, let alone treat them. He would work until he would give out, then go off some place and hide until morning for a little rest. It was the same way everywhere we went. With all the good we were doing, some people thought it was the works of the devil or some other great supernatural power, and those good people would go so far as to pray to have the Doctor taken from our midst. This was the great cry of many people in different localities. The ministers would preach against him and condemn him for his great and glorious deeds; but the Doctor would only strive the harder. All we ever asked then for Osteopathy was a chance to show what it was, and give it a chance on its own merits. We always invited the public to investigate, and I never knew of a man to investigate but what he became a convert."


As stated above, Nevada, Missouri, was one of the towns visited by Dr. Still during his itinerant practice, hunting for willing subjects upon whom to demonstrate his theories. Dr. W. H. Wilderson writes as follows concerning his work there.

"I first met Dr. A. T. Still at Nevada, Missouri, in 1890. He was at that time giving treatment along the same general lines as those taught at the American School of Osteopathy at the present day, though he gave no name to the treatment, other than to call it 'bone setting,' or the relief of disease by manipulation.

"The old Doctor was at that time, as he is today, a man of independent thought and action, possessing many bright, though very peculiar, ideas, which in late years, I think, have been modified to some extent. At this time Dr. Still and his new method possessed but few friends (of whom the writer was one), though his enemies, the medics, and their friends were legion. This, however, did not affect matters other than to bring in hundreds of people anxious to test the new treatment, with the result that many of them were cured, or greatly relieved, in an incredibly short time, and this being heralded throughout the country brought the treatment into great popularity with the masses."


Ivy B. Summers, editor of the Lagrange (Missouri) Herald Democrat, speaks as follows of Dr. Still's early work:

" I knew Dr. Still years ago when I was connected with the Hannibal press. He made occasional visits to that city in the interest of his treatment. It was when Osteopathy was in its infancy, or to use the doctor's characteristic expression, had its toes out. He gradually worked himself into creditable practice, and to my personal knowledge effected cures that were the comment of the town and called forth the laudation of the press. One case in particular I remember in the person of a beautiful five-year-old girl, who from infancy had been subject to spells of intense nervousness. So great was her affliction that she would shriek at the top of her voice, and all efforts to quiet her were unavailing, until her excitement had subsided of itself. Dr. Still was called, examined the patient, located the cause, removed it, and the girl is now a handsome, healthy young lady. She has never experienced a recurrence of her old malady. I know a Hannibal business man whose wealth runs up somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000. He fell and dislocated his patella. The family physician put his limb in plaster cast and left orders for him to remain in bed. He did so for weeks, and instead of the injured member improving, it continued to grow worse. A friend told him to consult Still, and the incredulous sufferer laughed at the idea, as thousands of others, who are not conversant with the treatment, have done. Finally, however, he was persuaded to go to the institute, where he secured relief in one hour after his arrival. In a week he was cured and able to walk as well as ever, without even a trace of pain lingering in the leg.


Dr. Still fears mental stagnation more than "the plague." He believes in progress and constantly preaches the doctrine to his followers. He believes there is much in the Osteopathy of the future that he has not fathomed. In 1896 he said:

"Osteopathy is a science; not what we know of it, but the subject we are studying, is as deep as eternity. We know but little of it. I have worked and worried here in Kirksville for twenty-two long years, and I intend to study for twenty-three thousand years yet."

Those who know Dr. Still know that he will not cease to be an original investigator so long as he lives. He often likened Osteopathy to a squirrel in a hole in a tree. He would say that he had succeeded in getting the tail out, and it was necessary for others to extricate the body from its hiding-place. He believed that Osteopathy is synonymous with truth, and it would gradually unfold and develop into perfect symmetry. This was what gave him courage to carry on his work under the most adverse and trying conditions. Singly and alone he went forward with his mind set upon the high ideal conceived within his own consciousness.

Dr. Still had no resentment for those that did not accept his views. He did not want pity; but he often pitied those who could not or would not see the truth. He did not ask for sympathy; but he always appreciated the oneness of thought and feeling which comes from a knowledge of truth which seemed to be hidden from most men. He has often said that he has had more fun because of the attitude of others towards his work, than any monkey ever had. He knew that he was right, and had an unswerving confidence that the right would prevail. The following quotation shows the spirit in which he worked:

"Osteopathy was a single fight. It was a fight for truth. It never struck a wave that made it tremble. When people would call me a crank I didn't get mad at that, I didn't get cross at all. Said I, if you had as much sense on this subject as the sheep I would feel hard towards you, but you are perfectly excusable. I would ask the very fellows who laughed at me how many bones they had in their foot, and 75 percent of them could not tell. Each of those bones in the foot has a place to supply, muscles are attached to them, arteries and nerves pass around and between them."


Many criticisms have been offered as to the appropriateness of the term Osteopathy to designate a system of medical practice, in its broad sense. No one word has been found that would more aptly express the ideas involved in the principles and practices of the science. The term was never used in the sense of a diseased bone, neither was it employed to indicate a bone-setting treatment.

The following explanation of the origin of the name Osteopathy is given by Dr. Sill in the catalogue of the American School of Osteopathy for 1902-3:

"I had worked and tried to reason that a body that was perfectly normal in structure could keep a man in the full enjoyment of health just as long as the body was perfectly normal. On that conclusion, I worked first to know what was normal in form and what was not normal; then I compared the two in disease and health. I found by hard study and experimenting that no human body was normal in bone form whilst harboring any disease, either acute or chronic. I got good results in adjusting these bodies to such a degree that people began to ask what I was going to call my new science.

"I listened to all who thought I ought to name my science, so I began to think over names, such as Allopathy, Hydropathy, Homeopathy, and other names, and as I was in Kansas when the name Osawatomie was coined, by taking the first part of the word Osage, and the last part of Pottawattamie, and the new word coined represented two tribes of Indians, I concluded I would start out with the word os (bone) and the word pathology, and press them into one word - Osteopathy.

"I wanted to call my science Osteopathy, and I did not care what Greek scholars said about it!'


It was claimed by several, Governor Stone, of Missouri, and Judge Toney, of Kentucky, and others, that osteopathic methods and practices were secret. This belief may have grown out of a written statement signed by the members of the first class in the American School of Osteopathy, in which they then promised to keep inviolate the principles of Osteopathy, as taught by Dr. A. T. Still, and not impart knowledge there obtained to any person not a recognized student of the American School of Osteopathy. Their reason for making the statement was that it "is but justly due the discoverer, Dr. A. T. Still." It evidently was not the intention to keep Osteopathy a secret, but to give honor to whom honor was due, and emphasize the fact known then, and more fully realized by every honest osteopath today, that Osteopathy cannot be learned except by diligent study and careful training in the practice under the guidance of those learned in the science. This could be done then only as it is done now: that is in some regularly organized and conducted school of Osteopathy. As the American School of Osteopathy was the only one of the kind, and the only one at the time in which a knowledge of the science could possibly be obtained, their declaration of principles was wise. Had all of them lived up to their promise, the profession would have been saved the embarrassment of having to apologize for much that has since been done in the name of Osteopathy.

Most osteopaths take pleasure in explaining the condition they find in patients, how that condition produces the disturbances from which the patient is suffering, and what must be done to give relief or effect a cure. But in many cases this is a waste of words. The explanation will not, as a rule be appreciated by those who believe in mysticism, who believe drugs cure diseases, who do not understand the workings of nerves, who do not understand the processes of nutrition, who do not recognize the completeness of the structure of the human body and its inherent powers of self-preservation. Often these fundamental ideas are grasped, in general, not in detail, as readily by the unlearned as by the learned; and the derisive word or look of some learned person ignorant of Osteopathy may be more convincing to the doubting Thomases or the vacillating learners than any argument based upon indisputable facts. Osteopathy, in its completeness, was an evolution in the mind of Dr. Still; so it must be in the mind of others.

We are also often importuned, by those who want to find some short cut for entrance into the practice, to explain how we treat. Any attempt to do so must prove futile. Hence it is, that osteopaths are sometimes accused of trying to keep their practice secret, because they disclaim the ability to teach in a few lessons what it took them at least two years of hard work under competent instructors to learn. Dr. Still spent over thirty years evolving the science; yet we sometimes find people without a knowledge of the sciences of the human body who think they can learn it in a few hours. It would be just as easy to learn drug medication without the medical colleges as to learn Osteopathy without the osteopathic college.

Dr. Still never contemplated for a moment the keeping of his discoveries a secret. His one concern, after he had developed Osteopathy into a complete system, seemed to be how he could best give it to the public so that it might most effectually bless mankind. Many thought him foolish for giving to others what he had developed to the point where he might have made himself and family rich if he had limited the practice. Dr. Wm. Smith quotes Dr. Henry Marks as saying in October, 1892: "Still is a philanthropist, but a fool; he could keep that knowledge to himself and his family - make himself and them rich; but he gives it to the world. We need more men like that."

Any one can see at once from the facts recorded in Chapter VII, and elsewhere in this book, that it would have been foolishness for Dr. Still to give his discoveries to the world before his system was fully developed or before a school could have been established to teach the new science. These came in due process of time. Many saw the merits in his work, and Dr. Still demonstrated that others could learn and practice the science. Not till then could it be given to the world with any hope of its being accepted or understood.


It may also be laid down as a rule, almost without exception, that those who claim to teach Osteopathy by correspondence, by book instruction, or by any short cut method, are ignorant of the subject as a science covering the whole field of therapeutics, and are constantly bolstering their practice up by the use of adjuncts which often retard rather than accelerate the recovery of the patient. Their work does not compare at all favorably with that of those who know and practice genuine Osteopathy.

Dr. Still is not a man to foist upon others a half-developed theory, or one that will not stand the most rigid practical tests. When he thinks he sees a new way of applying his principles he goes to work quietly, perhaps with the aid of a few trustworthy friends and fellow-workers, to put it to the most rigid tests. If there is anything in the idea, he gives others the benefit of it; if not, that phase of the subject is settled once for all. He and all true osteopaths deplore the fact that some things have been published that should not have been placed before the public. Immature theories and accidental results in practice have been heralded in some cases before their time, and much has been made of these mistakes by the ever alert opposition. Dr. Still said in November, 1904: "I never reported I could take off goiter, till I had removed the ninth; nor asthma till seven or eight were cured. I never said I could handle bloody flux (dysentery) till I had cured about twenty." It is safe to say, however, that seldom, if ever, in the process of the evolution of a new science and the putting of it into practice, have fewer absurd or serious mistakes been made. The literature of Osteopathy (Chapter IX) is voluminous and most that has been done from its earliest history has been read and known by all who cared to investigate.


With the evolution of Osteopathy came the evolution of the osteopath. The germ had long since been planted by Dr. Still and he alone had nurtured the young plant. Osteopaths were to be produced by the establishment of schools, the fundamental work of which was formulated by Dr. Still himself, and expanded by him and the scores of able men and women who have gathered about him, till today the Osteopathic Colleges are giving a course ranging from twenty to thirty months, that will compare favorably with the requirements of medical colleges. That germ of school work was planted over twelve years ago, and it, too, had to pass through the processes of evolution. Concerning the early training of the osteopath, Dr. W. J. Conner, in a paper read before the Missouri State Osteopathic Association, June 24, 1902, in speaking of the advantages and disadvantages of the early graduate in Osteopathy, said:

"The opportunities of the early osteopath, in some respects, were very poor, while in others they were the best. When I was in school we had one teacher and all we studied was anatomy, and only book anatomy at that; there was no dissecting or anything of that kind, while on the other hand we had the freedom of the operating rooms during the whole day and assisted in the treatment of all the eases which came here for treatment, and, of course, had our clinic cases besides. There were no text-books on Osteopathy to guide us, consequently we had to depend entirely on our reasoning faculties to diagnose our cases.

"I remember answering a telegram down at Edina one night, and when I got to the house the brother who met me at the train discovered that their M. D. was in the house and he proceeded to stow me away in the kitchen until the M. D. left. Another illustration: A prominent minister of St. Louis came to Kirksville for treatment. He refused to give his name or address for fear his friends would know where he was. He soon found out that he was not in the hands of 'con' men or quacks. He had been taught by his medical friends that osteopaths were men of that character, but before he was here a week he was willing to tell all about himself, and had no occasion to regret his coming to Kirksville, nor fear of being ridiculed by his friends, because in a week's time he got relief that the old-school doctors had been months trying to give him. He could answer nearly as the blind man whom Christ healed, 'I was blind, now I see."'


Early in the practice of Osteopathy by far the greater number of patients had chronic ailments. They were able to go to the office of the osteopath for treatment and receive all necessary care at home or nearby boarding houses. The widening of the practice brought in a greater number of acute cases and created a demand for "sanitariums" and "infirmaries," where patients could be properly cared for and provided with all that is necessary for their welfare. Such institutions are now found in several of the large cities. Their success is proof of the advantages, in more severe cases, of having patients entirely under the care of osteopaths and away from the inducements to resort to drugs, electricity, X-rays, etc. The cheerful environment of the patients in some of these places, possibly all, free from the usual odors of drugs and the distressing features connected with frequent surgical operations and their common fatal consequences, make osteopathic sanitariums especially desirable, and they are becoming more and more popular.


As shown in Chapter VI, a scientific principle soon finds its way into the hearts of the people. As a knowledge of the effects of Osteopathy became more widespread, the demand for it at points remote from its birthplace in the geographical center of the United States soon led to its introduction into almost every state in the union. More distant countries also called for Doctors of Osteopathy.

Through the solicitation of Mrs. J. B. Atherton, of Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, Dr, Geo. Tull made an engagement with her to go to the islands for six months as osteopathic physician to the Atherton family. He sailed from San Francisco on December 1, 1897, and arrived at Honolulu on the 7th, where he began work, his practice being confined to the Atherton family for the first month. Through their kind influence, many were prevailed upon to try the new method of healing. Their standing and the kindly influence and interest of Dr. Gee. P. Andrews quelled a hostile opposition, and made it possible to introduce Osteopathy for the first time beyond the boundaries of the United States. Having fulfilled his contract, Dr. Tull left Honolulu on May 26, 1898, for San Francisco, where he arrived seven days later.

Dr. Carrie A. Gillmn has been engaged in the practice in Honolulu since 1900.

Osteopathy was introduced into Canada at St. Johns, New Brunswick, in 1898, by Dr. H. L. Spangler. Since then it has steadily grown in favor till there are now (1905) about twenty five practicing in the most important centers of population in the dominion.

Dr. Emily Bronson Conger was the first person to practice Osteopathy in the Philippines. She gives a most interesting account of her experience there, in her book entitled "An Ohio Woman in the Philippines."

Mexico, Ireland, England, China, and the West Indies have recently been invaded by osteopaths, who have found fruitful fields for the reception of the new art of healing.

Thus by the natural processes of evolution, Osteopathy became a science and an art to Dr. Still. By the same process his sons and a few intimate friends became osteopaths. By a like process schools were evolved which are now instructing others in the same work. And by the same inevitable laws of growth it has become so intermingled with the thoughts of the people that it has been introduced into every state in the union, into the isles of the sea, and into the regions beyond.