From Broadcasting to Podcasting — Chiropractic Delivers its Message

[originally published in KCN, January 2010]

On January 1st, 2010, the “podcast” debuts with yours truly on the Internet “air” talking about the very topics I write about.  And while the idea of a chiropractic podcast is relatively new, a chiropractic broadcast is not.

Ever since D.D. Palmer delivered the first adjustment in 1895, chiropractors have been passionate educators.  But probably none as passionate as the founder’s son himself— B.J. Palmer.   Known as the “Developer of Chiropractic,” B.J. Palmer is often credited for chiropractic’s presence today.

As a wise businessman, lover of gadgetry, and excellent communicator, Palmer saw something in the early days of radio that others did not — simply its ability to communicate messages — chiropractic or otherwise — to a great number of people in the “unseen audience” at once.  In fact, he is known for borrowing an agricultural word to describe this newest of technologies:  “broadcasting.”  Palmer saw in radio a potential to “broadcast,” or spread, “message seeds” from a central location in a way that no other medium could match.

He purchased his first radio station, the WOC, in 1922.  And though the call letters were arbitrarily assigned, he was quick to let everyone know that it stood for the “Wonders Of Chiropractic.”  Operating atop the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, the “Wonders of Chiropractic” drew an estimated one million listeners and was credited as our nation’s first commercial radio station west of the Mississippi.

View of the BJ Palmer Mansion, sharing the same block as the Palmer School of Chiropractic with the WOC radio towers on top. circa 1922

The WOC was very popular and had a wide array of regular programs such as sports, news, weather, farm and stock information, live music, church service, and, of course, chiropractic educational programing.  Palmer was known for taking to the airwaves each evening to espouse the benefits of chiropractic care — and would log thousands of hours over  his broadcasting “career.”

Interestingly, while his station only operated on a modest 100 watts, its ability to transmit the chiropractic message long distances was quite astonishing.  Given his station’s central location in the country, and the fact that there were very few airwaves to compete with, the signal could often reach incredible distances beyond its wide United States and Canadian coverage — such as the Samoan and Philippine Islands, Chile, Stockholm, Paris, Rome, Alaska, and even the North Pole!  The exceptional range was unexplainable, but many postulated that it was due to “peculiar atmospheric pressures” in the Davenport area along with good ground water saturation beneath the chiropractic school itself.  Regardless, the WOC soon became the “western leg”of the National Broadcasting Company.

Inside the 1920’s WOC studio located atop the Palmer School of Chiropractic.

While it might seem a bit unusual for someone such as Palmer to have purchased and operated an actual radio station to get his message out, it soon became wildly popular among businesses back then.  Banks, newspapers, department stores, as well as public utilities, hospitals, pharmacies, and creameries all joined the “broadcasting boom” of the 1920’s — akin to businesses today acquiring websites (and even podcasts).  Palmer would later go on to purchase a “sister” radio station— the WHO (which he called “With Hands Only”) in Des Moines — and “synchronize” its broadcasts with those of the WOC.

A young Ronald “Dutch” Reagan mans the WOC microphone.

But, by far the most interesting tidbit attached to Palmer’s radio station revolves around a young, ambitious gentleman who was given a job as a sports announcer when no other station would.  That man, after making his mark in radio history, would go on to eventually become our 40th President of the United States —Ronald W. Reagan.

With Palmer blazing the “chiropractic radio trail,” chiropractors  in radio markets dotting our nation have continued to “broadcast” the “wonders of chiropractic” to the great “unseen audience.”  Now, some 88 years later, in the midst of what is an Internet “podcasting boom,” chiropractic has another opportunity to present its story in an exciting new medium.  And something tells me, if Palmer were alive today, he’d be podcasting right along with me.

Source used for this article:
Benedetti and MacPhail.  Spin doctors:  the chiropractic industry under examination. pp 51-52.  Dundurnpress. Toronto.  2002.
Greenawalt.  Broadcasting the wonders of chiropractic. Dynamic Chiropractic. 20 (4). 2002
Keating.  Shhh!!!…Radiophone station WOC is on the air:  chiropractic broadcasting, 1922-1935.  European Journal of Chiropractic.  43:21-27.  1995.
Keating, Cleveland, and Menke.  Chiropractic history:  a primer. Association for the History of Chiropractic. Sutherland Companies, Montezuma, Iowa. 2004.
Radio chiropractic.  Chiropractic Economics.
Reagan-Palmer connection. Today’s Chiropractic. July – August 2004.
Reagan. Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by WOC Radio and the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce in Davenport, Iowa. July 14, 1988. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Reagan. Ronald Reagan: radio years. Courtesy of Simon and Shulster. 12/08/09.
Rudel.  Hello, everybody!:  the dawn of American radio. pp 64-65. 2008.
Street. BJ Palmer of Davenport. as read on Advancing Chiropractic’s website 12/08/09.
White.  Broadcasting becomes widespread (1922-1923):  broadcasting boom of 1922. United States early radio history.
WOC.  All Experts: Encyclopedia (beta). 12/08/09.

Addendum Notes:

1) While it is generally agreed upon that BJ touted the arbitrarily assigned call letters of his radio stations, WOC and WHO, as standing  for the Wonders Of Chiropractic and With Hands Only…. I did find some references that referred to them as the World Of Chiropractic and We Help Others.

2) 02/05/10: If you liked this article, then you’ll enjoy listening to our podcast (which includes additional information not found in the article) on the fascinating history of Radio and Chiropractic’s involvement with it.  (“From Broadcasting to Podcasting: Chiropractic is On the Air!“)

3) 07/16/10: Listen to our podcast featuring rare broadcast recordings of Dr. B.J. Palmer teaching his listeners about Chiropractic, plus even more information on this interesting piece of Chiropractic and Radio History.   (“Shhhh!  Dr. B.J. Palmer is On the Air!“)

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3 Comments on “From Broadcasting to Podcasting — Chiropractic Delivers its Message”

  1. In my dealings with the Chiropractic treatment method, I think this natural treatment method can solve all problems with the nervous system. In my experience I have found it to be successful in almost every case.

  2. drlamar Says:

    While your comment that chiropractic “solves all problems with the nervous system” might be a bit of a stretch, chiropractic certainly is extremely effective in allowing the body to express its true health potential…. and I’d say that is why we are still here to this day. Chiropractic works… and our patients know it. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  3. drlamar Says:

    Reblogged this on SpinalColumnRadio and commented:

    We’re “ReBlogging” select articles from — the platform that gave inspiration for what you now know as Spinal Column Radio. This article was originally published in our community newspaper in January 2010 (3 years ago) and talks of the debut of our podcast radio and chiropractic’s fascinating history with the beginnings of broadcast radio.

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