The Palmer Family Heritage/History of Palmer College of Chiropractic

The science, art and philosophy of chiropractic evolved from Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer’s years of independent research and study of human health and disease. Following the successful application of his knowledge to initial patients in 1895, he began teaching others in Davenport, Iowa. The first classes of the Palmer School and Cure were held in 1897. Palmer is chiropractic’s founding college. D.D. Palmer is known as The Discoverer of chiropractic and The Founder of the chiropractic profession.

One of D.D. Palmer’s early students was his son, Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer, D.C. Known as The Developer of chiropractic, one of B.J.’s first acts was to incorporate the school and change the name to Palmer School of Chiropractic, which was chartered in 1907. B.J. headed the school from 1906 until his death in 1961. Mabel Heath Palmer, D.C., B.J.’s wife and a Palmer graduate, was the school’s treasurer and a faculty member. Mabel is known as The First Lady of Chiropractic.

After B.J. Palmer’s death in 1961, the Palmer presidency passed to his son, David Daniel Palmer, D.C., who also was a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance & Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. As did his father and grandfather before him, Dr. Dave, as he was known, brought his own brand of leadership to Palmer. Just as they were known as The Developer and The Founder of chiropractic, respectively, Dr. Dave became known as “The Educator.”

In 1964, under Dr. Dave’s leadership, the Palmer School of Chiropractic was renamed Palmer College of Chiropractic and was designated a non-profit institution. The ultimate result was an upgraded campus and an increase in students and faculty. The College was accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education in 1979 and by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1984.

Dr. Dave and his wife, Agnes Mae High Palmer, D.C., had three daughters, Bonnie Palmer McCloskey, Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton, H.C.D. (Hon.), and Vickie Anne Palmer, H.C.D. (Hon.). Each of the Palmer daughters has served the College and Board of Trustees in various roles. 

Vickie Anne Palmer, known as The Refiner of chiropractic, joined the Palmer College Board of Trustees in 1978 and was elected chairman in 1987. Under her leadership as Board chairman, on Oct. 17, 1980, Palmer College acquired Northern California College of Chiropractic, which became today’s Palmer West campus in San Jose, Calif. Twenty-two years later, on Oct. 4, 2002, the College made it possible for even more students to learn the art, science and philosophy of chiropractic by opening the Palmer Florida campus in Port Orange, Fla. Ms. Palmer served 21 years as chairman of the Palmer College Board of Trustees and continues to serve the Board as secretary general and as a member of the Executive Committee.

You can see official biographies and photos in the media news room.

For information about a career in chiropractic, check out our Admissions webpages.