The Brownwood Public Library is now displaying artifacts collected from the life and works of chiropractic pioneer Dr. Oakley G. Smith, who spent the last years of his life in Brownwood.
Smith was part of a group of physicians that spearheaded chiropractic in the early 20th century. Smith’s grandson, Jeff, assembled the collection from his grandfather’s personal effects. It includes medical instruments, manuscripts, inventions and more.
The case also holds a copy of “The Chiropractor’s Protege,” a new book about Smith that chronicles his tutelage under D.D. Palmer and the earliest days of chiropractic. A copy of the book is available for checkout at the library.
Jeff Smith said his grandfather was also instrumental in the development of naprapathy, a discipline similar to chiropractic with a different emphasis. “He invented naprapathy in 1907,” Smith said. “It is a system of drugless healing that’s based on connective tissue — ligaments, tendons, soft tissue and some of the attachments from the muscles. That was his forte. He started as a chiropractor, which is basically ball-and-joints. His theory was that more of the problems were caused by the connective tissues and ligaments.”
In a 2009 contributed Bulletin article, Smith defined naprapathy as “a health profession characterized by viewing the musculoskeletal system as a whole, where shortened soft and connective tissues around the spine and other joints are believed to cause pain and disability.”
Smith and his family were honored in Sweden in 2007 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of naprapathy — the practice is much more widespread in Sweden and Europe in general.
Oakley Smith spent the majority of his career practicing in Chicago after starting in Iowa, with a stint in Santa Barbara, Calif., as well.
“He started naprapathy in Chicago, the Chicago School of Naprapathy,” Smith said. “This was all cutting edge, the very start of this kind of medicine.”
The library case contains copies of Smith’s autobiography, his major work “Modernized Chiropractic,” a business card and various advertisements, original photographs and instruments like Smith’s personal microscope.
Brownwood library director Becky Isbell said she enjoys the opportunity to showcase Brownwood history in library displays. “There’s so many interesting things that people have,” Isbell said. “It’s a great way to show off so many different aspects of our community.”
Smith said “The Chriopractor’s Protege,” written by chiropractor Timothy J. Faulkner, is a touching tribute to his grandfather that credits him with many previously unrecognized “firsts.”
The book’s introduction says that Oakley Smith was “the first to use the term Subluxation in the profession,” the first “to use the analogy of the brain and spinal cord as a tree to demonstrate the effects of subluxation,” and “the first to use the term ‘spinal window.’”
Subluxation is a slight misalignment of the vertebrae, which chiropractors believe to be the source of many physical problems.
The Oakley Smith display is visible at the Brownwood Library on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Isbell said the library is always looking for interesting and locally relevant collections and artifacts for display.
The library is located at 600 Carnegie St.