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Dr. Bliss: 1920

Dr. Bliss: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Dr. Bliss, interior, 13th and G streets." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Electro therapy apparatus

I believe the cabinet on the picture is a
"Thompson Plaster Model E Floor Model High Frequency Physician's Cabinet
I'd like to buy or trade one sometime.
from The Liebel-Flarsheim Co., Cincinnati, Ohio
I like the plate that says "Atomic force for physicians use"

The family business

My grandfather was an osteopath in Chicago in the 'teens (supposedly, Gloria Swanson was one of his patients), but later got into some shady business in the '20s (my uncle told me he was friends with Hymie Weiss) before moving to Montreal after his friends started getting bumped off. I wonder how much his office looked like this?

The Double Life of Dr. Bliss

Washington Post, November 2, 1921.


Lewis Bliss, Former Chiropractor Here,
Tries to Die in Cell at Rochester, N.Y.


Taken to Hospital, Where Doctors Doubt His Recovery -- Had Closed His Washington Office.

Special to the Washington Post.

        Rochester, N.Y., Nov. 1 -- An hour after being locked up at police headquarters today Lewis Bliss, 25, a former Washington chiropractor, dissolved eight bichloride of mercury tablets in a glass of water, obtained from a turnkey, and swallowed the poison. Later, his groans called attention to his condition and he was sent to St. Mary's hospital, where his recovery is in doubt.

        Bliss was arrested last night after Esther Bliss, of New York, came to Rochester, claimed he was her husband and had deserted her in New York. He was found at 2 Gibbs street, where he has been acting as a chiropractor for three months. With him was a young woman, whose maiden name was Dworkin, who also said she was his wife. They were married in Stamford, Conn., three months ago, she said.

Tells of Washington Office

        The other woman said her husband's right name was Max Appel, and they were married by a rabbi in Newark, N.J., seven years ago. She brought her son with her. She said bliss had an office at 1750 M street northwest, in Washington.

        She said he told her he had discontinued his office in Washington and took her and her child to her sister's home in New York, where he left her. She recently learned that he was here.

Accuses the Other Woman

        When the women confronted each other at headquarters, Mrs. Bliss accused the other of luring her husband away from her. The district attorney will investigate and ascertain if Bliss has committed bigamy.

Calling Doctor Quack!

All of the equipment in the office appears to be of the "Violet Ray" and "Electro Stimulator" type - early 20th century quack medicine!

Makes my neck hurt to look at it!

Lying face down on that couch would be very uncomfortable! Does anyone know what the machine was for? Perhaps some kind of electro-stimulation for the muscles? They did lots of interesting pain treatments around this time.

Diathermy Unit

Who can ID the model?

Electrical Stimulation

That device on the left looks to be some sort of electrical treatment apparatus. There appears to be a power cord running up to the ceiling from it. The set of metal disks in a circle is a rheostat for adjusting voltage. What it was supposed to treat and how I have no idea though.

It was horrible Doc!

It was 4 in the morning, as I tried to sneak into the house through the back window, she caught me with the frying pan.

Roll them bones!

Here we see either Dr. Bliis (a chiropractor) or Dr. Willard (an osteopath) doing an adjustment. This photo is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it's never been usual for the two professions to even share space, let alone run a practice together. Also, given the guide lines on the door, I'm guessing that Dr. Willard is the newcomer. Also, since chiropractic is a profession limited to manipulative treatments (no prescribing, no surgery or obstetrics, etc) while osteopathic medicine is unlimited--DO practitioners even in 1920 did all of the same things that MD practitioners did--surgery, delivered babies, and did manipulative treatments too.

The various instruments in the cabinet seem to speak of a wide variety of procedures, so I'm guessing that this is Dr. Willard.

Fascinating piece of medical history. Thanks, Dave!


This is a wonderful photo: A office space shared by a Chiropractor and an Osteopath.

The osteopathic profession has changed a lot over the century. For starters, it doesn't exist anymore in the United States. We are "osteopathic physicians," which is now just a type of medical school, and we have full license to practice as medical doctors who go into all specialties from family practice to cardiology to anesthesiology, etc. Each one of us still had to learn the manual medicine, though, even if we'll never use it.

Not so in 1920, which was only three years after the passing of our founder, Andrew Taylor Still. At this point in history, we were only equivalent to MD's in California. How far we've come!

In the UK or elsewhere, osteopaths are still very much like Chiropractors.


I'd be a bit wary of a guy who has to hang the directions on the wall.

Dr. Bliss and Dr. Feelgood

Having a name like Bliss really enhances his advertising campaign because of peoples' word association. I'm not one to be a doubting Thomas, but just for the record every single chiropractic patient I have known has been told that they have one leg shorter than the other, even though many of them swear they are miraculously healed by them. There is tremendous power in psychosomatic emotions, hence the placebo successes. My son spent thousands of dollars (uninsured) and long hours with spinal manipulations for years for his back, neck and shoulder pain before he gave up on chiropractors and now, twenty years later he still has the severe chronic pain. On the other hand, I had a hunch-backed boss in my first job in high school who swore that only chiropractors were able to relieve his constant pain. So there are two sides to every coin. Still, I'm trying to see if this patient in the picture has one leg shorter than the other. Please don't sue me or you will be hearing from my lawyers (as soon as they get a telephone) from the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe. Sorry for the groaners, I couldn't resist. Carry on.

Dr. Bliss

Washington, D.C., DC ?


I think that pinkie ring is throwing off his posture.

George Costanza

"I think it moved!"

The Machine

I don't know what it does and I wouldn't want to find out the hard way.

If it walks like a duck

Fine collection of quack machines and gizmos. They all fit into the category of "cash extractors."

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