Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Osteopathy Collection

Collection ID:
Still, George A., Dr.
Bean, Arthur Sanders
Physical Description:
2.3 Cubic feet
6 boxes

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Collection includes photographs, brief biographies and some correspondence of 105 prominent osteopaths, all submitted in 1918 apparently as the result of a circular written request by Dr. George A. Still, a trustee of the American School of Osteopathy, Kirksville, Missouri, and a great-nephew of the founder of that institution, Dr. A.T. Still.
Other material (dating from 1887 to 1941) includes journals, college announcements and catalogs published by schools of osteopathy and other publishers. These contain professional articles and list college curriculums in osteopathy. Textbooks on osteopathy, miscellaneous photographs and newspaper clippings are also included.

The collection is arranged into four series.

Osteopathy is an independent school of medicine based on the theory that there is unity between body structure and function. Osteopaths (numbering about 12,000) are licensed to practice in all states and D.C., generally on the same basis as medical doctors. They are represented in the U.S. Public Health Service and other government medical services.
Osteopathic colleges (5 in number) require a 4 year course totaling 5,000 course hours of study with two years of basic science and two years of clinical training and advanced science. At least 3 years of college level pre-professional studies are required and a year long internship at one of 85 osteopathic hospitals follows formal studies. Osteopathic specialists are certified in 12 fields after further study.
Osteopathy emphasizes manipulation of the body in order to maintain the proper adjustment of the musculoskeletal system. However, osteopaths also employ drug therapy, surgery and radiation therapy.
Osteopathy originated as a medical reform movement initiated by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in the Missouri Kansas frontier region in the late 1900s. Most osteopaths now are practicing in the U.S. and Canada. They are represented by state and provincial societies which combine to form the American Osteopathic Association.

The "founder of osteopathy," Andrew Taylor Still, was born in Virginia in 1828, the son of Abraham Still, a Methodist minister who was also a doctor of medicine and whose four brothers were doctors. The family moved successively to Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas with the elder Still serving as a missionary and medical practitioner to Indian tribes. Andrew assisted his father in this work, gradually becoming dissatisfied with orthodox methods of medical practice of that time. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Against strong opposition of the medical profession and others he evolved the principles of osteopathy in 1892 founding together with a Scottish physician, Dr. William Smith, the American School of Osteopathy, the first such institution in the U.S., located in Kirksville, Missouri.
Dr. Still based his system of therapy on two premises: first, that the human body was self healing (i.e., it contains within itself all the medicinal chemicals necessary to the cure of disease); and, second, lesions of the spinal column are the principal causes of disease. Dr. Still continued his work until his death in Kirksville in 1917.

Don Darroch and Robert S. Harding
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Immediate source of acquisition unknown.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Don Dorrach and Robert Harding, 1985
Custodial History
This collection was formed when Dr. George A. Still, trustee and second president (1918-1922) of the American School of Osteopathy, and great-nephew of its founder, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, circulated a request for historical material on osteopathy in 1918. The collection was transferred from Division of Medical Sciences to Archives Center, April 29, 1983.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Osteopathy Collection, 1887-1941, Archives Center, National Museumof American History
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

More Information
Other Finding Aids
Other Finding Aids
Inventory available; contact the Archives Center for more information.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Clippings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Medical education Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Books Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Osteopathic medicine Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Medicine Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Osteopathic physicians Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence -- 1930-1950 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Still, Andrew Taylor, Dr., 1828-1917 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012