The National School of Osteopathy and Infirmary Association (NSO)

The NSO was the second school of osteopathy, established in 1895 the Barbers, Elmer and Helen, both graduated during the second course of osteopathy held at the American School of Osteopathy, ASO, of Kirksville. This institution had a short and controversial history.

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History

The National School of Osteopathy and Infirmary Association (NSO) was authorised by the Secretariat of the State of Kansas on June 27, 1895. E.D. Barber and his wife Helen M. Hutton Barber – who had just graduated from the second course of the ASO – were amongst its founders.

The school was originally based in Baxter Springs, Cherokee County, Kansas (USA). However, in 1897 the State of Kansas enacted a law requiring all medical schools operating on its territory to offer a program with a duration of at least 20 months (10 months per year for two years). Because the NSO would offer a shorter course, the institute was moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where it obtained a new license to operate. Nevertheless, the NSO was often at the center of controversy.

Dr A.T. Still reckoned that preparation of the Barbers was not sufficient to open a school and that they were doing osteopathy a disservice. Furthermore, Dr Barber had used his notes from the classes he had taken at the ASO in order to publish the first book ever written on osteopathy, entitled Osteopathy. The New Science of Healing. According to him, by simply reading his book, anybody could have learned how to practice the new science. He also stated that here he had corrected some aspects of osteopathy that A.T. Still had mistaken.1,2 

At page 173 of this volume  National School and Infirmary of Osteopathy is advertised. It is claimed that the school is authorized to operate in the State of Missouri as an educational institution for the teaching of osteopathy. It is also specified that the cost of the diploma is of dollars for the Specialization course reserved to physicians, or 300 dollars for the full course of study. To obtain the title an excellent preparation in osteopathy, anatomy, physiology, symptomatology, obstetrics, small surgeries, urine analysis and hygiene was required. The teaching body consists of three professors and a secretary: E.D. Barber, DO, lectured in osteopathy and obstetrics, Helen M. Barber, DO, in anatomy, physiology and gynecology, W.A. Cormack, MD, DO, in symptomatology, minor surgeries, urine analysis and diagnostics.

In 1898 the NSO attempted a reorganization, implementing a two-year course and expanding the faculty. However, in 1899 and in 1900, the school’s request to be admitted to the list of schools recognized by the Associated Colleges of Osteopathy (ACO) was rejected.

The school closed in 1900, presumably due to financial problems and to the refusal of recognition by the ACO.

It is likely that during its years of activity the school issued at least fifty diplomas. Students who had not completed their courses were welcomed to the S.S. Still College of Osteopathy, where they had to comply with the highest standards in order to earn their diploma.1

As it was rumored that the Barbers sometimes sold their diplomas to people who did not attend classes, Dr William Smith came to the NSO under a false name to investigate. Since Dr. Smith had abandoned Kirksville at the conclusion of the first course of the ASO, having held the position of first professor of anatomy, the Barbers did not know him. 

Smith managed to buy a diploma for the sum of 150 dollars, and immediately reported the incident to the authorities. The AAAO’s lawsuit for the revocation of the NSO’s licence resulted only in a sanction and a warning for the future, inviting those responsible to issue the diplomas to do so in accordance with the current law. In the grounds of the sentence, the judge took into account the fact that Dr Smith was already in possession of both the title of DO and MD.1-3

In 1899 a local newspaper, the Kansas City Times, published an account of this controversy. The article was seen by an Orthodox doctor, J.C. McLaughlin, who thought to inquire if he could buy a diploma without attending any courses. So he wrote a letter, attaching the clipping of the newspaper article and asking how much it would cost him the cheapest diploma and whether this qualification would then be recognized by the Health Council of the State of Missouri. At the time of sending the letter, however, he confused the NSO with the ASO and sent the request to the latter.1 

Dr  C.M.T. Hulett, then president of the ASO, commented on the episode in the Journal of Osteopathy,4 reproducing the letter received, the clipping of the newspaper and the response sent by the ASO. He expressed harsh criticism towards the NSO, arguing that it was a “Diploma mill” and pointing out that it discredited the entire professional category.

In April 1900, the NSO responded to the comment by suing the ASO for defamation and demanding a compensation of $100,000. The NSO claimed that the ASO itself also followed the practice of awarding diplomas to medical graduates after a shortened attendance, and also complained that at the ASO  the opportunity to denigrate the NSO would not be missed, as well as the distribution of the clipping of the Kansas City Times to all those who asked about osteopathy. To support his thesis, he also cited as witnesses the Littlejohn brothers, who had recently broken relations with the ASO.1 

For its part, the ASO declared that C.M.T. Hulett had not defamed the NSO, but had simply stated the real facts, as it could prove that the diploma had actually been sold on at least two occasions. 

The court rejected the claim of the NSO and the dispute was resolved in favor of the ASO.

Kansas City Osteopathic Magazine, monthly.

  1. Jordan L. “Battling a diploma mill: the early fight to preserve the osteopathic principles of A.T. Still”. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2014 Sep;114(9):722-6.
  2. Booth ER. History of Osteopathy and Twentieth-Century Medical Practice. Cincinnati, OH: Caxton Press; 1924
  3. Gevitz N. The DOs: Osteopathic Medicine in America. 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2004.
  4. Hulett, C.M.T. “By their fruits we shall know them”. Journal of Osteopathy, January 1899, vol.5, n.8:416-417 

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Historical Schools of Osteopathy

Introduction to the Historical Schools of Osteopathy

Already after a few years from the establishment of the American School of Osteopathy - the first school of osteopathy founded by Andrew Taylor Still -,there was a proliferation of osteopathic educational institutions across the country, Not all as seriour as each others. In this section you will find an account of many of these schools, to any of which we have dedicated an individual article while in this introduction we have you will find a guide to help you locate these institution in the bigger historical picture of the time.

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The Milwaukee College of Osteopathy

This school was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the American state where Charles Still, Andrew Taylor's son, had been practicing and spreading osteopathy for a few months.

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The Colorado College of Osteopathy (1897-1901)

This school was founded by Nettie Bolles, DO - the first woman graduate of the Kirksville school, where she had also taught anatomy - and later run together with her husband.

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