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A Bone-Setter Visits Chicago
In December 1897 British "bone-setter" John Atkinson visited Chicago and offered to render his opinion on the bone fragments being debated in the Luetgert trial. The newspaper articles about Atkinson make it clear that he was more of a healer than a scientific expert.
Chicago Daily News, December 1, 1897:
John Atkinson, the English "bone-setter," who is now in Chicago, was expected during the afternoon to examine the femur, sesamoids and a few other bones... and render an opinion as to whether or not they belong to a human skeleton, or, as Luetgert insists, to a hog or other animal.
Atkinson enters into the case at the insistence of the defense and not the state, as was reported.
"We will have nothing to do with Atkinson," [Assistant State's Attorney Willard] McEwen declared. "He may be an expert in the knowledge of bones, but we are not desirous of acting as an advertising agency for his benefit. He will not be permitted to see the exhibits until he thoroughly satisfies us that he has been authoritatively commissioned to connect himself with this case."
The Illinois Board of Health warned Atkinson not to practice his brand of healing, but he wasn't scared off. On December 2, 1897, the Chicago Journal reported:
The Englishman did a rushing business at the Palmer house, and has taken no steps to pass the board's examination...
Beginning at the early morning hours and continuing throughout the entire day the Palmer house corridors were crowded with the lame and halt. Women and little children composed a strong majority.
Manager Howe seriously considered calling in the police to handle the decrepit multitude, but "plain John Atkinson" plied his vocation as serenely as ever.
He engaged an extra parlor to accommodate the increased crowds, and then in twos admitted the patients to his chambers.
The Palmer house has perhaps never held such a crowd as gathered in the carpeted corridors about parlors X and Y.
There were little children there with poor, deformed feet and paralyzed limbs, athletes with strained tendons, rheumatic old men who had suffered "nigh onto 20 years," old women with shawls about their heads, the chronics with rough crutches and woebegone expressions...
The Englishmen is assured by Luther Laflin Mills that although not a registered physician, he has right on his side, for he uses neither knife nor drug...
Aged Henry Kiedeirieng of 1023 Thirty-first street was suffering from rheumatism, which had settled in his lower limbs.
The muscular Briton worked and jerked the rusty joints until the old man cried quits. He was enabled to walk much better than before, and promised to bring down "the ol' lady, whose hip is mighty badly broke."
Chicago Journal, December 6, 1897:
John Atkinson, bone-setter, is ill in bed, suffering from a severe cold, which has settled upon his lungs. It is feared that pneumonia will set in...
The nervous stain resulting from the hostile action of the state board made the bone-setter very susceptible to the violent change in the weather.
Last evening he set aside for social pleasure but felt so ill that he was obliged to seek his rooms in the Palmer house before the evening was half spent...
Not knowing the condition of the bone-setter, many cripples sought the Palmer house during the day. They were persistent in their appeals for an audience.