In my last blog I briefly mentioned the enormous popularity of Dr. Mahlon Locke, the famous foot doctor of Williamsburg, Ontario.
Dr Locke was born into a farming family on February 14th 1880.
The journey into medicine
It is not known why this farm boy decided to study medicine, although the fact that his stepfather was a doctor must have been an influence.
In 1901 he enrolled at Queens College of Medicine, graduating in 1905. In 1907 he decided to undertake postgraduate training in Scotland, spending time at both the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
It is not known what or who influenced him in becoming interested in manipulating feet. What is known is that, on his return to Williamsburg in 1910, he treated Mr Peter Beckstead, the village blacksmith who was crippled with arthritis and was almost unable to work. After many sessions of Dr Locke’s foot manipulations, he regained much of his mobility and was able to return to his work.
This seems to be the first recorded treatment and the one which would set the scene for Locke’s future reputation.
By 1932 Dr Locke was giving over 2000 treatments daily.
His popularity was enhanced by his treatment of Mr Frank Coughlin of New York who was so severely crippled with arthritis that he had already made arrangements for surgery. Mr Coughlin had been told of a priest whom Locke had treated for the same disease, with remarkable success, and decided to go to him for treatment. This resulted in a complete cure. Mr Coughlin wrote a newspaper article about his experience and the Williamsburg Stampede was begun.
The hands of Dr Locke
The films we have of him working show that the manipulative procedure was rapid, lasting between 5 -7 seconds. Sometimes he would also manipulate the hands. On and on he would go, round and round in his swivel chair from foot to foot and hand to hand, having a break every few hours for a rest (or drink).
The town and the roads became unable to cope with the amount of traffic and the numbers of people. The government actually constructed a road from the port to his practice to cope with the influx of visitors. The other consequence of this was the increased prosperity of the town. Hotels were built, restaurants opened, and people took in boarders for the duration of their treatment.
Dr Locke’s fee was one dollar which included two sessions daily; everybody paid the same, whether millionaire or pauper. Residents and people who were unable to pay were treated free.
At this time the effects of the 1929 Wall Street crash were at their peak. It may well be that it was this had something to do with the popularity of Dr Locke’s treatments. People felt a need to keep healthy while at the same time being part of and sharing the difficulties of that time with other people.
Dr Locke died February 6th 1942. His brother-in law J. Alex Mc Gruer a Chiropractor, carried on the practice, but it did not work out and it came to an end. The magic of Dr Locke was gone.
Tony Porter Reflexology
Tony is a London-based reflexologist and founder of Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART)