The Enduring Dream... An American Original There’s never been anyone like Forrest C. Shaklee, Sr. He lived through most of the twentieth century, always curious, always eager to learn, always ahead of his time.
By the time he reached his sixties, he had accomplished more than most people could fit into several lifetimes. At the time he reached the age when many people retire, he came up with an idea for a business that seemed at once radical and naive.
Dr. Shaklee’s goal was to change the world, person by person. He would do this with products that improved people’s health and their harmony with nature. His entrepreneurial business plan was based on a conviction that helping others is the best way to help oneself.
In time, his ideas gained international recognition and praise. His followers scattered the seeds of his success so that today millions reap the benefits of his ideas.
Whenever Dr. Shaklee was asked when his interest in health began, he would answer that it began with his birth. He was born in a coal mining section of Iowa on a gloomy November day in 1894. The midwife told his parents that their fragile baby had tuberculosis and was not likely to survive. Doctors agreed. But his parents weren’t ones to accept hard news without putting it to a test.
Whenever Dr. Shaklee was asked when his interest in health began, he would answer that it began with his birth.
“My parents were determined to put an end to the negative head shaking,” Dr. Shaklee once wrote. “Their deep, abiding faith in things natural led them to move to a farm in the north of the state, where the fertile soil produced the quality of nutritional substances my body needed. Here I could enjoy the sunshine and breathe pure air.” The senior Shaklees put aside medications that seemed to do little for the child. All of the family’s food came from the farm garden. As soon as the boy could stand, his father began exercising with him to strengthen the small arms and legs. Forrest grew, alternating long afternoons of bed rest with games of catch, walks in the woods and even fencing lessons. And gradually, the boy’s health improved.
By the time he was a teenager; Forrest was reading Bernard McFadden’s Physical Culture and working out with weights. When he reached college, he was an athlete who played baseball, ran track, wrestled, boxed and lifted weights.
“It was not a miraculous cure, as some people said. It was slow, but it was sure,” Dr. Shaklee said. At the earliest possible age, he was made to understand that wellness has everything to do with good nutrition, a healthy environment and exercise.
A Chiropractor and More
Given his childhood experiences, it’s not surprising that the subject of health and wellness always fascinated Forrest. When it was time to pick a career, he decided to study chiropractic medicine.
He was sometimes asked why he didn’t become a medical doctor. “I never belittle the medical profession", he once said, “but we are in two separate fields of endeavor. They are trained to treat disease. I am interested in building health.” He graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, in 1915. Though he had enjoyed the school, he was convinced that the theory was too narrow. He disagreed with his instructors who said that chiropractic was the only useful health treatment. “Too many of the people who came in for treatment appeared to me to be overfed and undernourished, “ he said.
When Dr. Shaklee established his first practice in Rockwell City, Iowa, he spoke with his patients about their diets. Although this was unusual for the time, he devised detailed nutrition diaries to monitor patients’ progress. What he saw clearly was that those who regularly ate fresh fruits and vegetables were most likely to recover quickly from their complaints. When he wasn’t seeing patients, he was experimenting in his laboratories, focusing on how certain foods related to overall health.
“I’m interested in building health”
At night he read scientific journals and was particularly interested in the work of a young Polish biochemist, Casimir Funk, who was working to isolate natural compounds that he called “vitamins.”
Forrest himself had been experimenting with concentrating and compounding vegetables for their mineral values to make a supplement for his patients. He called it Vitalized Minerals.
While he was studying at Palmer, he fell in love with Ruth Chapin. They were married in December, 1915. As they returned from their honeymoon, Ruth got a good glimpse of what married life would be like. They were met at the train station by a man whose wife needed immediate attention. Instead of heading off to their new home together, they raced by horse and buggy to see the patient.
As the practice grew, the Shaklee’s began a family. Their first son, Forrest, Jr., was born in 1917. His younger brother, Raleigh, known as Lee, was born four years later.
Dr. Shaklee’s interest in nutritional supplements became more and more serious as he saw positive results with his patients. In 1924, Dr. Shaklee had become successful enough to act on his dream to build a complete health care center.
The family moved to a larger community, Mason City, and he opened the Shaklee Clinic. This was a large, fifteen-bed facility with thirty-two treatment rooms and an X-ray laboratory. He served as the administrator for a staff of chiropractors, osteopaths, internists, general practitioners and surgeons.
In the Shaklee Clinic, for the first time, Dr. Shaklee’s formulations for food supplements were packaged and dispensed.
In 1928, he developed a sensible diet regimen, which he recommended to all his patients. This diet was similar to the Food Guide Pyramid currently recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture, wit an emphasis on grains, fruits, and vegetables and a minimum of fats and sugar.
His deep concern for the spiritual part of life eventually took shape as the Shaklee Philosophy
During this time, Dr. Shaklee was developing another interest. He frequently delivered sermons at the Christian Church. His deep, resonating voice and considerable skills as a speaker began to draw crowds to the church.
In January, 1929, he was ordained a minister and in 1933, he officially received his doctor of divinity degree. His ability to inspire was a great asset years later when he began to offer the Shaklee business opportunity. And his deep concern for the spiritual part of life eventually took shape as the Shaklee philosophy.
When one door closes, another opens to a New Adventure One wintry night in early 1929, a fire destroyed Dr. Shaklee’s offices. Among the losses were all the records of his nutrition experiments. Though he was insured, he decided to pause before rebuilding. It had been fourteen long years since he began his practice. It seemed a good time to take a break.
He took one of the clinic vans and outfitted it with bunks, an icebox, running water from a storage tank, and a closet for fishing gear. This comfortable home on the road was the ancestor of recreational vehicles. And the Shaklee’s took off to see the country.
As they reached the West coast, Dr. Shaklee was impressed by the year-round growing season and rich soils. He was interested in growing high quality herbs and vegetables for nutritional supplements. At first, the family settled in Eugene, Oregon, enchanted by the lush, rich greenery. But after a year of the rain, they headed south into the sunshine.
Dr. Shaklee opened a new clinic in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco. It quickly became another successful, lucrative practice. And, once again, nutrition was at its core.
For ten years, the Shaklee’s lived well. As Dr. Shaklee’s reputation grew, he was frequently asked to lecture on the importance of nutrition. He was a natural public speaker. Both sons went off to the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Shaklee began to explore another aspect of health ~ the power of the mind. His experience had shown him that a positive mental attitude was a powerful tool in health. He began to formulate the essential concepts of the personal philosophy that eventually became known as “Thoughtsmanship.”
Then, during the summer of 1941, Ruth was struck by a car as she crossed a street in downtown Oakland. She was hospitalized for months and died in December. With the country at war, Forrest, Jr. enlisted in the army and Lee joined the navy. Dr. Shaklee, though proud of his sons, was alone and uncharacteristically unsure of what he wanted to do.
Thinking a change would help him adjust to his life without Ruth, he decided to retire.
His childhood had taught him the healing powers of nature, so he bought an isolated, 420-acre ranch near Willows, about 150 miles north of San Francisco.
It was a beautiful place with redwoods, oaks, and madrone tress covering steep hillsides. Every spring, the high meadows filled with lupine and poppies and steelhead salmon swam in the streams. He added ponds to attract wild ducks, and built a rustic lodge and two guest cabins.
Gradually, the pain of loss subsided. He began to explore his philosophical thoughts, sketching out ideas for articles. Patients contacted him, looking for advice, and, more often than not, hoping to get more of their Vitalized Minerals. Dr. Shaklee realized that nature had done its work for him. It was time to be with people again. In 1945, he sold the ranch and returned to Oakland.
His Childhood had taught him the healing powers of nature
“What You Think, You Are”
This time he didn’t reopen his practice. The reflective time he’d spent surrounded by the natural beauty he loved sent him in a new direction. Though he continued to work as a chiropractor and nutritionist, it was the philosophy that he called “Thoughtsmanship” that held his interest. His philosophy was based on the responsibility of the individual to make life as rich and rewarding as it could be by living in harmony with nature.
Dr. Shaklee’s sons, Lee and Forrest, Jr., commented that they’d been exposed to Thoughtsmanship all their lives without realizing it. It combined the Golden Rule ~ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” ~ with an insistence that thought could improve man’s relationship wit nature. And the wonder of it, they realized as adults, was that it encouraged them to develop to full stature, but in their own individual ways. The purpose of his philosophy was to help others become more positive, and therefore to accomplish more. “I can only attempt to arouse a consciousness in you that will permit you a better understanding of your own ability to solve your problems. Your future life will be exactly what you decide to make. What you think, you look. What you think, you do. What you think, you are.”
The purpose of his philosophy was to help others become more positive.
Dr. Shaklee’s ideas gained wide popularity. He spoke frequently on his views and in 1951 published four books: Thoughtsmanship for Well Being, Thoughtsmanship in Love and Marriage, Thoughtsmanship for the Bride, and Thoughtsmanship for the Salesman. His lectures were broadcast on Oakland and San Francisco radio stations. As he frequently mentioned nutrition as one of the ways to be in harmony with nature, interest in his food supplements grew, too.
In 1955, a big idea began to form. Now officially at the age of retirement, he thought, “What about putting it all together in one grand adventure?” He called his sons together for what they sensed was something serious. Their adult lives had begun by then. Each was married, with a family.
They became the first family whose lives changed dramatically with a Shaklee business.
Their careers were launched and promising ~ Forrest, Jr. had his own accounting firm and Lee was moving up in an insurance company. But when their dad outlined his proposal and then asked, "Are you guys interested in starting a business with me?“ they considered it seriously.
They became the first family whose lives changed dramatically with a Shaklee business. The work of structuring the business took six months. Every aspect of the business would be grounded in the philosophy. A person-to-person selling system made sense to them for a number of reasons. It seemed the best way of providing information and personal service to each customer. And it also meant that, if the business became successful, others could prosper from it with little financial investment. The Shaklee Products Company gave Dr. Shaklee the opportunity to use everything he had learned over his lifetime. But what those three men accomplished is astonishing. They began with few assets except their belief in each other and their ability to influence others.
They started a nutritional products company with a single product right at the peak moment of America’s enchantment with Betty Crocker, Wonder bread and other “miracles” of the postwar world of food science. Nearly every prospect had to be educated before becoming a customer, let alone a distributor. The odds didn’t look great, unless you banked on that unusual man at the helm.
Life Changing Milestone for Dr. Forrest Shaklee - Tuberculosis Forrest Shaklee was born in November 1894 in Carlisle, Iowa, the second son of indigent farmers. The midwife attending the birth immediately diagnosed consumption (tuberculosis) and the doctors, called in later, concurred. The baby could not be expected to live long. Observing the child’s labored breathing, one doctor said that his short life would be a “living death.”
The only treatment at the time for tuberculosis was good food, fresh air, and lots of rest. The family moved from the soot and smoke of the Carlisle coal mines to a farm near Moorland in northern Iowa. Progress was slow, however, and all of Forrest’s childhood was that of a convalescent, with long afternoons of solitary bed rest.
On sunny days, the boy spent much of his time out of doors wandering around the fields. He spent long hours alone, observing nature and thinking. Lying quietly on an old haystack, he watched animals in their natural environment and he speculated about the unseen force that guided migrating birds, and about the instincts that led a sentinel crow to warn the wild ducks when a hunter approached. Most of all, he was fascinated by the acute senses and instincts of farm animals. Long before he could detect an impending storm, the sows in the barnyard would gather husks and straw to make warm beds in their pens. “Animals listen to the voice of Nature,” he realized, “while men have forgotten how.”
As Forrest spent so much time out of doors, he was frequently asked to gather plants and herbs that his mother and her friends used in preparing folk remedies. He gathered ground ivy, catnip, dandelion, chicory, curled dock, bergamot, joy-pye weed, wild cherry, goldenrod, and wild ginger. These he helped brew into teas, mix in salads, or use in the creation of liniment or tonic.
The boy learned what the man would need to know: how to turn a setback into an advantage. Forrest did not allow his illness to ruin his life. The time he spent alone he used ~ developing disciplinary muscles, sharpening his sense of observation, and learning to think rationally and usefully.
Nature, he observed most, and he came to respect it greatly. Not surprisingly, he was most fascinated with the healing powers of nature. Nature has the ability to kill and to heal, he realized, but nature’s ways of death were far more understandable than its power to heal. How did nature heal? Was living in harmony with nature the key? Is it possible to live in harmony with nature in the twentieth century?
By the time he was a teenager, Forrest was “attuned to the signs of Nature’s revelations.” The solitary summers out-of-doors had laid the foundation for the philosophy he would develop as a mature man. By this time, also, his health had improved remarkably. He was able to ride his bicycle everywhere, to run with his dog, and to spend more time each day active and less time lying in the sun. Finally the doctors were satisfied that his tuberculosis had been arrested.
Life-changing Milestone for Dr. Forrest Shaklee - Cancer
In November 1917 Ruth gave birth to their first son, Forrest Clell Shaklee, Jr. A few months later, the young family moved to Fort Dodge, thirty miles from Rockwell City. Here Forrest ambitiously opened a facility that incorporated various specialties of medicine. In addition to a fifteen-bed sanatorium, the offices contained thirty-two treatment rooms. He hired a staff that included not only chiropractors but osteopaths, internists, general practitioners, and surgeons. In the sanatorium, Forrest kept patients on vitamin-rich diets while he assessed individual needs for dietary supplements. The clinic soon became busy and prosperous.
Although the clinic was thriving, many of Forrest’s patients were unable to travel from the country to Fort Dodge, so he continued making house calls. This was a difficult and time-consuming part of his practice. In 1918, when the major ode of transportation was still the horse and buggy, the young doctor purchased and flew a two-passenger Curtis airplane, one that could land in a patient’s field. While Forrest may not have been the first flying doctor in the United States, he was certainly the first in Iowa, and soon his landings were cheered by excited crowds.
In addition to serving as administrator of his clinic, Forrest spent a great deal of time in X-ray diagnosis. At the time, the hazards of excessive exposure to X-rays were not fully known, and the precautionary measures were not as effective as those taken today. In 1921, concerned about severe ulcerating burns on his left shoulder and left hip, Forrest consulted a cancer specialist in Chicago.
As he feared, the diagnosis was cancer. The doctor said the arm would have to be amputated to the shoulder.
“What about my hip?" Forrest asked.
“Your leg will also have to be amputated up to the hip.”
The specialist went on to say that even with amputation, the carcinoma might be halted for only a few months.
At the specialist’s urging, Forrest agreed to visit the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The diagnosis was the same: only amputation could arrest the spread of the cancer.
In the train on the way home, Forrest considered the future that had been painted for him. His thoughts turned again and again to his son and young wife, who was expecting another child. By the time he reached home, he had made a decision. The cancer would not cut his life short, and he would not become a helpless amputee.
“I will live,” he told Ruth. “I will heal. ,I know I can do it.” With these strong words, Forrest made a deep commitment to act on his belief in the healing power of Nature. He’d bet his life on it.
Within a few weeks, he sold the clinic and moved the family back to Davenport, Iowa. There he began an intensive program of nutrition, continual blood analysis, and occasional fasting. In order to have the freshest, most nourishing diet, he regularly drove to the countryside, where he purchased fruits and vegetables from farmers the same day they were picked. This diet, he supplemented with large quantities of vitamins and minerals.
For several months, the ulcerated sores on his shoulder and hip showed no improvement; Forrest suffered enormous pain. Yet he was certain that his healing depended on his positive conviction that he would heal; he never let that conviction waver. On December 2, 1921, he had still another incentive to live. His second son, Raleigh (nicknamed Lee), was born.
As the months passed, Forrest and Ruth detected a slow but steady improvement; the ulcerated sores began to heal. By the end of 1922, they had been replaced by healthy tissue, and Forrest had regained the strength and energy of full health. Not only was he alive and well again, but the defeat of the illness convinced him that his ideas on nutrition were absolutely sound. He was more certain than ever that good nutrition could help other people too.
In spite of Forrest’s dramatic cure, medical specialists remained skeptical. When Forrest visited the Chicago clinic, he was told the cancer was only in remission. Similarly, the Mayo Clinic, while impressed by the "remission", had no intention of pursuing Forrest’s theories about why healthy cells had been able to defeat carcinogenic cells.
The nutritional cure was not a simple one, Forrest agreed. First, when he contracted the illness, he had been a basically healthy person; that was a highly significant factor. Second, he had followed a diet he thought would best fit his needs.
Because individuals are unique, “we must approach ourselves and our needs accordingly.” Certainly, there was no one standard dietary program which could be applied uniformly to treat disease. The dramatic cure fueled his fervor to learn more and more about the natural way to health
As the author of this blog, I have based my writings upon my own experiences, beliefs and extensive research regarding the topics covered in my blog. However, I am not a medical doctor, nurse or professional nutritionist or otherwise formally qualified in this subject matter. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be construed in any manner as medical advice. Quotes are based upon the opinions of this author and others who contributed to this blog. All diet decisions should be made with approval of your health care provider. This blog is intended to motivate and encourage readers to make healthy decisions after consulting with a qualified health care professional. Therefore, please read my blog and use the information that you derive from it appropriately and at your own risk.