The Story of Dr. Mahlon Locke and his Arthritis Treatment

In James Macdonald’s biography of Dr. Mahlon W. Locke,  Dr. Locke: Healer of Men, Dr. Locke is described as a humble man– shy, courteous, generous, and devoted. However humble he may have been, Healer of Men would seem an appropriate title for a man before whom patients would line up in droves to be treated for arthritis and related diseases– patients who would walk away as though miraculously cured.

Macdonald assures readers that Dr. Locke was no miracle worker, but rather a competent physician who used his knowledge of anatomy to treat his patients.

Dr. Locke in his “circle” waiting area

A graduate of the Queen’s College of Medicine, Dr. Locke opened his practice in Williamsburg, Ontario in 1908. After successfully treating a blacksmith for severe arthritis, his reputation began to spread. By 1932, he was treating around 2000 patients every day!

His main course of treatment for arthritis was the manual manipulation of the feet or hands, which took about 5-7 seconds for each patient. Dr. Locke would sit on a swivel chair among the crowds, treating one patient after another and only resting every few hours. The cost to be treated was only one dollar, or free for those who could not afford it. This price included advice on exercise and footwear, as well as prescriptions for medication.

Dr. Locke, giving one of his stretches

Dr. Locke passed away from pneumonia in 1942, but a brand of Dr. Locke-approved orthopedic shoes called “Lockewedge,” made by The Perth Shoe Company, lived on into the 1950s.

“Lockewedge,” made by The Perth Shoe Company

To learn more about Dr. Locke and see more of his related artifacts, visit our Research Collection Catelogue here:

Shaelyn Ryan<br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)

Shaelyn Ryan is an undergraduate student Queen’s University, currently completing her forth (and final) year in the Bachelor of Arts History Program. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018).

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