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Two things propelled Dr. Shaklee to achieve: His belief in Nature’s ability to heal, and his belief in Thoughtsmanship.
Forrest C. Shaklee was born in November 1894 in Carlisle, Iowa. The midwife immediately diagnosed tuberculosis. Doctors later concurred and predicted he wouldn’t live past eight years. The family moved from the soot and smoke of the Carlisle coal mines to northern Iowa. They believed the only treatment for tuberculosis was good food, fresh air, and lots of rest.
Most of Shaklee’s childhood was spent convalescing. On sunny days he could be found outdoors observing nature. “Animals listen to the voice of nature,” he realized, “while men have forgotten how.” As a teenager, his doctors were satisfied that the tuberculosis was arrested, but he was frail in comparison to others his age. He began to exercise and study the relationship between the health of the body, general vitality, intelligence and good nutrition. His philosophy became one of active, positive thinking.
Shaklee read and was influenced by Bernarr MacFadden’s teaching that “drugs often mask the symptom, without curing the disease.” Forrest knew from years of observing nature that he wanted to treat people on a natural basis. He was very interested in the growing science of chiropractic care.
Shaklee enrolled in the Palmer School of Chiropractic where B.J. Palmer was at the helm. Shaklee’s admiration for Mr. Palmer was qualified by their disagreement over Palmer’s obsession with the idea that chiropractic was the only useful treatment for physical disorders. At a time when such thinking was rare, Shaklee believed that a more encompassing system was needed to preserve an individual’s health.
While at Palmer, he saw many patients who were undernourished and overfed. He believed poor nutrition could be a contributing cause of disease. He vowed to always be conscious of the importance of diet in maintaining health.
As Shaklee began his new practice he became more interested in the field of nutrition, then in its infancy. He read everything he could and corresponded with biochemists and other scientists doing ground-breaking research in the field. In his search for the “life force” in food, Shaklee produced the world’s first food supplement in 1915. He didn’t know what to call it. “Vitalized Minerals” is what he decided on and its present name is now “Liqui-Lea.” His colleague, Dr. Cashmere Funk, “discovered vitamins” soon after.
In 1917 Shaklee moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa and opened a facility that incorporated various specialties of medicine. In addition to a 15-bed sanatorium, the offices contained 32 treatment rooms. He hired not only chiropractors but osteopaths, internists, general practitioners and surgeons. Shaklee kept his patients on vitamin-rich diets. The clinic soon became busy and prosperous.
In addition to serving as administrator of his clinic, Shaklee spent a great deal of time in the new field of X-ray diagnosis. The hazards of excessive exposure were not fully known at that time. In 1921 he was concerned about severe ulcerating burns on his left hip and left shoulder. Shaklee consulted a cancer specialist in Chicago who determined it was cancer. It was hoped the carcinoma would be halted if his left arm and leg were amputated.
The diagnosis was confirmed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He was a bright young doctor with a wife, one son, and another child on the way. Faced with the promise of a short life as an amputee, he pondered his future.
“I will live. I will heal,” he told his wife. “I know I can do it.” With no other choice, he bet his life on the healing power of nature. Within a few weeks he sold the clinic and began an intensive program of nutrition, continual blood analysis, and occasional fasting. He ate only the freshest fruits and vegetables and supplemented his diet with large quantities of vitamins and minerals.
Initially, the ulcerated sores showed no signs of improvement. However, he was certain that his healing depended on his positive mental attitude, and on supplying his body with the proper nutrients.
By the end of 1922, the sores began to heal and were being replaced by healthy tissue. His strength and energy also returned. He was alive, his limbs intact and more convinced than ever that his ideas on nutrition were absolutely sound. Healthy cells had defeated carcinogenic cells. He was also more certain than ever that good nutrition could help other people as well.
In 1924, he once again opened a clinic and his formulations for food supplements were packaged and dispensed to patients. In 1929 the clinic burned down. All records were lost. Everything burned except an inspirational book by Elbert Hubbard called Little Journeys. One passage in the book stood out above all others. It read: “When all else is destroyed, only the product of the mind exists.”
Shaklee was ordained as a minister in the Church of Christ in Mason City, Iowa. He had previously received his Doctor of Divinity degree and his sermons were widely attended. He was involved as well in ground-breaking research leading, among other things, to the invention of a then-revolutionary form of synthetic rubber. His research activities led to contact with some of the great men of his day, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
Despite his many interests, Shaklee decided to devote his efforts to nutritional research. He focused on building good health rather than treating sick patients. He moved his family to Eugene, Oregon and later to Oakland, California. In addition to ongoing research, Shaklee lectured to capacity crowds and gained two more degrees: Professor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Naturopathy. In 1935 he taught biochemistry at the California Chiropractic College.
In 1943, Dr. Shaklee retired from active practice and in 1945 began writing a series of articles on the mind’s influence on an individual’s health and well-being. His philosophy and lifelong belief was in the power of nature. Two years later he founded the Shaklee Foundation and had the name of his philosophy, “Thoughtsmanship,” copyrighted. He spent much time on the lecture circuit and in 1951 had four volumes on Thoughtsmanship published. The Commonwealth University in Los Angeles awarded him a Doctorate in Philosophy for these works. Many of his popular lectures were broadcast by radio stations in San Francisco and Oakland.
In the fall of 1955, Dr. Shaklee, age 62, told his two sons (Forrest Jr. and Lee) that he wanted to do something that would affect the public’s growing interest in nutrition. He wanted to start a business to distribute food supplements. On April 1, 1956, six months later, the Shaklee Corporation opened its doors. At the time, America believed itself to be the best fed nation in the world. Every potential customer would have to be educated before he would become a customer. Dr. Shaklee told his sons, “We’ll teach some and they’ll teach others.” The rest is history.
With research, science, devotion and a lot of hard work, the three Shaklees turned a good idea – the direct selling of health-care and other related products – into a phenomenal success. The company originated and was powered by one man’s belief in nature and Thoughtsmanship.
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