Timeline For The Life of Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
By: Victoria Bidwell
Much of this Timeline was excerpted from:
Jean Oswald's biography of Dr. Shelton:
“Yours For Health, etc.”
October 6th, 1895 Herbert Macgolfin Shelton, son of Thomas Mitchell Shelton
and Mary Frances Gutherie Shelton, is born during a wild Texas thunderstorm
He is 2 months premature, weighs less that 3 pounds, and is kept warm in a
wooden cigar box, near an iron stove, in a ramshackle farmhouse.
Young Herbert grows up with devoted Christian parents who will raise him
with much church attending, much Bible study, and much attention to
Scripture at home.
In his youth, others tell me, Herbert holds a love for The Lord. And he takes a
keen interest in animals, especially their habits when sick as compared to
when well. He was especially intrigued by their fasting when the farm animals
1901 The family moves to Greenville, Texas: these family patterns and Young
Shelton interests continue.
1911 Young Herbert begins his health-seeking career when he is attracted to
Bernarr Mcfadden's Physical Culture magazine, sitting on a newsstand. He is
introduced to articles on fasting for rejuvenation, weight training, and raw
He begins eating less cooked and more raw, fresh fruits, vegetables, and
nuts. At 5'8" and 145 pounds, he is a robust boy and begins lifting weights.
His father chides him for these interests; and for many years to come, he
discourages Young Shelton in his health seeking studies.
Only much later, when his asthma is debilitating him does Shelton's father
take an interest in his son's passion for natural healing.
His mother is supportive, however. From Macfadden's teachings, Young
Herbert soon seeks out Dr. Russell Trall's work and finds his landmark
treatise, The True Healing Art, which clearly outlines the stance of The 19th
Century Pioneering Hygienists.
Then Young Herbert moves on to study Presbyterian Minister Sylvester
Graham, The Father of Physiology and Temperance Lecturer.
1913 Young Herbert's last year of high school, he thoroughly introduces
himself to The 19th Century Medical and Hygiene-minded Doctors and
teachers of "drugless healing": Doctors Robert Walker, Felix Oswald, Charles
Page, Isaac Jennings, and Thomas Low.
Young Herbert experiments with a 3 day fast and reports, when finished,
feeling "energetic and rejuvenated." He graduates from high school in
Greenville, a shy and somewhat bashful boy when it comes to the girls.
1917 Herbert is put in jail for the very first time for making an anti-draft
statement in public. He is anti-war, anti-violence, and decidedly pro-pacifistic.
He is drafted and serves 10 months on KP duty or as a mechanic. He sends
his $20.00 a month home to Mary for safekeeping. He continues his self-study
of Hygiene during this time and comes to a conclusion: "The medical system
is the most dangerous of all."
He further studies Medical Doctors William Alcott, James Jackson, Mary Gove,
Harriet Austin, and John Tilden. And he deeply studies all the instances of
fasting in The Bible.
1919 Herbert attends Bernarr Macfadden's College of Physcultopathy in
Chicago and interns at Crane's Sanitarium in Elmhurst, Illinois, where he
receives clinical experience in fasting.
Crane's is 1 of 8 fasting institutes in The Nation, none of which are doing "Pure
Hygiene" and most of which are doing "The Nature Cure" complete with many
Then Herbert goes on to the Lindlahr College of Natural Therapeutics for post-
graduate work and serves at 2 more institutes: Dr. Lindlahr's and Sahler's
1921 Herbert, at age 25, marries Ida Pape, who is 21. They move to New York
City, where he attends the American School of Chiropractic. He graduates
from the American School of Naturopathy with a Doctor of Naturopath (N.D.)
and a Doctor of Naturopathic Literature (N.D. Litt.). He then takes various
teaching and interning and doctoring positions.
1922 Dr. Shelton, N.D., N.D. Litt., also takes another degree D.C. from the
American School of Chiropractic.
Dr. Herbert M. Shelton self-publishes his first book, Fundamentals of Nature
Cure. The Nature Curists do not accept the book, as it had too much Hygiene
Dr. Shelton then decides against the term, "nature cure" for 2 reasons: "Nature
is not engaged in curing disease. And the term 'nature cure' has been so badly
abused that it no longer had any settled meaning. Anything and everything
was included under the phrase."
At this point, only 27 years old, Dr. Herbert M. Shelton realizes that The
Hygienic Movement, launched in 1832 by Dr. Isaac Jennings and Sylvester
Graham is a separate and distinct health care system that must be purified and
then kept separate from all the alternative health care systems.
He is quoted as declaring: "we will bring clarity out of chaos. I will resuscitate
a dying movement. I will rebuild and synthesize the system of Hygiene.
Principles that are forgotten will be refurbished. A whole literature will be
salvaged. I will fan its glowing embers into a fierce flame."
He changed the title of this first book to An Introduction to Natural Hygiene.
Dr. Shelton continues post-graduate work at Peerless College of Chiropractic
in Illinois and an internship at Crandall Health School in Pennsylvania.
1924 Bernarr, a son, is born to Herbert and Ida.
1925 Dr. Shelton becomes a staff member of Macfadden's Physical Culture
magazine, a periodical with 1,000,000 circulation.
Shelton ghostwrites for Macfadden. He co-founds a magazine, How to Live,
with G.R. Clements, N.D.; but it folds. And he writes a daily column for the
New York Evening Graphic: his writing criticizes medical treatment and
arouses public controversy.
1927 Dr. Shelton has become, in past years, an avid student of Emerson and
Thoreau, The Transcendentalists.
During this time, his studies of religion, philosophy, and ethics and reason
lead him away from Biblical, Scriptural wisdom; and he declares himself an
When asked if he believes in God, he simply says: "Nobody knows." Dr.
Vetrano reports that he loved The Lord when he was young and at home with
his parents. And that he really knew his Scripture is evident when you read all
the Biblical allusions in his articles for Dr. Shelton's Hygiene Review.
Sometimes whole articles are centered around Scripture. And at times, he
would use Scripture to prove his point, to support his stance.
Yet at other times, he would quote Scripture and then twist it around in a
sarcastic way to show how ridiculous it was. Dr. Vetrano reports that when
Shelton studied all the other schools of thought on religion, his strong,
Christian roots were pulled up by the voices of reason and logic in these other
His second son was named "Walden" in honor of Thoreau's pond of
inspiration in the woods.
At this time in 1927, Dr. Shelton is already being harassed in his Hygienic
practice by advocates of The Medical Mentality and by the police.
In 1927, Dr. Shelton is jailed for the first time for "practicing medicine without a
license" and is fined $100.00. This same year of 1927, a second arrest takes
place, under similar circumstances and with charges of $300.00.
His money is so tight this second time; he has to borrow to be released. Also,
in 1927, the New York Evening Graphic lets Dr. Shelton go because he will not
co-operate with their advertisement policies and insists on running an anti-
Still, during this time, Dr. Shelton's Hygienic practice grows; he is respected
and admired for his efforts. The third arrest also occurs, all in New York, for
"practicing medicine without a license."
The great irony is that Dr. Shelton would never "practice medicine". Still, that is
what the authorities call it when someone tells people how to live, how to
sleep, how to eat, and how not to take medicines.
1928 Herbert, Ida, Bernarr, and Walden move to San Antonio, Texas, where
they will open and close 7 schools, all named, "Dr. Shelton's Health School."
The first holds 12 guests. Eight others are operating in The United States, but
none offer Pure Hygiene.
In 1928, Dr. Shelton publishes Human Life Its Philosophy & Laws, wherein he
gives special credit to Sylvester Graham and Doctors Trall, Jennings, Walker,
and Page, and to the other Pioneering Hygienists.
1929 Daughter Willodeen is born to Herbert and Ida Shelton. The Great
Depression hits, and The Sheltons struggle to make ends meet. It is a struggle
that will be with them always.
1931 Dr. Shelton's 9th book is published: The Hygienic Care of Children. For
the last several years, Dr. Shelton has been active lecturing at colleges in
Texas and in Texas hotels.
The general public is enthusiastic, sympathetic, and appreciative to hear Dr.
Shelton's Health Message. Dr. Shelton is developing a following.
1932 Dr. Shelton is offered 8 times the salary he will make that year by a radio
station if he will just promote a laxative at the end of his program. Of course,
His wife has turned into a worker of all trades: child sitter and housekeeper,
School custodian and groundskeeper for the School. And Dr. Shelton,
himself, is often found changing beds and scrubbing floors.
By 1932, Dr. Shelton is lecturing internationally with hundreds attending his
events. He undertakes wide tours, across The Nation, speaking nightly
throughout the week, sometimes for as many as 7 hours of teaching in one
These lecture circuits will continue for the next 20 years in full force and then
taper off as the effects of Dr. Shelton's workaholism take their toll on his
nervous system and finally incapacitate his entire body.
In 1932, Dr. Shelton is jailed repeatedly, always for "practicing medicine without
a license" or for "lecturing and prescribing medicine" always with a fine
imposed, and always released.
Finally, he is found guilty and given 30 days in Rycker's Prison for violating
the Medical Practice Act. Young Dr. Esser takes over Dr. Shelton's practice.
And Shelton uses the time for fasting and continued work on his manuscripts.
1934 The 7 Volume Set known as "The Hygienic System" is put into print, from
1934 onward: The titles focus on the following: Orthobionomics (Economics
of Correct Living), Orthotrophy (Nutrition and Food Combining), Fasting,
Orthokinesiology (Corrective Exercise), Orthogenetics (Sexual Correctness),
Diseases, and Orthopathy (Correction of Specific Diseases).
1935 More books are put into print by Dr. Shelton: Syphilis: Werewolf of
Medicine and The Exploitation of Human Suffering.
1939 After 2 previous attempts to publish a magazine, both of which fold
within a year, Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review, is published. This particular
magazine is inspired by Dr. Tilden's little periodical.
The Review is intended to continually teach The People about The 7 Stages of
Disease, to remind them of the health hazards of taking any medications, to
warn them about the dangerous practices of The Medicine Men, to thoroughly
expose them to "The Basic Requisites of Life" and to initiate them into the
strange and new world of... "Health by Healthful Living" with such a fervor that
they are excited to spread the revolutionary word.
Yearly subscriptions for the 24 to 32 pages a month are $1.00. Most of The
Hygienic Review is written exclusively by Dr. Shelton, although in later years,
he did bring in more authors, all of whom he carefully edited.
A strict advertising policy of Pure Hygiene is instituted, but few advertisements
are taken in the first place. At its height, Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review went
out to 1,900 Health Seekers. And the little magazine never turned a profit.
Following is Dr. Shelton's own statement about his Review:
"The monthly visit of the Review to one's home should serve as a strong
support. Wherever you are, you should not fail to acquaint the people with
whom you come into contact, with the better and more healthful way of life. Let
your light shine into all dark corners and do so without fear. All the progress
that has ever been made has been made by breaking with tradition and
branching out into new and untrodden fields. Humankind is subject to the law
of inertia. Men and women do not progress: they are pulled along. The few
drive the many along behind The Chariot of Progress. Every Hygienist should
get into The Chariot as a driver."
Dr. Shelton continually made essay statements on the inside of the front cover
of each Review for subscriptions, participations, and donations to fan the fires
of The Health Revolution.
1940 Dr. J.H. Tilden, who is best known for "The 7 Stages of Disease"
paradigm presented in his most famous book, Toxemia Explained, dies at age
89. He is the last, living link with The 19 Century Pioneers of Hygiene.
The work of the resuscitation and promulgation of Hygiene now falls entirely
on the shoulders of Doctors Shelton, Claunch, Esser, and Gian-Cursio.
Claunch dies in 1946 and Gian-Cursio in the last few years.
In 1941, Dr. Benesh moves from Chiropractic to Hygienic Doctor. Today, only
a few seasoned Hygienic Doctors of the last century remain in practice: Dr.
Vetrano, Dr. Benesh, Dr. Esser, and Dr. Scott, among a few others. And many
young doctors have stepped forward, some more Pure Hygienic than others.
1942 An amazing and inspirational book by Dr. Shelton is published: Health
for All. Like so many of his books, this book was out of print for many, many
years. It has just been made available once again.
In 1942, Dr. Shelton is brought to trial on a charge of "negligent homicide" for
starving a patient to death at Dr. Shelton's Health School and for "treating and
offering to treat a human being without a state medical license." Mrs. John
Gillis dies while under Dr. Shelton's care at his school. The case, however, is
never tried. The charges are dropped.
1943 Ghandi had long been inspired by Dr. Shelton's work, especially his
treatises on fasting. Ghandi, accordingly, invites Dr. Shelton to work and
study with him in India for a 6 year sabbatical.
Dr. Shelton was giving the Ghandi invitation serious consideration when
World War II forever interrupts their plans. Ghandi had referred to Volume III of
The Hygienic System throughout his fasting career: more than half of his 17
fasts were political in nature, protesting The British occupation of what should
have been a free India.
It was in 1943, also, that Dr. Shelton adopted the banner: "Let Us Have The
Truth though The Heavens Fall!"
1945 Dr. Shelton is kicked in the mouth by his stallion, and this marks the
beginning of his slowing down. His teeth are badly jarred, and he begins to
lose them, one at a time, over the years. This impairs some of his nutritional
1947 By this time, Dr. Shelton's Health School has moved into its 6th location.
Ida and Herbert have grown apart to a great degree. Both are becoming weary
of the mountains of work and pile of responsibilities.
During the 1940s & 1950s More Hygienic doctors arrive on the scene and are
arrested, as was Dr. Shelton. Many arrests and incarcerations take place. Dr.
Shelton speculates that the leaders of the 20th century Hygienic movement
were being oppressed and harassed with a greater ferocity and tenacity than
had The 19th Century Pioneers.
Opposition in the 19th century had not been so fully organized or relentless.
The American Medical Association had not grown into an octopus, with
tentacles reaching into so many government institutions, drug companies and
cartels, and minds and hearts of The People. Shelton had been seeing a need
for The Hygienists to unite for a long time.
1948 Vivian Virginia Vetrano, a young and beautiful woman who has
successfully pursued dancing as a career, discovers Natural Hygiene through
Dr. Shelton's book, Health for All.
She fasts at Dr. Shelton's Health School and is photographed many times for
Dr. Shelton's upcoming masterpiece on beauty, in which she is pictured
repeatedly and to whom the book, Human Beauty, is dedicated.
In 1948 A national society is formed by 8 men in New York City. It is called the
"American Physiological and Hygienic Society"
In 1949 The new organization is renamed: the "American Natural Hygiene
Society." 400 members join. Local chapters across The Nation are set up. Dr.
Shelton is made the first President.
In 1949 Dr. Shelton publishes Basic Principles of Natural Hygiene.
1956 Dr. Shelton is nominated on a 3rd party ticket at the Vegetarian Party
Convention in New York. I would like to quote from Jean Oswald's biography
of Dr. Shelton at this point:
"Although Shelton thought his nomination was comical, his followers who
nominated him were sincere. Both men and women continuously sought out
Shelton's leadership. He did not have to court the people. Those who knew
him respected him. Many adored and idolized him. And why not? Shelton
attracted men and women to him for a number of reasons. People sought his
friendship because of his intellect, his revolutionary work, his magnetic
presentations at his lectures, his handsome and athletic condition, and his wise
counseling and guidance. A person could not have picked a better associate.
Those close to Shelton considered themselves honored."
Dr. Vetrano adds to this portrait in a recent phone call. She describes Dr.
Shelton as "humorous, joking, playful, loving, and delightful to be around
because of the twinkle in his eye."
I was very glad to hear this. But I am still a bit puzzled. For when I read
Shelton and listen to him on tape, he sounds so angry so bitter so sarcastic
almost all the time. When I questioned Dr. Vetrano about this, she explained
that early in Dr. Shelton's lecturing, his wife told him to "Get mad." She and
others convinced him that he would have to show strong emotion to be a
Thus, Dr. Shelton adopted and polished his "persona." Here is another literary
term coming from the former English teacher that I am. A "persona" is the
character one takes in writing or speaking to make the most dramatic and
most powerful effect possible on readers and listeners.
"Mark Twain" for instance, was Samuel Clemens "persona." In effect, a
"persona" is "a false front" or "an act" one puts on for dramatic or comic or
endearing or teaching purposes.
I was relieved to hear that this man was not always going around angry as a
mad billy goat. He surely had me fooled. And over the years, I know he had
many of the GetWell Friends fooled, too, to the point that some just could not
read his works or listen to his tapes.
Still, there is no doubt he was passionate and that much of that front was real,
righteous indignation towards The Disease Industrialists and toward the
somnambulating masses, to boot. From the mid-1950s onward Vivian Virginia
Vetrano joins The Hygienic Cause, lecturing with Dr. Shelton, studying
intensively, and writing articles.
1958 Dr. Shelton publishes The Road to Health Via Natural Hygiene and
Human Beauty: Its Culture & Hygiene.
1959 A $50,000 grant from the originator of the Frito corn chip is used to build
a new school, so impressed was he with the benefits of his 30-day fast there.
The 7th Dr. Shelton's Health School opens on a hill that Shelton names "Mount
Hygeia" after the Greek goddess of Health. (It is Hygeia, herself, that is
pictured repeatedly on so many covers of Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review.
The new and forever final Dr. Shelton's Health School is equipped to take 40
fasters and has separate sun solariums for nude sunbathing. By Dr. Shelton's
64th birthday, he had supervised 30,000 fasts and published over 30 books
and booklets. Among Health Seekers of the alternative bent, he is known
around the world for his Health Revolution efforts.
1961 Dr. Shelton publishes Rubies in the Sand.
1964 is "the 25th Anniversary" of Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review.
1965 Vivian Virginia Vetrano is now Dr. Vivian Virginia Vetrano D.C., and she
chooses to work full time at Dr. Shelton's Health School. In time, she will study
in Mexico and also become recognized as an
1968 Dr. Shelton publishes Man's Pristine Way of Life.
1970 T.C. Fry discovers Natural Hygiene, as told in Common Health Sense
Issue #3. At a time when Dr. Shelton's health is failing and his Health Torch is
fading, T.C. enters the picture to do that which Dr. Shelton never tried: play
"The Bulk Mail Game."
Once T.C. is up and running with his magazines and as long as Dr. Shelton is
putting out The Review and has the School, Shelton advertises The Review
and School in T.C.'s literature.
Shelton's articles and ads, thus, frequently appear in Fry's publications. For
reasons I have never pursued to discover, however, Fry articles and
advertisements are never seen in Dr. Shelton's literature.
By 1972 Dr. Shelton is bedridden for the rest of his life. The symptoms of what
the medical world term "Parkinson's disease" have claimed the strong motor
skills of Dr. Shelton's once muscular and vibrant body.
The workaholism of his lifetime finally takes its toll. The myelin sheath that
surrounds and protects the nerves of the body can wear out. The subjective
experience is lack of motor control. Muscles atrophy, waste away. Strength is
lost. Movement is difficult.
Uncontrollable shakes appear, especially in the hands. Dr. Shelton's drive to
help The People with every ounce of Nerve Energy he had, his love for
Hygiene and his contempt for The Disease Industrialists combined, worked for
you and me and The People and against him. What must he have been
thinking? Surely, he knew where all that lack of "Energy Enhancers #4: Rest &
Sleep" over the decades was going to take him.
Why would he drive himself like that when he knew, better than all The Health
Seekers in the world, where it would take him?
Only if you have a compulsive/addictive personality yourself, can you begin to
understand a drive like this. Like T.C. Fry, Dr. Shelton certainly was not
practicing "Proverbial Wisdom."
Sweet sleep, in big doses, could have saved Dr. Shelton from riding out his life
from his bed another 13 years. Back in his 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s, Dr.
Shelton would have had to take another 4 to 6 hours a day for rest and sleep.
How many books would not have been written? How many lectures not
given? How many phone calls not made? How many Hygienic Reviews not
published? How many patients not supervised? The tangled web he weaved
for himself when he deceived himself all those years ended up making him a
deathbed cocoon from which he could not rise.
Dr. Shelton was left with legs that could not walk, left with hands that could
not write, and left with vocal cords that could not speak. All for the sake of The
Cause. Where, pray tell, Dear GetWell Friends, is the wisdom in that?
1974 Dr. Shelton publishes Fasting for Renewal of Life. This marks the end of
Dr. Shelton's handwriting career. He moves into a "dictation only" mode.
1975 Dr. Shelton, Dr. Vetrano, and many others set up 1,660 acres in Pearsall,
Texas, chartered to become "Sheltrano" an Hygienic Community and College.
It is a long story of intrigue and dark happenstance that takes place. And the
project finally folds with much loss to many.
1976 Vickey Bidwell, age 29, takes a 17 day fast at Dr. Shelton's Health School.
She never formally meets Dr. Shelton. But she does see 2 attendants take him
on walks, one on each side, holding him up, while he drags himself along. He
is extremely emaciated. He certainly does not look like he could hold onto life
another 19 years.
During these 17 days, Vickey studies Natural Hygiene. She meets Dr.
Vetrano. She studies Dr. Shelton's Hygienic System. And she receives her
calling to create Hygienic literature that it is absolutely inviting, lively, and fun.
1978 According to Jean Oswald in Yours for Health, "The biggest scandal in
the history of the practice of Natural Hygiene takes place." Dr. Shelton's Health
School takes in 49 year old Hal Conrad.
He is suffering with ulcerative colitis. The medical doctor orders a colostomy
and iliostomy, the cutting out of the large intestine, and a cutting in the
stomach area, and the wearing of a sack to collect fecal matter for the
remainder of life.
The details are long and many. He dies of a heart attack when rushed to the
hospital, and the wife sues for $890,000 on a charge of "negligence." For the
next 2 years, while in litigation, business at Dr. Shelton's Health School
booms. The School is filled to overflowing, and trailers are brought into to fill
the need. This is, no doubt, partly due to "T.C. Fry's Heydey" and his millions
of leaflets and publications going out across America.
Dr. Shelton's advertising in them pays off. By 1980, after running Dr. Shelton's
Health School single-handedly for 17 years, Dr. Vetrano decides to go her own
way and opens a health school in Brownsville, Texas.
Dr. Shelton's Health School goes under new management that does not last
long. The last issue of Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review goes out in 1980. In
1983, the courts rule against Dr. Shelton and Dr. Vetrano, with no appeal
They are to pay the full $890,000 to the wife of the former Hal Conrad. Both
parties are completely bankrupted. Shelton even has to sell off his mighty
library of collected and cherished works of all The Hygiene Pioneers, whose
teaching he had drawn from so steadily and so heavily his entire life. They go
to the American Natural Hygiene Society library for safekeeping and are open
to members for in-house viewing.
A Summary of the activities of the American Natural Hygiene Society, begun by
The Prime Mover Dr. Herbert M. Shelton, from 1948 to 2000... A yearly
convention becomes the main event for the ANHS through the years, and
some 30 local chapters throughout the United States and the world are
By 1979, Dr. Shelton is quoted as saying, "The growth of the Society has been
disappointingly slow." In the 1980s, the 30 local, self-supporting chapters
throughout the United States are dissolved. From 1978 to the 1990s, The
ANHS establishes and then dissolves the Natural Hygiene Press.
During these early years, Shelton urges the Society to continue publishing
and marketing books. But most importantly, he also urges them to create an
ever-expanding army of Natural Hygienists who focus on making movies and
tapes and writing books to supplement the ANHS activities so that The People
could become more fully educated.
The ANHS prints a bimonthly, high-quality magazine, Health Science. Its
circulation, and thus membership, reaches approximately 9,000. It serves well
to announce ANHS yearly conventions and to market a limited number of
Hygiene classic books and numerous tapes, as well as to offer articles and
contacts from Hygienic practitioners and paraprofessionals.
The ANHS also sponsors several seminars yearly, and it is involved in many
other activities to promote Hygiene for The People. Its affairs are handled
responsibly and expeditiously. By the 1990s, the ANHS serves more as a life-
support system for Natural Hygiene, rather than as the vehicle through which
"The Great American Health Revolution" is successfully launched.
From 1980 until Dr. Herbert M. Shelton's death in 1985 Dr. Shelton continues to
dictate in a whisper, Hygienic teachings for The People, his vocal cords no
longer producing full power.
It should be noted that Dr. Shelton grew totally feeble in body but not in mind.
He worked with Jean Oswald to consult for her and Dr. Scott's upcoming
book, Fasting for the Health of It. He worked with Jo Willard and Jean Oswald
to write The Original Natural Hygiene Weight-Loss Diet Book, published
posthumously in 1986. He worked on various other projects to the end.
By: Victoria Bidwell, www.getwellstaywellamerica.com
Article: Timeline For The Life of Dr. Herbert Shelton