Charles Sidney Bluemel

Dr. Charles Bluemel was one of the early pioneers in the field of speech-language pathology, with special interest in stuttering. He was on the ASHA "recovery" panel at the ASHA convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1957, and his speech given that day has been preserved:

(Additional panel members' presentations are also available on Voices: Past and Present )

Ruth M. Clark wrote an article entitled "Our Enterprising Predecessors and Charles Sydney Bluemel (ASHA, April 1964, p. 107-114) in which she shares some interesting information about Bluemel's life. In 1940 Bluemel donated his library on stuttering and following his death, his widow donated his papers to the University of Denver, which

"provides an invaluable historical documentation, not only of the forerunners of speech pathology in this country, but also of his own lifelong search for a cure for stuttering. . . . As far back as he could remember, Sydney Bluemel had stuttered. As a child he was not too concerned about it. He told his biographer, "I wasn't bothered any more about speech than I was by dirty hands" (McDearmon, p. 11). Nevertheless, he became more aware of his problem as he grew older, and his speech difficulty influenced his entire life, including his choice of profession, psychiatry. Motivated by a need to understand the dynamics of stuttering, he was to become a leading authority in the field of speech disorders.
In 1896, at the age of 12, Sydney Bluemel was sent to a boarding school at Margate, a health resort on the south coast of England. His parents hoped that the climate there would relieve the asthma from which he suffered. While he was there, however, his stuttering became more pronounced, and during the summer vacation he was sent to his first corrective school, the Beasley School for Stammerers in London. The principles endorsed by this school were: 1) the use of the initial breath before speaking; 2) light articulation; and 3) continuity of sound. Bluemel reported that he improved greatly while at the Beasley School; but back at the boarding school he stuttered as much as before. He recalled saying when the headmaster asked if the doctor had cured him, "I quickly demonstrated that he hadn't" (McDearmon, p. 14).
After graduating from Margate and spending a year in Germany to improve his German, he worked for three years as an apprentice in the family firm know as Bluemel Brothers, manufacturers of bicycle and automobile accessories. It was in 1906 that he obtained a copy of an American magazine with an advertisement of the Lewis School in Detroit, which guaranteed to cure stammering. He was impressed. In England, one could rely upon an advertised guarantee, and he naively supposed that the situation would be identical in America. At 22, he hopefully left England to attend this school."

In 1960, Dr. Bluemel was awarded the Honors of the American Speech and Hearing Association. The following information and picture is from ASHA, Volume 3, Number 3, March 1961, p. 85

The American Speech and Hearing Association presents

The Honors of the Association
to Charles S. Bluemel

RESOLVED: That the honors of the Association be awarded to Charles S. Bluemel in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the profession of Speech Pathology. For half a century, his writings about the problem of stuttering have contributed significantly to the training of speech pathologists and to remedial work with those who suffer speech disorders. The creativity of this man has caused him to be one of the consistent leaders in the field. He was the first to distinguish between primary and secondary stuttering, and he was among the first to express the belief that stuttering is not related etiologically to the peripheral speech organs. The concept that stuttering is the inhibition of the conditioned reflex of speech, which was presented in 1935, apparently was the first fully developed learning theory of stuttering Today, learning and conditioning are fundamental in a number of theories and therapies. At a time in life when most men were willing to take their ease, Dr. Bluemel continued to make significant contributions to the profession and to this Association through scientific articles, through his recent, sixth major book, "The Riddle of Stuttering" and through his appearances on the program of the Association. This physician has served the healing arts in many ways and in so doing has contributed especially to the professional status of Speech Pathology.

The American Speech and Hearing Association meeting of the Executive Council, Los Angeles, California, November 4, 1960.

Biographical Summary

Bluemel, Charles S., psychiatrist, B. London, England, July 17, 1884; D. December 17, 1960.

University of Colorado, 1910-1914, B.A.: 1915, M.A.; 1916, M.D.

Practiced psychiatry in Denver. Owner and Superintendent of Mount Airy Sanitarium, a private psychiatric hospital, 1927-1953.

American Speech and Hearing Association, Fellow; American Board Psychiatry and Neurology, Diplomate; American Medical Association, Fellow; American College of Physicians, Fellow; American Psychiatric Association; American Association for the Advancement of Science; the only Honorary Life Member of the Colorado Speech and Hearing Association; Central Neuropsychiatric Association; Colorado Neuropsychiatric Society; Medical Societies of Colorado State, City and County of Denver; Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London; Royal College of Surgeons of England; Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.

Editor, Colorado Medicine, 1924-1925 and Denver Medical Bulletin, 1920-1921. Author of numerous books and articles encompassing a wide range of topics in psychiatry and neurology. Prolific contributor to literature on stuttering.

Although seriously ill at the time the Honors of the Association were granted, Dr. Bluemel was very gratified by the news of the bestowal. It is with deep regret that the membership is informed of his death on December 17, 1960.

Two presentations at the ASHA Convention, November 20, 1962, as summarized in the ASHA Magazine, Volume 4/Number 11, November 1962, p. 407. Reproduced below with permission of ASHA.

Charles S. Bluemel's Theories of Stammering by JAMES R. MCDEARMON, Washington State University

The writings of C. S. Bluemel, psychiatrist, from 1913-1960, have exerted profound influences upon stuttering theories and therapies. His theory of stuttering as an inhibition upon the conditioned reflex of speech, first set forth in 1931, was a landmark in the trend toward acceptance of learning and conditioning as fundamental conceptions in many theories and therapies of stuttering. It apparently received poor reception at first. In the thirties interest was focused upon neurological, psychoanalytical, and 'mental hygiene' approaches, and his very emphasis on conditioning was strongly attacked. However, since then, concepts of conditioning and learning have be-come important in the thinking of many leaders in the field, and 'symptomatic treatment' is now widely accepted as an essential part of therapy. His concepts of primary and secondary stuttering were first suggested in 1913. He called the first 'pure stammering,' an 'essentially passive disturbance' involving prolonging, pausing, and repeating. All other stuttering symptoms were reactions to the 'pure stammering,' or 'mere epiphenomena.' The essence of this theory, fully developed in 1931, has been acc4pted as basic in many stuttering theories and therapies, and has provided a broad base for new research and theoretical formulations. In recent years, it has been subject to vigorous re-examination, re-evaluation, and criticism in some quarters. From 1913, he exercised leadership in shifting the focus of attention away from the peripheral speech mechanism in the search for basic etiological factors. Specifically, he earlier stressed 'conscious imagery,' and later 'conditioning' factors. In his insistence, even in 1930, that stuttering was a disorder of thought (not of speech), which could be overtly manifested in many ways other than speech, Bluemel pressed for a more organismic view of stuttering which he fully developed in 1957.

Our Enterprising Progenitor by RUTH MILLBURN CLARK, University of Denver

As far back as C.S. Bluemel could remember, he stammered. His speech problem influenced his whole life including his choice of profession, psychiatry. His speech motivated him sufficiently to become a leading authority in the field of stammering and to write several books and numerous articles on the problem. He investigated and enrolled in many commercial stammering schools. Upon his death in December, 1969, many of his personal papers and books were given to the University of Denver, among which were letters, brochures, catalogues, and literature from commercial stammering schools in the United States, England, and Europe. Each school 'guaranteed' to cure stammering. This presentation is concerned with Bluemel's personal experiences with these schools. These included among others: the Phono-Metric Method of the Lewis School of Detroit; the Psycho-Phonic Method of the Connecticut School for Stammerers; the Wonderful Fon-Lin Method; the 'Cure that Cures' of the Carswell Institute of Philadelphia; the Natural Vowel Method which originated in Washington, D.C. and was included in the ten weeks correspondence course for stutterers and stammerers; the Phon-Logic Method of the Bogie Institute of Indianapolis, and 'Pen Pictures by Please Pupils' of the Reed School of Detroit. Slides of some of the early literature will be presented.

Partial Bibliography
complied by Judy Kuster

Bluemel, CS (1913) Stammering and Cognate Defects of Speech New York: G. E. Stechert and Co. (this historical text is available online from the scanning center: Indian Institute Of Science, Bangalore

Bluemel, CS (1919) A new treatment for the morphine habit, Journal of American Medical Association, 72, 552, 884.

Bluemel, CS (1922). The heart of the anti-vivisectionist Denver, Colorado: Association for the Protection of Public Health.

Bluemel, CS (1930) Mental aspects of stammering., Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Bluemel, CS (1930). Stammering as an impediment of thought. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association 1, 27-32.

Bluemel, CS (1931). Stammering; A bibliography. St. Louis, MO: The Laryngoscope.

Bluemel, CS (April, 1932) Primary and Secondary Stammering, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. XVII.

Bluemel, CS (1933) The dominant gradient in stuttering. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 19, 233-42.

Bluemel, Charles Sidney, (1935) Stammering and Allied Disorders, The Macmillan Co. N. Y.

Bluemel, Charles Sidney (1938) The troubled mind; a study of nervous and mental illnesses Baltimore, MD: The Williams & Wilkins Co.

Bluemel, C.S (1940). Stammering and inhibition. Journal of Speech Disorders 5, 305-308.

Bluemel, C.S., (1948) War, Politics and Insanity. In Which the Psychiatrist Looks at the Politician. Denver, CO: The World Press, Inc.

Bluemel, CS (1954) Psychiatry and common sense New York: Macmillan.

Bluemel, C.S. (1957) The Riddle of Stuttering, Danville, IL: Interstate Publishing Co.

Bluemel, C.S. (1960) Concepts of Stammering: A Century in Review. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 25, pp. 24-32.

Bluemel, C.S (1962). Organization of speech as basic therapy: How speech is made and unmade. In D. Barbara (Ed.), The psychotherapy of stuttering (pp. 48-59). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Additional materials from Bluemel

Charles Bluemel also prepared four "speech therapy records" that were available on 12", long-play records, from The Interstate Publishing Company, Danvile, Illinois for $3.00 per record.

Materials about CS Bluemel

Clark, R (1964) Our enterprising predecessors and Charles Sydney Bluemel. ASHA, 6, 108-114

McDearmon, J (1960). A study of the development of Dr. C.S. Bluemel's theories of stammering. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Denver.

Murray, E. (1957) The C.S. Bluemel collection on Stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 22, 5.

added February 9, 2004