Big Book is Published
article is written by nationally recognized historian
and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell
official publication date of the Big Book according to
the United States Copyright Office was April 10, 1939.
There were 4,730 books printed with red cloth binding,
wide columns, thick paper, a red, yellow, black and white
dust jacket. There was the program of recovery outlined
and the personal testimonies of those who had recovered.
dozen books which had been pre-paid were shipped out.
AA members got their copies and some were given away.
The boxes of books still being held at the Cornwall Press
probably were piled high to the ceiling. Letters were
sent out, a small ad was placed and Bill, Ruth and Hank
waited for the orders to pile in.
day the went to the Post Office box expecting to be flooded
with requests for the book. Other than a slight trickle,
the expected orders didn't materialize. Once again, they
were dejected. They needed a boost.
September 1939, Liberty Magazine ran an article entitled
"Alcoholics and God" by Morris Markey. It briefly
told about Alcoholics Anonymous. This was the first national
publicity AA received.
Pieces of History
was another article reportedly printed in a religious
magazine called FAITH. The article was written by Dr.
Bob who had supposedly used his full name as the author
of that article.
writer has attempted to track down a copy of the article
for several years. The AA Archives in New York City claims
they do not have a copy and even the Library of Congress
no longer have copies of that magazine. It appears that
the Library of Congress "dumped" their microfiche
files for the only two magazines called FAITH from that
era in the 1970's.
heartbreaking "dumping" occurred several years
ago. A long-term AA member living locally in this writer's
vicinity stated that he once had the original printing
plates for the Big Book from the Cornwall Press. The Cornwall
Press once was located near this writer's home. This long-term
member stated that during a relapse, out of anger, he
threw out the plates and they were lost forever.
W. once again went to Willard Richardson for financial
help. Willard helped put together the original Rockefeller
meeting. Bill explained that the meetings were growing
but there was no income coming in from book sales. He
had over 4,000 copies in storage which wouldn't be released
until paid for.
convinced John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to help out. Rockefeller
arranged for a dinner for all his friends to hear about
this wonderful new movement. One Hundred and Eighty Seven
engraved invitations were sent out to some of the richest
and most powerful men in the United States.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
requests the pleasure of your company
on Thursday, the eighth of February
at seven o'clock
THE UNION CLUB
Park Avenue and 69th Street
Mr. William G. Wilson, author of "Alcoholics Anonymous"
and Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick
will speak on an effective control of alcoholism
the 187 Invitations that were sent, 127 were sent back
with regrets. Among those who responded in the affirmative
were included several of the invited AA members. Among
the 60 people who actually attended this dinner there
was Bill, Dr. Bob, Clarence S., Fitz M., Bert T., and
Bill R. on the AA side. Others included members of Rockefeller's
staff, Frank Amos, Gordon Auchincloss, Dr. Russell E.
Blaisdell, Horace Crystal, A. Leroy Chipman, Leonard V.
Harrison, Dr. Foster Kennedy, Dr. William Duncan Silkworth,
Dr. Leonard V. Strong, Jr. and Wendell L. Wilkie. Many
of these men went on to be great friends of AA.
D. Rockefeller, Jr. could not attend the dinner due to
illness so his son, Nelson Rockefeller took over. There
were several speakers including Bill W. who spoke about
the movement. The final speaker was the Reverend Dr. Harry
Emerson Fosdick who ended his talk with the following
of all, I admire the quietness, the anonymity which
this movement is carried on. Very small overhead financially,
no big organization, nobody making anything out of it,
no high salaried staff, people for the love of it sharing
with others the experience that has meant life to them
- that is good work. No one is a prophet, but I suspect
that there is a long road ahead of this movement."
long-term member who was at this dinner once remarked
to this writer that looking back on those remarks AA is
now a far cry from back then. He stated that there now
was a very large overhead with high rentals and expensive,
well appointed offices, a large multi-million dollar organization,
millions in royalty payments and a high salaried staff.
The long-term member longed for the simpler days when
the primary purpose was to carry the message and remain
as a spiritual entity rather than a publishing empire
and big business.
Rockefeller ordered copies of the Big Book for all those
who were invited and gave an additional $1,000 to the
movement. Rockefeller still held on to the belief that
a lot of money would spoil the movement. He sent out letters
extolling the virtues of AA to those he sent books to
and through that "hint," an additional $2,000
once again felt that AA was on its way. He felt that more
books would be sold and that the movement would take off
like a rocket. Unfortunately, there wasn't a need for
a second printing of the Big Book until March 1941, just
over a year after the Rockefeller Dinner.
reason for this need for a second printing of almost 5,000
more copies was due to a momentous event in AA history.
will be revealed...