Big Book is Published
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
The 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
Several 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.
Every 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
In 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.
Missing Pieces of History
There 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.
This 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.
Another 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.
The Rockefeller Dinner
Bill 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.
Willard 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
Mr. 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
Of 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
John 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 remarks:
"Last 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."
One 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.
Mr. 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 was donated.
Bill 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.
The reason for this need for a second printing of almost 5,000 more
copies was due to a momentous event in AA history.
More will be revealed...