Big Book Goes to Press
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
To most of the New York members, the book was looking
too religious. Both Jim B. and Hank P. wanted all references to God
removed. Fitz M. wanted more mention of God.
The members in Akron, Ohio met around Dr. Bob's kitchen
table reviewing the pages submitted to them and made their suggestions
as well. Bill knew he could not please everyone no matter how hard
he would try. There had to be some sort of a compromise.
There are several stories, none confirmed, of how this compromise
took place. One story is that Ruth Hock, Bill and Hank's secretary,
who was attending some of these heated "discussions," asked
about the Oxford Group idea of a non-denominational God. That is,
a God, not of the Roman Catholics or Protestants, or Methodists or
any other religious denomination, but God of each individual's understanding.
It is reported that at that point, Jim B. shouted out; "That's
it! God as we understand Him!"
The Oxford Group literature, though Christian in content often discussed
a Power greater than oneself. Why not have a universal God? One who
can be embraced by all, religious and non-religious alike. Though
not too happy about any mention of God, several of the New York members
reluctantly agreed to this offer of compromise. The Akron members
who -- were reluctant to relinquish the spiritual -- accepted this
compromise as well. The book continued to be written.
Chapter after chapter were submitted to the New York and Akron members
for their review. Many changes were made and many heated discussions
took place. One long-term member from Ohio who was there, told this
writer that "we red penciled, blue penciled, crossed out and
attempted to keep the book as true to our beliefs as possible."
The New York contingent did the same attempting to tone down the spiritual
Who Wrote "To Wives?"
Bill asked Hank P. to write what was to become Chapter
10, To Employers. Hank wrote that chapter and eventually had
another falling out with Bill for receiving no credit. Bill also asked
Anne Smith, Dr. Bob's wife to write the chapter To Wives, but
she gently declined. She reportedly told Bill that he should have
asked his wife Lois instead. Lois was not asked and Bill wrote it.
To say the least, Lois held a resentment about that for many years.
Bill and Hank took the book to several sources for review
and possible publication. Eventually, after several re-writes and
corrections, the book was ready to go to press. In order to raise
further funding, a pre-publication manuscript copy was printed. These
went out to friends of the fledgling movement as well as to members
for further review. Offers were made to send the printed book as soon
as it was ready to those who purchased this "multilith"
copy. A multilith was a sort of mimeograph process and 400 copies
of the manuscript were published and sent out.
It was decided that some of the language should be toned down and
upon further review and editing, the book was ready to go to press.
A printing company was recommended to Bill and Hank. The Cornwall
Press, located in Cornwall, New York (Orange County) was contacted
and the process began.
"Circus" Dust Jacket
Bill and Hank wanted to make the book look like it was
worth the $3.50 they were going to ask for it. The asked that the
thickest paper be used as well as the widest possible margins. The
owners of the Cornwall Press had some left over red binding cloth
from another print job and offered this to Bill and Hank at a discount.
Ray C., a New York artist was "commissioned"
to design the Dust Jacket for the book. One of the first design submissions
showed a man marching forward with fists clenched and a determined
look on his face. In the background was a bottle with another man
trapped inside. The name, Alcoholics Anonymous was in red across most
of the cover and "Their Pathway to a Cure" was on the lower
right-hand corner. Ray also designed what became known as the "Circus"
Dust jacket, the one that was eventually used. This cover was red,
yellow, black and white with just the name, Alcoholics Anonymous on
Sometime during the Winter of 1939, Bill, Hank, Ruth Hock and Dorothy
S. (the then wife of Clarence S. of Cleveland) went to Cornwall, NY
to review the galleys. It is not known where, or for how long they
stayed in this Orange County, NY hamlet, but it is known that they
approved the galleys and the book went to print. Almost 4,800 copies
were ordered with a promise from the Cornwall Press that just as soon
as these were sold, they were prepared to print several thousand more.
When the books were ready, the Cornwall Press refused to release
any of them until they were paid. Despite Bill's pleadings and promises
of a quick turn-around, only those books paid for were let out of
the warehouse. Very few were paid for and most stayed in storage for
many months. It wasn't until February 1940 that there was any real
movement of these books.
More will be revealed