the Big Book
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
Milton Maxwell, Ph.D., in his paper The Washingtonian
Movement, stated that "In the early days of A.A., the entire
fellowship was bound together by a chain of personal relationships
- all created on the basis of a common program, a common spirit and
a common tradition."
As Bill was writing the as yet unnamed book, Hank P. was putting
together "sales promotion possibilities" and "the market"
for it. Part of this marketing plan included his opinion of the prospective
audience for the book:
1. Over one million alcoholics (according to the Rockefeller Foundation)
2. At least a million non-alcoholics that have definite alcoholic
3. Every employer of 100 or more people
4. Those who take an academic interest
5. Two hundred & ten thousand ministers
6. One hundred sixty nine thousand physicians
7. The total would be well over three million prospects
This marketing plan, in Hank's handwriting is housed in the Stepping
Stones Archives in Bedford Hills, NY. Both Bill and Hank were thinking
in the millions. Not only millions of people who would purchase this
new book, but in the millions of dollars it would generate.
Bill had met Hank at Towns Hospital, which was located at 293 Central
Park West in NYC. Hank had been a Vice President at Standard Oil of
New Jersey. Hank had been fired due to his drinking and he was one
of the first "converts" Bill worked with who stayed sober
for any length of time. Hank had opened a small office in Newark,
NJ at 17 William Street. It was in that office on the sixth floor
that Ruth Hock, then Hank's secretary and later Bill's, was to type
the dictations and hand-written pages Bill gave to her which later
formed the Big Book.
No funds to publish
Bill and Hank had no funds to publish the book so Bill decided to
visit with his brother-in-law, Dr. Leonard V. Strong. Dr. Strong was
married to Bill's sister, Dorothy and was the personal physician to
the entire Wilson family. Dr. Strong knew people connected to John
D. Rockefeller, Sr. who had fought for the Constitutional Amendment
dealing with Prohibition. Mr. Rockefeller also was known to have given
vast sums of money towards the cause of prohibition.
Dr. Strong remembered that he had once dated the niece of Willard
Richardson who happened to be the person in charge of Mr. Rockefeller's
Church Charities. Mr. Richardson was so excited about the new project
he invited Dr. Strong and Bill to come over to Mr. Rockefeller's offices
the next day. Dr. Strong could not attend but gave Bill a letter of
introduction to bring with him. That letter was dated October 26,
Mr. Richardson liked the idea for the book so much that he wrote
a letter to Dr. Strong. This letter, dated November 10, 1937 proposed
another meeting to be held in Mr. Rockefeller's Private Board Room
The chairperson for that meeting was Mr. Albert Scott, Chairman of
the Board of Trustees of Riverside Church in NYC. After a detailed
explanation of this new book and fellowship was made, Mr. Scott proclaimed,
"Why, this is First Century Christianity! What can we do to help?"
Bill thought that the result of such a proposal would be the influx
of millions of dollars into the movement by the Rockefeller people.
He told those assembled that all they really needed was an undisclosed
sum of seed money to help with the book project. He further explained
that the profits from the sales of hundreds and thousands of books
would eventually get the movement on its feet and become self-sufficient.
Bill and the other recovered alcoholics present were asked about
the need for money by the Rockefeller staff. "Won't money spoil
this thing?" They were questioned about money creating a professional
class that would spoil the success of working man-to-man and that
chains of hospitals, property and prestige would be a "fatal
It was decided to send Mr. Frank Amos of the Rockefeller staff to
Akron to investigate this new fellowship. He was to go the very next
More will be revealed