This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
Bill W. had his last drink in December 1934. Bill met
Dr. Bob on Mother's Day in 1935 and Dr. Bob had his last drink in
mid June 1935. The Big Book was published April 10, 1939 and the first
meeting to be called an AA meeting separate from the Oxford Group
was held on May 11, 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio.
1940 was a slow year for AA growth around the country.
Small meetings were being started and other than the articles in the
Cleveland Plain Dealer, the LIBERTY Magazine article and other similar
publicity many people had not heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. The major
growth of AA centered around Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland had seven
meetings by the end of 1940 and an over 90 percent recovery success
rate. New York was having little success keeping people sober and
Akron didn't break from the Oxford Group until the fall of 1939.
A major national magazine had heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and thought
it was just another quack cure. They sent one of their best investigative
reporters to do an expose' on the fledgling organization. This reporter
had just completed an expose' of organized crime and was ready to
do the same for AA.
In late 1940, Jack Alexander contacted the New York Alcoholic Foundation
office at 30 Vesey St. in order to get the necessary information to
write his article. He met with Bill W. and Ruth Hock (non-alcoholic).
He attended some meetings and read the Big Book. He was so taken with
what he found he decided that an expose' was not warranted and decided
to do a favorable article instead.
Jack Alexander wanted to see how AA was working in other areas of
the country. It was recommended to him that he visit Akron and especially
Cleveland where the growth and success was so phenomenal. Ruth Hock
wrote to Clarence S. (Home Brewmeister), one of the original 100 members
of AA who was sponsored by Dr. Bob in order to prepare the Ohio members
for Alexander's arrival.
"One of their (Saturday Evening Post) staff writers
is definitely on the job and is now doing the rounds of some of our
New York meetings. He will be out here to attend at least one Cleveland
and one Akron meeting and is going to look you up for a talk. He is
a very thorough person and we all feel that the result will be one
exceptionally good article which should mean a lot in many ways. His
name is Jack Alexander and I think he will be out here in about two
Jack Alexander did visit Cleveland and went to several of their meetings.
A large portion of the article text related to his experiences in
Cleveland. Clarence wrote to Bill for a preview of the article in
order to prepare the "boys and gals" for the influx of new
"We have had over 700 contacts here & have prepared a
couple more sanitarium set-ups to take care of any possible overflow
of inquiries... We are prepared for a rush, if one occurs, in any
degree. With all the members we have, it will not be difficult to
absorb any amount now."
Due to the large influx of new prospects coming into Cleveland AA,
Clarence had initiated a meeting specifically to indoctrinate new
members and take them through the 12 Steps. This meeting was comprised
of older member's teaching Beginner "Classes" at the Crawford
Road Men's Group. The Crawford Road Group was founded in February
1941 and by the end of their first year had over 135 members.
The New York AA office was also preparing for the prospect of increased
membership due to the article. Bill wrote in a Memorandum To The
Board Of Trustees Of The Alcoholic Foundation dated February 19,
"An article is to appear on March 1st in the Saturday
Evening Post. This piece will be the feature number of that
issue. The name Alcoholics Anonymous will appear on the outside
cover of the magazine. Our message will be brought straight to the
whole nation - nearly every one of at least a million alcoholics
will hear of us."
Everyone was preparing for the onslaught of new prospective members
and of course, Big Book sales. Of the almost 4,800 books printed in
April 1939, they still had approximately 4,000 left. Bill had hoped
to have been sold out of Big Books during the first month after it
was released. Unfortunately, after almost two years, there were still
thousands of copies left. Maybe this article would be the break and
turning point Bill was counting on.
More will be revealed...