This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
Bill W. plan to finance the writing of Alcholics
Anonymous or the Big Book, took him to the offices of the Rockefellers,
but things did not turn out as he planned.
Frank Amos left for Akron the week after Bill's meeting with the
Rockefeller staff (late January or early February 1938). Akron was
chosen due to its success in membership numbers and length of sobriety
as compared to New York. It would also be the most probable site for
the first, if any, of the proposed Alcoholic Hospitals headed by Dr.
Amos was very thorough with his investigation of the new movement.
He checked and re-checked everything, spoke to members of the medical
and religious community as well as the alcoholics and their families.
He attended the Oxford Group meetings at the home of T. Henry and
Clarace Williams and with the help of Dr. Bob and the other alcoholic
members, scouted sites for the proposed hospital.
Frank Amos returned to New York sold on the new movement and was
very excited. He was as excited as Bill had hoped he would be. In
Amos' report to the Rockefellers he proposed that the new society
be given the sum of $50,000 (which in today's equivalent would be
$500,000). He stated that Mr. Rockefeller would be interested in this
venture because it encompassed religion, medicine and reclaimed the
lives of alcoholics and strengthened families once thought hopeless.
He stressed that this unnamed society had found a solution and brought
all the aforementioned aspects into one workable package.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. read the report with great interest and
listened to the glowing praises related to him by Frank Amos. After
reviewing all of the aspects presented and the history of the Washington
Temperance Society as well as other movements which had preceded this
new movement he made a decision.
Mr. Rockefeller decided to turn down the request for the money requested
by Frank Amos. He reiterated, "I am afraid that money will spoil
this thing." While giving his reasons for turning down the request
for money, it appeared that Rockefeller's reasons were virtually the
same as the concerns expressed by Dr. Bob and the Akron members.
Willard Richardson then explained to Mr. Rockefeller the desperate
financial predicament that Dr. Bob and Bill were in. He told Rockefeller
that in order to continue with this seemingly successful venture,
Bill and Bob would need some money; a stipend as it were. Mr. Rockefeller
agreed and placed the sum of $5,000 into the treasury of the Riverside
Church as part of a special account. Both Bill and Dr. Bob could access
this account and funds could be withdrawn as needed. Rockefeller warned
them that despite his help, the movement must become "self-supporting"
in order to eventually become a success.
Out of the $5,000 donated by Rockefeller, $3,000 went immediately
to pay off the mortgage on Dr. Bob's house and the balance was to
be paid to Bill and Dr. Bob at a rate of $30 per week. This was done
so that the basic necessities of life could be taken care of and that
Bill and Dr. Bob could continue working on the restoration of the
lives of hopeless alcoholics without too much worry.
Bill and the New York members as well as some in Akron felt that
more had to be done. They suggested that a charitable trust or foundation
be established so that it would be more attractive to prospective
donors such as Mr. Rockefeller. With the assistance of Frank Amos,
John Wood, a young New York lawyer and junior partner with one of
the better law firms was retained to help with the formation of the
After many meetings, discussions and arguments, the new venture was
called The Alcoholic Foundation. The Board of Trustees was
comprised of three non-alcoholic members: Willard Richardson, Frank
Amos and Dr. Leonard Strong. The Board was also to have two alcoholic
members; Dr. Bob and a New York member who, at a later date, returned
to drinking and was forced to resign. The Foundation was formed in
In Hank P.'s "Observations" section of his marketing proposal
for the book, then being written by Bill, he wrote the following:
"One of the most talked-about things among us is a religious
experience. I believe that this is incomprehensible to most people
(author's note: Hank was an atheist). Simple and meaning words to
us - but meaningless to most of the people that we are trying to get
this over to. In my mind religious experience - religion - etc. -
should not be brought in. We are actually unreligious - but we are
trying to be helpful - we have learned to be quiet - to be more truthful
- to be more honest - to try to be more unselfish - to make other
fellows troubles - our troubles - and by following four steps (author's
note: the Four Absolutes of the Oxford Group - Honesty, Unselfishness,
Love and Purity) we, most of us have a religious experience. The fellowship
- the unselfishness appeals to us."
Hank and Jimmy B. (another early member) both had problems with the
religious or spiritual aspect of the new "program." They
were atheists and wanted to remove all reference to God and spirituality
from the writing in the book. They were outvoted, but compromises
More will be revealed