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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1774 to 1841

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

1774

Publication of Anthony Benezet's Mighty Destroyer Displayed, the earliest American essay on alcoholism. (SD 4-5)

1784

Dr Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) of Philadelphia, PA was a member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Surgeon General of the Continental Army during the Revolution. He is often called both the father of American psychiatry and the father of the American temperance movement. Rush wrote a 36-page paper titled An Enquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Body and Mind. It described habitual drunkenness as a "progressive and odious disease" and asserted that total abstinence "suddenly and entirely" was the only effective treatment. In 1810 Rush called for the creation of "Sober houses" where alcoholics could be confined and rehabilitated. (GB 43, 168, 1996, GSC-FR 15, SD 1-4)

1700's (late)

From the latter 1700's to early 1800's, American alcohol consumption (and number of alcohol distilleries) increased enormously. A growing number of prominent people (e.g. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams) called for a change in drinking practices. Momentum was picked up by religious leaders who changed the notion of "temperance as moderation" to "temperance as abstinence." This began the growth of American temperance societies. (SD 4-5)

1820s

By the 1820s people in the US were drinking, on average, 27 liters (7 gallons) of pure alcohol per person each year, and many religious and political leaders were beginning to see drunkenness as a national curse. (www NARA)

1840

Apr 5, a group of six drinking club friends (William Mitchell, John Hoss, David Anderson, George Steers, James McCurley and Archibald Campbell) at Chasels Tavern in Baltimore, MD formed a total abstinence society. Pledging "not drink any spirituous or malt liquors, wine or cider" they named themselves the Washington Temperance Society (in honor of George Washington). They later became known as Washingtonians. They sought out new prospects ("hard cases") and held weekly meetings at the tavern until the owner's wife objected to the increasing loss of their best customers. They had a 25-cent initiation fee ($5 today) and member's dues of 12 ½ cents per month ($2.50 today). (SD 8-9, www Milton Maxwell paper)

Nov 19, the Washingtonians held their first public meeting. Growth of the movement was extremely rapid. Widespread and enthusiastic support came from thousands of existing temperance societies. This was due to the great success the Washingtonians had in mobilizing public attention on temperance by relaying their "experience sharing" of alcoholic debauchery followed by glorious accounts of personal reformation. One of the movement's leaders noted, "There is a prevalent impression, that none but reformed drunkards are admitted as members of the Washingtonian Society. This is a mistake. Any man may become a member by signing the pledge, and continue so by adhering to it." (SD 9, www Milton Maxwell paper)

1841

May 12, the Washingtonians organized the first Martha Washington Society meeting for women and children in NY. They provided moral and material support to reform female inebriates and assisted the wives and children of male inebriates. This was the first temperance movement in which women assumed leadership roles. The movement also spawned juvenile auxiliary groups. Freed blacks organized separate Washingtonian societies. (SD 10)


A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003


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