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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1939 to 1940

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

1939

Jan, the draft book text and personal stories were completed. (AACOA 164, BW-RT 255)

Jan, 400 multilith copies of the book were distributed for evaluation. Each copy was stamped “Loan Copy” to protect the coming copyright. (AACOA 165, LR 197, NG 74, 319, PIO 200) NY member Jim B (Vicious Cycle) suggested the phrases “God as we understand Him” and “Power greater than ourselves” be added to the Steps and basic text. Bill W later wrote “Those expressions, as we so well know today, have proved lifesavers for many an alcoholic.” (LOH 201) Note: Jim B later moved to Philadelphia, PA in Feb 1940 and started AA there. He also helped start AA in Baltimore, MD. (AACOA 17, BW-FH 140, GTBT 137, WPR 81)

Jan 18, The Alcoholic Foundation Board increased from 5 to 7 members. Non-alcoholics still held the majority. New members were alcoholic Harry B (A Different Slant) as the newly appointed second Board Chairman and Dr Leonard V Strong (Bill W’s brother-in-law). Harry B also later returned to drinking and was replaced in Dec (GSO, PIO 189) Foundation Trustees could appoint their own successors and were “chartered to do everything under the sun.” (LOH 61)

Mar (?), the much changed book manuscript was turned over to Tom Uzzell. He was a friend of Hank P, an editor at Collier’s and a member of the NYU faculty. The manuscript was variously estimated as 600 to 1,200 pages (including personal stories). Uzzell reduced it to approximately 400 pages. Most cuts came from the personal stories, which had also been edited by Jim S (The News Hawk) a journalist from Akron, OH. (AACOA 164, BW-FH 126, PIO 203)

Mar, (?), Bill W, Hank P, Ruth Hock and Dorothy S (wife of Cleveland pioneer Clarence S) drove to Cornwall, NY and presented a much altered manuscript to the printing plant of Cornwall Press. When the plant manager saw the condition of the manuscript, he almost sent them back to type a clean copy. Hank P persuaded the manager to accept the manuscript on condition that the group would examine and correct galley proofs as they came off the press. The group checked in to a local hotel and spent the next several days proofreading galleys. (WPR 81-82)

Apr, 4,730 copies of the first Ed. of Alcoholics Anonymous were published at a selling price of $3.50 ($46 today). The printer, Edward Blackwell of Cornwall Press, was told to use the thickest paper in his shop. The large, bulky volume became known as the “Big Book.” The idea was to convince the alcoholic he was getting his money’s worth. (AACOA viii, 170, NG 76, PIO 204-205, GB 59) Ray C (An Artist’s Concept) designed the “circus color” dust jacket. The book had 8 roman and 400 Arabic numbered pages. The Doctor’s Opinion started as page 1 and the basic text ended at page 174. The manuscript story of an Akron member, Ace Full - Seven - Eleven, was dropped (reputedly, because he was not too pleased with changes made to the first drafts of the Steps and text). 29 stories were included (10 from the east coast, 18 from the mid-west and 1 from the west coast - which was ghost written by Ruth Hock and later removed from the book) (www)

Apr 11, Marty Mann (age 35, Women Suffer Too) attended her first meeting at 182 Clinton St. For the prior 15 months, she was a charity patient at Bellevue Hospital in NYC and the Blythewood Sanitarium in Greenwich, CT (under the care of Dr Harry Tiebout). Tiebout gave her a manuscript of the Big Book and arranged for Marty to go to the meeting. Upon her return to Blythewood, she told fellow patient, Grenville (Grennie) Francis C “we are not alone.” Marty later established an AA Group at the Sanitarium. (BW-RT 271, BW-FH 8, 125-126, AACOA 3, 18-19, PIO 210-213, CB 119-121, MMM 111-123)

Apr 26, Bill W and Lois had to vacate their home at 182 Clinton St. It began an almost two-year period of moving from house to house and staying with friends. By Lois’ count, it amounted to 54 moves. (AACOA 11, 173, LR 197, BW-RT 258, BW-FH 91, PIO 213-218, AACOA 173 says May 1)

Apr 29, Morgan R (former advertising man, asylum patient and friend of Gabriel Heatter) appeared on Heatter’s 9PM radio program We the People. He told his story and made a pitch for the Big Book. Prior to the broadcast, Bill W and others raised $500 ($6,500 today) to mail out 20,000 post cards to physicians about the broadcast. It resulted in only 12 replies. (AACOA 174-176, PIO 210, GB 60-61)

May 10, Led by pioneer member Clarence S (Home Brewmeister) the Cleveland, OH group met separately from Akron and the Oxford Group at the home of Albert (Abby) G (He Thought He Could Drink Like a Gentleman). This was the first group to call itself Alcoholics Anonymous. The Clevelanders still sent their most difficult cases to Dr Bob in Akron for treatment. (AACOA 19-21, NW 94, SI 35, DBGO 161-168, NG 78-79, PIO 224, AGAA 4, 201, 242)

Jun 25, Percy Hutchison of the New York Times wrote a very favorable review of the Big Book. It did not help sales though since the Big Book was not available through bookstores. (BW-FH 127, copy of article)

Summer, Bill W and Hank P attended the first AA meeting in NJ, at Hank’s Upper Montclair house. (AACOA 11)

Aug, Dr Bob and Sister Ignatia (in charge of admissions) started working together at St Thomas Hospital in Akron. On Aug16, Sister Ignatia arranged for the first AA admission, Walter B, at the request of Dr Bob. Bob revealed to Sister Ignatia his own problems with alcohol. (AACOA viii, SI 15-19, NG 79-80 DBGO 187-188)

Aug (?), NY member Bert T put his 5th Ave tailor shop up as collateral to obtain a $1,000 loan ($13,000 today) to keep Works Publishing afloat until the fall. NY members met for a time in the tailor shop loft. (AACOA 177-178, MMM 121, WPR 86)

Sep 30, Liberty Magazine, headed by Fulton Oursler, carried a piece titled Alcoholics and God by Morris Markey (who was influenced to write the article by Charles Towns). It generated about 800 inquiries from around the nation. Oursler (author of The Greatest Story Ever Told) became good friends with Bill W and later served as a Trustee and member of the Grapevine editorial board. (AACOA 176-178, LOH 145, 180-183 BW-FH 127-129, PIO 223-224)

Oct 14, a disappointing review of the Big Book in the Journal of the American Medical Association was quite unfavorable and dismissive of the book. (GB 59) Nevertheless, membership grew suddenly in Cleveland due to the Sep Liberty Magazine article and editorials in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Elrick B Davis. Cleveland membership jumped from a dozen to over 100 in a month. Clarence S called himself the “founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.” (AACOA viii, 177-178, BW-RT 261, LR 197, LOH 145-146, SI 164, PIO 224, AGAA 4-5)

Hank P’s business failed. Hank, Bill W and Ruth Hock moved to a smaller 1-room office at 17 William St, Newark, NJ. (BW-RT 261, AACOA 176)

Oct (late), (AACOA viii says summer) Akron members of the “alcoholic squad” withdrew from the Oxford Group and held meetings at Dr Bob’s house. It was a painful separation due to the great affection the alcoholic members had toward T Henry and Clarace Williams. (NW 93-94, SI 35, DBGO 212-219, NG 81, GTBT 123, AGAA 8-10, 188, 243)

Dec, Rockland State Hospital near Monsey, NY became the first mental hospital to have an AA Group (started by Bob V). Dr Russell E Blaisdell, Superintendent of the hospital, allowed busloads of patients to attend meeting in NY and NJ (AACOA viii, 12, BW-FH 128)

Dec 27, Robert Shaw joined the Alcoholic Foundation Board as the third Chairman and the first non-alcoholic to hold the position. (GSO) Note: at this time the board practice was to use the titles of President and Vice President as opposed to Chair and Vice Chair. The practice continued until 1955.

1940

Jan, Akron meetings moved from Dr Bob’s house to King’s School on Wed. night. (SI 35-36, DBGO 219, NW 94)

Early, the “Rule Number 62” story was sent to Bill W in a letter from a chastened and humbled “promoter member.” (AACOA 103-104, 12&12 147-149, NG 107)

Feb 8, John D Rockefeller Jr. held a dinner for AA at the Union League Club. 75 out of 400 invited guests attended. Nelson Rockefeller hosted the dinner in the absence of his ill father. The dinner produced much favorable publicity for AA. It also raised $2,200 ($29,000 today) from the attendees ($1,000 from Rockefeller). Rockefeller and the dinner guests continued to provide about $3,000 a year ($34,000 today) up to 1945 when they were asked to stop contributing. The Alcoholic Foundation received the donations and income from sales of the Big Book. (LR 197, BW-RT 264-267, AACOA viii, 182-187, NG 92-94, BW-FH 109-112, PIO 232-235)

Feb, the Houston Press ran six articles about AA, written anonymously by Larry J (a former Cleveland, OH member on his way to Houston, TX). The articles became an early AA pamphlet. Soon after, Larry was contacted by Roy Y and AA started in Texas. (AACOA 24, DBGO 259, LR 197)

Feb, the first clubhouse was rented at 334 ½ West 24th St in NYC for $100 a month ($1,300 today). It was formerly the Illustrators Club. (LR 197) In Nov, Bill W and Lois moved into a small upstairs bedroom of the club for about a year. (PIO 239 says 5 months) (AACOA viii, 180-181, 187, BW-RT 272-273, PIO 238-239, GB 64, LOH 147)

Mar 16, (AACOA viii says Feb) the Alcoholic Foundation office moved from 17 William St Newark, NJ to 30 Vessey St, Room 703, in NYC. Its mailing address was Box 658 Church St Annex Post Office. Ruth Hock became AA’s first national Secretary. (BW-RT 268, AACOA 179, 187, LR 129, 197, BW-FH 112, SM S6, PIO 235, LOH 147)

Apr, Hank P got drunk after 4 years sobriety. He had objected violently to the office move to Vessey St, was fighting with his wife, and wanted to divorce her. He wanted to marry Ruth Hock who refused him. (AACOA 179, BW-RT 268, PIO 228-229, WPR 84)

Apr 16, Cleveland Indians baseball star “Rollicking” Rollie H had his anonymity broken in the Cleveland Plains Dealer and nationally. Bill W did likewise in later personal appearances in 1942 and 1943. (AACOA 135, BW-RT 268-270, DBGO 249-253, NG 85-87, 96-96, AACOA 24-25, BW-FH 134-135, PIO 236-238, GTBT 156)

May 22, Works Publishing Co. was incorporated. Bill W and Hank P gave up their stock with the stipulation that Dr Bob and Anne would receive 10% royalties on the Big Book for life. Hank was persuaded to relinquish his shares in exchange for a $200 payment ($2,600 today) for office furniture he claimed belonged to him. (AACOA 189-190, LR 199, BW-FH 119, SM 11, PIO 235-236, GTBT 92)

May/Jun, Hank P, harboring many resentments against Bill W, went to Cleveland and claimed that Bill was getting rich from the Rockefellers and taking the Big Book profits for himself. Clarence S (founder of Cleveland AA and Hank’s brother-in-law for a number of years in the 1940’s) spent many years accusing Bill of financial irregularities and claiming himself as the true founder of AA. (PIO 255-257, BW-FH 131, PIO 231, 255-257)

Oct, Bill W went to Philadelphia to speak to Curtis Bok, one of the owners of the Saturday Evening Post (the largest general circulation magazine in the US with a readership of 3,000,000). Later, in Dec, Jack Alexander was assigned to do a story on AA. (LR 131, BW-RT 278-279, BW-FH 140-141, PIO 244-245, GB 82)

Nov 11, the first issue of the AA Bulletin (later to become Box 459) was mailed to groups. (Box 459 Oct/Nov 2002)

Dec, Bill W met Father Ed Dowling SJ, at the 24th St Clubhouse. Tom M (the caretaker of the club) told Bill he was being visited by “some bum from St Louis.” Father Ed (nicknamed “Puggy”) became Bill’s spiritual sponsor and helped start AA in St Louis, MO. (AACOA 38, LOH 366, BW-RT 275-278, BW-FH 137-139, PIO 241-243, GTBT 120-121)


A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

 
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