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article is written by nationally recognized historian and
oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
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.
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. Bob.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 foundation.
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 May 1938.
Hank P.'s "Observations" section of his marketing
proposal for the book, then being written by Bill, he wrote
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."
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 were made.
will be revealed