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Table of
TABLE OF CONTENTS: alphabetical list by author and title of articles and essays

Part 1
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 1: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

Part 2
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 2: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

Part 3
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 3: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

ESSAYS: spirituality, psychology, philosophy, religion

SPIRITUALITY: A.A. spirituality, philosophy, and religion at hindsfoot.org

Books on
& theology
PHILOSOPHY: books on philosophy and theology published by the Hindsfoot Foundation

in progress
FUTURE PUBLICATIONS IN PROGRESS: A.A. history and spirituality, recovery from alcoholism and addiction

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TO ORDER BOOKS: Hindsfoot Foundation and iUniverse

To contact
TO CONTACT HINDSFOOT: books on Alcoholics Anonymous history, spirituality, alcoholism and addiction treatment

LINKS: other sources on A.A. history, spirituality, and alcoholism treatment


Alcoholics Anonymous History and Archives
A.A. Historical Materials
Part 1

ARTHUR  S. (Arlington, Texas)
A Narrative Timeline of AA History

Arthur S., A Narrative Timeline of AA History is one of the most important reference works which serious researchers into AA history need to have at hand while doing their work. In this 134-page document, Arthur gives not only an extended list of the dates and chronology of AA history, but also -- for each of these items -- careful page references to thirty of the top books on AA history and other sources which the researcher may utilize to learn more on each of these topics. In effect, it is a giant index to a huge collection of some of the best AA historical literature down through the years. And the reader can use the Adobe Acrobat search function to go quickly through the entire length of the document locating all the references to any particular person or topic. Arthur is a computer expert, skilled in numbers and precision calculation, who started his career in Silicon Valley in California, and ended up in Arlington in north Texas (halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth).

Arthur S., Counts of AA Groups and Members year by year, from 1935 to 2012, giving total number of groups and total number of members in the U.S., Canada, overses, in hospitals and prisons, loners and internationals, drawn from various AA official records and publications.

Arthur S., Book Royalties Distributed year by year, from 1951 to 2012, from the sale of the Big Book, the Twelve and Twelve, AA Comes of Age, and As Bill Sees It.

ARTHUR  S. et al.
A.A. Success Rates: a survey of
early and modern statistics

Arthur S. (Arlington, Texas), Tom E. (Wappingers Falls, New York), and Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana):  "Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Recovery Outcome Rates: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation."  Adobe PDF fileMS Word DOC file.  January 1, 2008.  Now generally accepted as the best and most accurate figures assembled to date, compiled and analyzed by three internationally recognized AA historians: one a computer scientist, one a historian at a major state university, and the third author highly skilled in preparing graphs and doing statistical analyses.

The A.A. Triennial Membership Surveys for 1977 through 1989 show that, of those people who are in their first month of attending A.A. meetings, 26% will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of that year.

Of those who are in their fourth month of attending A.A. meetings (i.e., those who have completed their initial ninety days, and have thereby demonstrated a certain willingness to really try the program), 56% will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of that year.

Glenn F. Chesnut, "How to Interpret the A.A. Triennial Membership Surveys."  An explanation of how to read tables and graphs of this sort, with examples drawn from the kind of college enrollment figures which are used by university faculty and administrators to evaluate student retention and graduation rates.

Glenn F. Chesnut, "An A.A. success rate of only one percent would be statistically impossible,"  and so would claims that it was only two percent or five percent successful, drawing upon the known figures of the current population of the United States (300 million), the current number of AA members in the U.S. (one million), and the National Institutes of Health estimate that only 4.38 % of persons aged eighteen and older in the U.S. suffer from alcohol dependence (that is, the kind of chronic hardcore alcoholism which A.A. was developed to treat).

Loran Archer, "The 95% First Year Dropout Myth."  Archer is one of the top U.S. experts on alcoholism. He has served as Director of the California Office of Alcoholism and as Deputy Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The claim made by some of A.A.'s critics, that only 5% of A.A. members will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of their first year, "is inaccurate," Archer says, "and based on flawed statistics."

In addition, the U.S. government's studies show that the A.A. General Service Office, in an urge to be modest and give conservative figures, has significantly undercounted the number of alcoholics who can be determined (on independent grounds) to have attended A.A. meetings and to be using A.A. teachings to stay away from alcohol.

Fifty Books Tracing AA's History

Fifty Books Tracing AA's History  Charlie Bishop, Jr., the Bishop of Books, a noted antiquarian book dealer and bibliographer, spent many years assembling a collection of 15,000 books, pamphlets, and other printed materials published by and about the A.A. movement, which became the nucleus of the world famous Chester H. Kirk Collection on Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous at Brown University. Here is Charlie's selection of what he believes to be the fifty best books to read for a good understanding of A.A. history.

The Four Great A.A. Authors

The four great AA authors Bill W., Richmond Walker, Father Ralph Pfau, and Ed Webster

These were the four most-published early A.A. authors, who form one of the most important parts of A.A.'s Historic Heritage. What was early A.A. like? What kinds of topics did they talk about at their meetings? How did they obtain such an astonishing success rate in getting alcoholics sober? What were they teaching the newcomers who came into the program? Read their books and sit at their feet and learn from the true spiritual masters.

Can we teach this kind of A.A. today? Absolutely! It is being done by good A.A. groups today, including right here in northern Indiana where Hindsfoot is located. When newcomers faithfully attend the once-a-week meeting of an A.A. group which teaches this kind of A.A., we have found that at the end of the year 90% of them will celebrate a full year of sobriety. Even if they move away and start going to A.A. meetings elsewhere (based on what is now fifteen years of experience) 90% of those will still remain sober, for an overall longterm 80% success rate. This is not based on speculative theories about what A.A. was like in the 1930's and 40's, but is being proven over and over right here in the twenty-first century, in the industrial cities and university towns and farming communities of northern Indiana.
1. BILL WILSON was the principal author of Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) and later wrote Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. These are the two central books in A.A. thought. Everything else in the program hinges upon reading these two works over and over again, because those who do so find them an ever-fresh source of new insights.

2. RICHMOND WALKER wrote Twenty-four Hours a Day, the second great book of early A.A.  The good old timers tell us over and over again that they got sober on two books, the Big Book and this one.

At the top of each page Rich lays out basic meat-and-potatoes information about how we used to behave when we were drinking, how we need to change our lives, and what we need to do in order to keep the A.A. fellowship together.

Then at the bottom of each page he tells us how to pray and meditate. This part of the book forms one of the ten greatest practical works on learning to live the spiritual life that have ever been written, in any century, including both the western world and the world of Asian religions. The eleventh step says "Sought through prayer and meditation (a) to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for (b) knowledge of His will for us and (c) the power to carry that out." Rich's little black book tells us how to actually do that.

Rich was a Boston businessman who joined A.A. in May 1942, shortly after the first A.A. group was formed in that city. He originally wrote this material on small cards which he carried in his pocket, to aid him in his own sobriety. The members of the A.A. group in Daytona Beach, Florida, persuaded him in 1948 to publish it in the form of a little black book, which they printed on the printing press at the county courthouse and began distributing all over the country under the sponsorship of their A.A. group.
3. RALPH PFAU wrote the Golden Books under the pen name of Father John Doe, to preserve his anonymity. The twelfth step says "(a) Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried (b) to carry this message to alcoholics, and (c) to practice these principles in all our affairs." The Golden Books tell us how to do the last part, that is, how to bring the principles of the program to bear on our daily lives in the world, how to make decisions in the real world, and how to keep our minds and spirits on an even keel amidst the storms and stresses of everyday life.

Ralph Pfau was a priest in Indianapolis, Indiana, the first Roman Catholic priest to get sober in the A.A. program. On November 10, 1943, he telephoned Doherty Sheerin, who had started the first A.A. group in that city on October 28, 1940. Dohr became his sponsor, and Ralph never drank again.

In June 1947, Ralph conducted a weekend spiritual retreat for A.A. members (70% of them Protestants) at St. Joseph’s College at Rensselaer, Indiana, and gave the attendees (as a souvenir) a little pamphlet with a cover made of gold foil, called the "Spiritual Side," containing the short talks he had given to start up the various group discussion sessions. Afterwards, people began asking for extra copies to give to their A.A. friends.

Between then and 1964, Ralph put together fourteen of these little "Golden Books," based on his talks at A.A. spiritual retreats which he was now giving all over the U.S. and Canada. To give him more time to do A.A. work, he became chaplain of the Good Shepherd Convent in Indianapolis in1950, where a team of three nuns helped him form him own little A.A. publishing house to print and distribute his Golden Books and his other writings to A.A. members all over the globe.
4. ED WEBSTER wrote The Little Red Book, which had a chapter explaining how to work each of the twelve steps. Dr. Bob thought it was the best description of how to work the steps that had ever been written. He sent copies of it all over the U.S. and Canada with his recommendation. Until Dr. Bob's death in 1950, he insisted that the New York A.A. office make copies of this book available for sale through their office.

The Little Red book went through a series of editions: the most important are the first edition which came out in 1946, followed by the two 1947 editions, a 1948 edition, and a 1949 edition which had two printings. At every step in the process, Dr. Bob was putting handwritten notes on the books and manuscripts, giving Ed his suggestions for changes and revisions, all of which Ed incorporated. Dr. Bob (unlike Bill W.) was not a writer, so The Little Red Book is the closest thing we have to knowing how Dr. Bob taught newcomers, and what he thought they ought to know about the twelve steps and how to work them in order to get sober and stay sober for the rest of your life.

Ed Webster got sober in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on December 13, 1941. He and his A.A. friend Barry Collins formed their own little A.A. publishing company, called the Coll-Webb Co., where they printed and distributed copies of this book under the sponsorship of the Nicollet Group in Minneapolis until Ed's death in 1971.

After Dr. Bob's death in 1950, Bill W. wanted to write his own, more highly philosophical discussion of the steps, which would be very different from The Little Red Book (going at it in a way which Dr. Bob would undoubtedly have been suspicious of). Bill W. published this in 1952-3 as the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. He had grave difficulties obtaining the money to print that book, and after it was published, he insisted that the New York A.A. office put its full weight into pushing his book over The Little Red Book, so they would not have a warehouse full of his own unsold books.

Nevertheless, there are many good oldtimers who will tell you that they would never have gotten sober if they had tried to deal with the 12 & 12 right away, when they first came in. It was too complicated, and their minds were still befuddled and confused with the aftereffects of too many years of drinking. They will tell you that they got sober on two books basically -- the Big Book and the 24 Hour book -- followed by a study of the steps in The Little Red Book and the little early A.A. pamphlet called the Tablemate.
5. THE TABLEMATE was an early A.A. set of beginners lessons entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous:  An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps," put out in the form of a little pamphlet. It was (and still is) the most successful set of A.A. beginners lessons ever devised. It breaks the twelve steps down into four groups, which are studied over a period of four weeks:

Discussion No. 1.  The Admission.  Step No. 1.
Discussion No. 2.  The Spiritual Phase.  Steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 11.
Discussion No. 3.  The Inventory and Restitution.  Steps No. 4, 8, 9 and 10.
Discussion No. 4.  The Active Work.  Step No. 12.

This little pamphlet was printed and published by A.A. groups all over the United States, where it became known under a variety of local names:  The Tablemate, the Table Leader's Guide, the Detroit pamphlet, the Washington D.C. pamphlet, the Seattle pamphlet, and so on. The basic text always remained the same. The only local variants came in the little poems and readings which were sometimes printed inside the front and back covers, or between the pages of the four sections.

A.A. oldtimers who knew that period say that everyone acknowledged that it was the A.A. group in Detroit which originally wrote the lessons and used them, probably in mimeographed form. They began giving beginners lessons in Detroit in June 1943. The first printed version was produced by the A.A. group in Washington D.C., which sent a copy to Detroit. The A.A. people there sent that copy to a Detroit printer with instructions to set the type for an exact duplicate (except for putting a Detroit A.A. mailing address on the front cover).

That is the version reproduced on this website, where in 1990, Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana) cleaned up the obvious typographical errors and left off the poems at the beginning and the end. He felt that these were not really part of the lessons, and knew that they varied in the versions produced in different parts of the country. Also he felt that they were sentimental and silly, and of no earthly use in learning how to work the A.A. program!

A.A. newcomers in South Bend, Indiana, were asked to come to a newcomers meeting on Thursday evenings for a full year. At each meeting, the pamphlet (in the form in which it appears on this website) was passed around the table, with each person in turn reading aloud a small portion of one of the four lessons. Then there was a group discussion. By using a different lesson each week, by the end of the year each lesson had been read through and discussed thirteen times. Busloads of people from treatment centers and halfway houses started being brought in, as news spread of the marvelously successful new beginners lessons.**

The success rate? If newcomers made every week's meeting without fail, by the end of the year 90% of them had remained sober the entire year. Even now, many years later, 90% of those still have unbroken sobriety. That is an overall longterm 80% success rate, comparable to the kinds of success rates that were being achieved in early A.A. times.

Bobby Burger, the secretary at the New York A.A. headquarters (then called the Alcoholic Foundation) wrote a letter on November 11, 1944, making it clear that the New York office heartily approved of A.A. groups using the little pamphlet. And if we want real oldtime A.A., we must read and study the actual words of the good oldtimers in our A.A. meetings. Little pamphlets from the modern New York G.S.O. are not designed to be the kind of good solid meat-and-potatoes literature which must be read and studied and discussed in meetings in order to keep the spirit of original old time A.A. alive and still saving alcoholics from destruction today.
**CAUTION:  To make the South Bend method work, it is necessary that at least three A.A. people be present at each meeting who have some quality time in the program, are well founded in A.A. principles, and know how to speak about them effectively in group meetings. It requires a commitment on the part of the local A.A. community if they really want to make this work. Otherwise, in spite of the pamphlet, the tendency of the newcomers is invariably to want to spend all their time griping and complaining about minor irritations in their lives, groveling in self pity about the fact that the people in the halfway house "aren't nice to them," and to go off into other diversions of that sort, until everything breaks down into total ineffectuality.

Richmond Walker

Glenn F. Chesnut, "Richmond Walker and the Twenty-Four Hour Book," talk given at the 8th National Archives Workshop, September 27, 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Practicing the Presence of God:  the path to soul-balance and inner calm. The great spiritual teaching of Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hours a Day. Learning how to quiet our minds and practice the Prayer Without Words, where we enter the Divine Silence.

Richmond Walker's autobiographical memoir. The story of his life given in his own words. An extremely important primary source for the study of this major figure in early Alcoholics Anonymous history.

Richmond Walker in A.A. History: Chronology of His Life

Glenn F. Chesnut, "The Earliest Printings of Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hours a Day."  From the collection of Jack H. (Scottsdale, Arizona): description of one of the first Florida printings of Rich's book (first published 1948), the later Florida printings, the first Hazelden printing (1954), and the later Hazelden printings. Photos of title pages and end pages are included.

Photos of Richmond Walker and his family.  Seeing what Rich and the various family members looked like -- they were the old Boston wealth -- can help in understanding some of the things that he was talking about in his autobiographical memoir (and also in the many autobiographical sections of Twenty-Four Hours a Day).

The early editions of God Calling by Two Listeners, which Rich revised to produce the small print meditations at the bottom of each page in Twenty-four Hours a Day. The dates and publishers of the earliest editions of God Calling, and what we know about the Two Listeners who wrote it, and the Oxford Group version of automatic writing which they employed: one of the women acted as a medium, channeling the spirit of Jesus and speaking Jesus' words aloud, while the other woman wrote the words down on paper.

Ralph Pfau (Father John Doe)

Glenn F. Chesnut, "Father Ralph Pfau: Alcoholics Anonymous Author and American Catholic Thinker," October 2009. Topics include his founding of the National Catholic Council on Alcoholism, the NCCA Blue Book, the major influence of Spanish translations of his writings on early AA in the Spanish Catholic world, scrupulosity and obsessive-compulsive perfectionism, the problem of guilt and shame, the influence of St. Therese of Lisieux's teaching of the Little Way and St. Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings, theological disagreements with Father Ed Dowling, Fr. Ralph's argument that AA dealt only with the via purgativa (and was not involved in the via illuminativa or via unitiva), his insistence that the Big Book taught only natural theology and natural law morality, his work to spread the teachings of the early cognitive-behaviorist psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Low and Recovery Inc. (which used the modern study of semantics to counter Freud and Schopenhauer), his theory of sinner saints "sanctified" because their willingness to keep on trying has been "sanctioned" by God, his campaign to win sainthood for Matt Talbot, the Third Covenant Controversy at the AA International in 1950, his falling out with Bill W. over anonymity (and their making peace in Toronto in 1965).

Glenn F. Chesnut, "Ralph Pfau (Father John Doe) and the Golden Books," talk given at the 6th National Archives Workshop, September 29, 2001, Clarksville, Indiana-Louisville, Kentucky.

Photos of Father Ralph from the Archdiocesan Archives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ed Webster

Ed Webster (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and his most important writing, the The Little Red Book, first published in 1946. This section also includes letters from the New York A.A. office (Bobby Burger and Bill Wilson) making it clear that A.A. groups any place in the world could read from this book in their meetings and use it for group study. Note particularly Bill W.'s words: "Here at the Foundation we are not policemen; we're a service and AAs are free to read any book they choose."

The first edition of The Little Red Book and a comparison of this 1946 edition with the later 1949 edition, showing some of the major changes in wording. Some of these alterations arose from comments made by Dr. Bob, who read through all of Ed's material at various stages along the way. Even after Dr. Bob was gone, Ed Webster continued revising the text of this book on his own all the way down to his own death in 1971.

Instructor's Outline written by Pat Cronin, the founder of A.A. in Minneapolis, for the old-time Minneapolis A.A. beginners classes which were begun in May 1942 at 2218 First Avenue South. This recently discovered document is extremely important because it gives us our earliest known example of formal A.A. beginners classes as they were given in early A.A.
When Ed Webster was asked to conduct Class No. 1 in December 1943, he presumably had access to Pat's outline. Over the next three years, however, he totally rewrote, reorganized, and expanded the material for all twelve steps, and finally published his own version of the beginners lesson in 1946 as a 116-page booklet entitled An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous Program. This was the first edition of the book which eventually came to be called The Little Red Book because of the color of its cover.
Founders Day in Minnesota:  Photographs taken at the 1946 Founders Day gathering at Kare Phree Pines, Minnesota, provided by Archivist Jim D. (Holt, Michigan) and the Lansing Archives. The four Founders Day Camping Trips held in Minnesota and organized by the Nicollet Group during the summers of 1944, 45, 46, and 47 brought together a number of well known early A.A. figures, including not only Dr. Bob but also many other early A.A. leaders from various midwestern cities.
These snapshots include photos of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith, Barry Collins from Minneapolis (who helped Ed Webster publish The Little Red Book), and Earl Treat (the founder of A.A. in Chicago), as well as photos of A.A. members and their wives from Peoria, Illinois, and Waterloo, Iowa.

Ed Webster attended these gatherings of course. There was a good deal of mutual contact and sharing of ideas between him, Dr. Bob, and the founders of A.A. in midwestern states like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa.

We could describe The Little Red Book as the best compendium around of the good, solid, practical, early A.A. material Dr. Bob and his circle in the upper midwest regarded as the most important things to teach newcomers. This is A.A. without fancy philosophy, just the basic meat and potatoes.
Bar Room Reveries, a joke book which Ed Webster wrote and published in 1958. Photos of the front and back covers and some of the pages. There was never a second printing, so this is a very rare book. Not many copies have survived.

The Little Red Book Bulletin Number Thirteen was a little pamphlet mailed out every few months to people who were using The Little Red Book to study the twelve steps. This one is number three, dated 1953. Ed Wilson and Barry Collins begin by telling their readers that they are sending these leaflets out
... in real appreciation ... for our privilege of service to you through the medium of The Little Red Book. It has been a privilege, indeed, and we are happy to continue this effort, of help and sponsorship, by sending complimentary copies of Bulletin Number Thirteen to users of The little Red Book. The Bulletin will be edited every few months and mailed to you as a partial fulfillment of our 12th. Step duty. We hope it may become a means of mutual help to better understanding of the A.A. Program. May it expedite our application, growth and maturity in the Way of Life which we have chosen. This is our humble ambition.

The Tablemate

The Tablemate, whose official title is "Alcoholics Anonymous:  An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps," was known under a variety of different local names in early A.A. circles. It is sometimes also called the Table Leader's Guide, the Detroit pamphlet, the Washington D.C. pamphlet, and so on. It was based on the four-week Beginners Lessons that began to be used in early Detroit A.A. in June 1943. It is the best surviving set of A.A. beginners lessons, and can be used with enormous effectiveness today. In spite of its deceptively short length, it in fact not only leads beginners into an understanding of how to work the steps, but also gives them a quiet introduction to the spirit of some of the early recommended literature (Emmet Fox, James Allen, and so forth) which went more deeply into the underlying spiritual foundations of the early program. In fact, if you are charge of introducing a group of A.A. newcomers to the program, there is nothing else which even begins to be as effective.

Although there are people who are almost fantically devoted to Wally P.'s Back to Basics: The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners' Meetings, the only parts of that long book which actually work effectively are the parts which he took over and quoted verbatim from the Tablemate. But the original Tablemate pamphlet from Detroit is far shorter and easier to understand, far less expensive to provide to the newcomers, and far less confusing to them. Our experience in A.A. in northern Indiana in recent years has been that people who go through lessons based on Wally P.'s book do no better in fact than people who go to any other kind of A.A. meetings, but that if you take a group of newcomers and have them spend an entire year working through the Tablemate over and over, at the end of that year, 90% of the newcomers who have attended each week without fail will still be sober. And even some years later, 90% of those are still sober today, which is around an 80% success rate overall. This is one of the ways which can be used today to achieve the kind of success rate that was reported in early A.A. (there are also other successful methods).

The Tablemate also gives a far more sophisticated and useful set of virtues than the Four Absolutes. The four Oxford Group virtues -- Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love -- are certainly worthy goals, but as Bill W. warned, the alcoholic ego does not do well trying to be absolutistic about anything (except not drinking). In fact one central problem in dealing with alcoholics is in trying to get them to quit being so absolutistic about every single thing they believe!

Even more importantly, the typical alcoholic in fact has a good many other virtues that he or she also ought to be striving for in addition to those four:  as the Tablemate points out, Humility for starters (!!!), along with Generosity, Simple Justice, Honest Pride in work well done, Simplicity, Patience, Industry (go to work and really work), Faith, Hope, Trust, Willingness, Open-Mindedness, and so on.

And as the Detroit Pamphlet warns, we also need to avoid a whole series of common alcoholic vices: Egotism, False Pride, Impatience, Jealousy, Envy, and Laziness. The Tablemate can serve as one of the best guides to doing the Fourth Step ever written, and discusses a set of character defects which "fit" a good many more alcoholics than the seven deadly sins or breaches of the four absolutes, if we restrict ourselves to either of those two short lists and look at those four (or seven) issues alone.

The Upper Room

The Upper Room and Early A.A.  From 1935 to 1948, most A.A. members read The Upper Room every morning for their morning meditation. Although the Oxford Group had the greatest influence on the development of early A.A., this little paperback booklet may well have been the second greatest influence on early A.A. spirituality. This article gives selections from the readings in some of the issues of The Upper Room published in 1938 and 1939, along with commentary explaining some of the ideas which A.A. drew from this source: the understanding of character and character defects, happiness as an inside job, the Divine Light within, warnings against being too imprisoned by doctrines, dogmas and church creeds, the dangers of resentment, instructions about how to pray, entering the Divine Silence, learning to listen to God, opening the shutters of my mind to let in the Sunlight of the Spirit, taking life One Day at a Time, and above all, remembering that God is present with me at all times: "Nearer is he than breathing, closer than hands or feet."

The old Akron reading list
for A.A. beginners

(A Manual for Alcoholics Anonymous: THE AKRON MANUAL, published by the Akron group in 1942, with Dr. Bob's approval we must assume, gives a list at the end of recommended readings for newcomers to A.A., so that they might better understand the spiritual aspects of the program. "The following literature," the pamphlet says, "has helped many members of Alcoholics Anonymous.")

Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book).

The Holy Bible.

(The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, the letter of James, 1 Corinthians 13, and Psalms 23 and 91 were all mentioned earlier in the pamphlet. These were favorite passages, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, for early twentieth century classical Protestant liberals.  The enormously popular book by Adolf Harnack, What Is Christianity? was a major liberal Protestant manifesto. Christianity was about the simple teaching of the historical Jesus, as shown especially in passages like the Sermon on the Mount, not about complex doctrines and dogmas cast in pagan Greek philosophical terms. These terms appear nowhere in the Bible, Harnack said, and were a later medieval distortion. Real Christianity was not about saying the right technical doctrinal words, but about showing love and compassion towards our fellow human beings. As the Letter of James said, "Faith without works is dead." The Upper Room, which was the meditational book most often used by early A.A.'s before Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hour book came along in 1948, was published by the classical Protestant liberals and was a good statement of their fundamental principles: starting the day with prayer and meditation, with short Bible verses for each day's reading that stressed dependence on God as our loving Father and walking with Jesus and his love in our hearts, God-consciousness, doing good, and showing love to everyone around us.)

The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond.

The Unchanging Friend, a series (Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee).

As a Man Thinketh, James Allen.

The Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox (Harper Bros.).

The Self You Have to Live With, Winfred Rhoades.

Psychology of Christian Personality, Ernest M. Ligon (Macmillan Co.).

Abundant Living, E. Stanley Jones.

The Man Nobody Knows, Bruce Barton.

(In the summer of 2004, Hindsfoot will be publishing Mel B., Three Recovery Classics, making two of these works once more available:  James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, and Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World.)

The early Akron pamphlets

THE AKRON MANUAL:  A Manual for Alcoholics Anonymous first half and second half. This manual, originally printed in 1942, assumes that the newcomer to A.A. will begin by being hospitalized at St. Thomas for detoxification under the care of Sister Ignatia and the overall supervision of Dr. Bob. It is not only an extremely valuable document for understanding early Akron A.A., many parts of its advice to newcomers (and the people who sponsor them) are still totally relevant today.
A comparison of the Longer Version and the Shorter Versions of the Akron Manual  This text of the LONGER VERSION of the Akron Manual was prepared by Bent Christensen in Denmark, who went through it and used curly brackets {    } to mark all the passages which were omitted in the SHORTER VERSION. The version the Akron Intergroup is selling in 2011 (the SHORTER VERSION) is labeled by them as the "sixth revised edition."

The version which Barefoot Bob (Post Falls, Idaho) posted online (the LONGER VERSION) is clearly older, and gives a better view of early Akron AA, as it existed in 1942 -- how they conducted their AA meetings, the way they hospitalized alcoholics for initial treatment, the books the newcomers were advised to read, their use of the Upper Room as their central piece of meditational literature, and so on. LONGER VERSION from Barefoot Bob is online here. It was reposted by Glenn C. on the Hindsfoot site, see immediately above.

See AAHistoryLovers Message No. 7516: The cover of the pamphlet talks about alcoholics in Akron with five, six and seven years of sobriety and on page 15 it states that the Akron Group has been in existence for seven years. Dr. Bob and Bill Dotson both got sober in June 1935, which meant that they would have had seven years of sobriety in June of 1942. Likewise, the Akron Group would have been in existence for seven years in June 1942. The latest book on the Manual's reading list was E. Stanley Jones' Abundant Living, which was first published in 1942.

Also see Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 209, n. 72: "Mitch K. supplied the author with a pamphlet given him by Clarence S., and which is entitled "A Manual for Alcoholics Anonymous." It states: "This pamphlet was written and edited by members of Alcoholics Anonymous Group No. 1, popularly known as the King School Group. Akron Group No. 1 is the original chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous and includes in its active membership one of the organization's founders, the first person to accept the program, and a large number of other members whose sobriety dates back five, six and seven years. The text of this pamphlet has been approved by the membership."
Second Reader for Alcoholics Anonymous (Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF file). A second pamphlet for beginners produced by the early Akron A.A. group during the 1940's.

Spiritual Milestones in Alcoholics Anonymous (Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF file). A third pamphlet written and published by the early Akron A.A. group during the 1940's. Like the other three pamphlets, this one is very valuable for understanding how early Akron A.A.'s understood the A.A. program.

THE AKRON GUIDE TO THE TWELVE STEPS:  A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, used to explain the steps to the beginners who had just joined A.A.  Also from the 1940's. This is an extremely good introduction, explaining how we understand and work the Twelve Steps, in extremely simple and practical language which helps to clear up a lot of the common misunderstandings which newcomers fall into when they first come into the program. It would be an extremely useful little pamphlet to hand out to beginners in the A.A. program today.

Sister Ignatia

Alcoholics Anonymous history, Sister Ignatia in the chapel of St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio

Sister Ignatia
In the chapel at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, in the
choir loft where A.A. members would kneel to pray

William E. Swegan's article on Kent State University and Sister Ignatia gives a detailed description of Sister Ignatia's alcoholic ward at St. Thomas hospital in Akron, as Swegan observed it in 1951. By this time there were resident psychiatrists at the hospital to treat any major psychiatric problems, and they were well beyond the primitive karo syrup and sauerkraut detoxing methods.
The three most famous types of earlyAA-related alcoholism treatment program were Sister Ignatia's strongly spiritual program, Swegan's Lackland-Long Beach Model (which was more in tune with the atheistic and agnostic wing of AA), and the Minnesota Model, which put the alcoholics in a facility where they were isolated from the outside world and guided to a greater degree by psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and alcoholism counselors, than by AA people who were concentrating purely on AA principles.
Sister Ignatia's birthplace in Ireland  Photos of the just discovered ruins of the two-roomed stone cottage where Sister Ignatia Gavin, the Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous, was born on 1 January 1889 at Shanvalley, Burren, in County Mayo. Photos and description (13 July 2008) by the Irish AA historian Fiona D.

More on Sister Ignatia's birthplace in Ireland:  The Neary family's rental holdings in Griffith's Land Valuation of 1855  When Patrick Gavin and Barbara Neary (Ignatia's father and mother) got married, the couple set up housekeeping in a part of County Mayo where numerous members of the Neary family lived, renting land on the Earl of Lucan's estate.  From Irish AA historian and archivist Fiona D. in County Mayo.

Seven-year-old Ignatia sails from Ireland to America in 1896  Emigration records showing the Gavin family sailing from Queenstown (now Cobh) in Cork on the SS Indiana on 2 April 1896, arriving in Philadelphia on 17 April 1896, with photographs of the ship and harbor.  From Irish AA historian Fiona D. (County Mayo).

Sister Ignatia:  baptismal record (birth certificate) and the passenger manifest for the SS Indiana  Sister Ignatia's date of birth, as given in some of the older historical sources, needs to be corrected. Born Bridget Gavin, this photograph of her baptismal record shows that she was born on 1 January 1889. This is the date which should be used. Also photographs of the three sheets of the original passenger manifest showing Sister Ignatia and her family embarking on the SS Indiana.  From Irish AA historian Fiona D. (County Mayo).

Sister Ignatia:  her parents' marriage certificate   the Church Marriage Record for Sister Ignatia's parents, Patrick Gavin and Barbara Neary, who married on 29 January 1882.  From Irish AA historian Fiona D. (County Mayo).

The Fourth Earl of Lucan:  Sister Ignatia was born on his estate  in County Mayo in Ireland.  From Irish AA historian Fiona D. (County Mayo).

More on early Akron and Cleveland A.A.

Glenn Chesnut, AA and Oxford Group meetings in Akron and Cleveland: 1938-1942  A short description of how the earliest AA meetings were conducted in these two cities, drawn from Mitchell K.'s How It Worked (containing Clarence Snyder's accounts of early AA life), J.D. Holmes' reminiscences in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers and in his memoirs in the New York Archives (there are copies of these memoirs also in various Indiana state AA archives), and in the 1942 Akron Manual. This talk was given by Glenn Chesnut as part of a panel discussion at the Sedona Mago AA History Symposium in Sedona, Arizona, February 21-23, 2014.
Glenn F. Chesnut, AA meetings in Akron and Cleveland in 1938-1942: their use of Oxford Group practices, Emmet Fox, and The Upper Room  A longer description of how AA meetings were held during that period, with more detailed acounts of what they drew from Emmet Fox's writings and from the daily meditations in The Upper Room.
THE 1938 AMOS LIST:  John Barton has recently discovered a copy of this important document, which contains the names and sobriety dates of the earliest A.A. members. It is Dr. Bob's handwritten list of current members, drawn up by him in February of 1938 and provided to Frank Amos. This roster was referenced and attached to the February 23, 1938 "Notes on Akron, Ohio, Survey" by Frank Amos and was provided under cover letter by Willard Richardson to John D. Rockefeller dated February 23, 1938. John B. has sent us a photocopy of the original handwritten manuscript and also his own typewritten transcript of the document.

First 226 Members of the Akron Ohio AA Group  A list made during the 1940's of the first 226 members of the A.A. group in Akron, Ohio, including people who later went on to found A.A. groups in other places, like Chicago, Detroit, and Indiana.

ANNE RIPLEY SMITH (March 21, 1881 -- June 1, 1949):
Anne Smith's Journal: copy of the text sent to us by Ralph C., who says that it is a transcript of a photocopy of the journal which was kept by Dr. Bob's wife from 1933-1939.
Anne Smith's Ohio death certificate and Akron Beacon Journal newspaper obituary sent to us by George Bailey. These two documents show that the correct date of birth for Anne Smith is March 21, 1881, not March 3 (as some later AA histories claim).

Renner's Beer Wagon, Akron, Ohio, early 1900s

Renner's Beer Wagon
in Akron, Ohio

When Prohibition ended, at 12:01 A.M., on April 7, 1933, in a
persistent cold rain, a crowd of 2,000 people waited in line outside
the George J. Renner Brewing Company's brewery on Forge Street
in Akron to purchase some of the 5,000 cases of their Grossvater
brand beer that were available at $3.25 per case. By noon the next
day, 10,000 cases had been sold at the brewery and through
shipments all over northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Conference-approved literature

Glenn C., article on Conference-approved literature, plus letters from the New York A.A. headquarters (Bobbie Burger and Bill W.), comments by Bob Pearson (General Manager of the General Service Office in New York), and some thoughts on this subject by A.A. historians Barefoot and Dick B.
All of the above say the same thing:  A.A. members can read any books they believe will help them obtain sobriety and spiritual growth, A.A. groups can read from any literature they wish to in their meetings, and A.A. groups, intergroups, and conferences can sell any literature which they choose to.
The following statement is taken from service material distributed by the GSO in New York:
"The term 'Conference-approved' describes written or audiovisual material approved by the Conference for publication by GSO. This process assures that everything in such literature is in accord with AA principles. Conference-approved material always deals with the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous or with information about the AA Fellowship."

"The term has no relation to material not published by GSO. It does not imply Conference disapproval of other material about AA.  A great deal of literature helpful to alcoholics is published by others, and AA does not try to tell any individual member what he or she may or may not read."

"Conference approval assures us that a piece of literature represents solid AA experience. Any Conference-approved booklet or pamphlet goes through a lengthy and painstaking process, during which a variety of AAs from all over the United States and Canada read and express opinions at every stage of production."

Sgt. Bill S.

Sgt. Bill S. is the great representative of the group within early A.A. who stressed the psychological rather than the spiritual side of the A.A. program. He was the only member of that group who ever put anything down in writing. Their methods worked too, and they were highly respected by all the good oldtimers of that time.

In Sgt. Bill S., On the Military Firing Line in the Alcoholism Treatment Program, he tells the story of his life and gives his interpretation of the twelve step program. There are many who would want to put his photo at the top of this page, as a fifth Great A.A. Author. He is still very much alive and active, and loves to go around speaking at A.A. conferences, where the audience listens to him so intently that you could hear a pin drop! People flock to the hospitality rooms at these conferences to sit down and bare their souls to him, for there is a spirit of wisdom and compassion -- and a willingness to actually listen to you, gently and nonjudgmentally -- which surrounds him almost like an aura.

Sgt. Bill S. (who is now living in Sonoma, California) originally got sober in 1948 on Long Island, in the New York City area. He was a Pearl Harbor survivor, who was drinking himself to death (literally) after the end of the Second World War. He originally learned his A.A. from Mrs. Marty Mann and Yev Gardner in New York, Dr. E. M. Jellinek at the Yale School of Alcohol Studies, and Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio. Bill and the world famous psychiatrist Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West created the Lackland Model of alcoholism treatment, one of the three basic methods for setting up A.A.-related treatment programs, in San Antonio, Texas in the early 1950's. They achieved a totally documented 50% success rate even in that kind of difficult treatment situation. Bill was a good friend of Searcy's in Dallas, Texas, and was known and loved by a large number of the other good oldtimers. The U.S. Navy gave Bill the highest award that could be given to a civilian, for the work he later did in helping Navy people recover from alcoholism.

Poster for the celebration of Sgt.Bill S.'s
56th A.A. anniversary in Petaluma, California
which was held on July 17, 2004

Sgt. Bill S. (Sonoma, California), The Challenge of Normalcy, Grapevine (November 1955), pp. 34-36. Bill wrote this nice little piece in one of the early issues of the A.A. Grapevine explaining what newcomers need to do when they finally fall off the pink cloud they were walking on for the first few weeks or months.

How A.A. Came to Indiana

How A.A. Came to Indiana  is a series of articles by Frank N. (Syracuse IN), Beth M. (Lafayette IN), John S. (Fort Wayne IN), Bruce C. (Muncie IN), Bob E. (Evansville IN), Neil S. (Fishers IN) and others, ed. by Glenn C. (South Bend IN), telling the story of the early Alcoholics Anonymous movement in the state of Indiana.

Leaves of the tulip poplar tree, the Indiana state tree
Leaves of the tulip tree,
the Indiana state tree

A man named J. D. Holmes, who had been the tenth person to get sober in Akron, established the first A.A. group in Indiana in Evansville, down on the Ohio river, in April or May of 1940. The movement quickly began spreading to other parts of Indiana:  Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and by 1943, South Bend up in the far northern end of the state. These articles also talk about the early A.A. prison group at Michigan City, early black A.A. leaders in Indiana, and other topics in Indiana A.A. history.

A.A. history: Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Anne S. in California in the 1940's

A group of A.A. people in California (possibly Long
Beach) in the 1940's: Bill W. is on the right, Dr. Bob is on
the left, and Anne Smith (with cigarette) is in the center.