A.A.’s History in Photographs

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The following pictures are from various stages of AA’s history and the people who helped create this comfortable way of life.  Enjoy . . .

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Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founders (L-R): Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson (circa 1940′s)

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Dr. Carl Jung

“In the early 1930’s, a well-to-do Vermonter, Rowland H., visited the noted Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung for help with his alcoholism.  Jung determined that Rowland’s case was medically hopeless, and that he could only find relief through a vital spiritual experience.  Jung directed him to the Oxford Group.  Roland later introduced a fellow Vermonter Edwin (“Ebby”) T. to the group, and the two men along with several others were finally able to keep him from drinking by practicing the Oxford Group principles.  One of Ebby’s schoolmate friends from Vermont, and drinking buddy, was Bill W.   Ebby sought out his old friend at his home at 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn, New York, to carry the message of hope.”

Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous website’s – www.aa.org – new history section (http://aa.org/aatimeline/)

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Rowland Hazard

The Oxford Group member who carried the message of recovery from alcoholism by spiritual means to Ebby Thatcher, Bill Wilson’s self-proclaimed sponsor.  Rowland’s journey to sobriety is noted on page 26 in the Big Book noting his experiences with Dr. Carl Jung who worked with Rowland in Switzerland to help him get sober in 1934.  Rowland returned to the U.S., met Ebby get sober through the Oxford Groups, who then (Ebby) carried the message to Bill Wilson.

Bill Wilson and Ebby Thatcher (L-R)

Ebby was the friend written about on page 8 of the Big Book where he carried the message of sobriety through finding a spiritual solution by saying to Bill who struggled with the notion of a power greater than himself by asking him, “Why don’t you find your own conception of God?”  Bill didn’t get sober then, but a short time later he found sobriety and Ebby was Bill’s sponsor.

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Dr. William Duncan Silkworth, MD


Dr. William Duncan Silkworth has probably treated more alcoholics than any other physician in history. Dr. Silkworth authored the “Doctor’s Opinion” which appears in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The good doctor attended Bill Wilson when he got sober at the hospital in New York, and remained an advocate of AA from the very start.  Dr. Silkworth died of a heart attack at his home in 1951.

Dr. Silkworth World War I Picture Plattsburg, NewYork 1911-1918

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The Mayflower Hotel lobby (circa 1930′s) where Bill Wilson made that decision to work with others rather than take that first drink.  His actions led him to a church directory in the lobby where he called everyone on the list before he connected with a minister who put him in touch with Henrietta Seiberling who connected Bill with Dr. Bob Smith who are the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous

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Henrietta Seiberling

Though not herself an alcoholic, Henrietta had enormous compassion for the plights of the “medically incurable” alcoholics who found their way into the fledgling Akron experiment that began in 1935. Against the vehement wishes of her family, Henrietta was an active member of the Oxford Group, organizing meetings and spreading the principles, literature and practices of the movement. She was also the catalyst who got Dr. Bob interested in the meetings and the Oxford Group. She died on December 5, 1979 with an unwavering belief that alcoholics could be cured through a spiritual program.

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The Gatehouse at the Seiberling estate in Akron, Ohio, where in May of 1935 Bill Wilson met Dr. Bob Smith for the first time.  Dr. Bob told his wife Anne before entering the house, to come and get him in 15 minutes after meeting with Bill.  She did, however, over 4 hours later, the two men could hardly be separated.  Early in the conversation, Dr. Bob (who was approximately 20 years older than Bill) said, “son I’m a hopeless drunk, what can you do to help me?”

Bill replied, “I’m not here to help you, I’m here to help me.”  The foundation of “working with others” was the basis for our fellowship then, and today.

Bill Wilson remained in Akron for the remainder of that Spring and through the summer.  Approximately a month or so after their first meeting, Dr. Bob’s first day of permanent sobriety was June 10, 1935; Alcoholics Anonymous’ Founders Day.

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“The Man on the Bed”

Bill W. and Dr. Bob met with Bill D. who turned out to be “AA number 3″ in the Akron City Hospital in the summer of 1935

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Dr. Bob’s house in Akron, Ohio (circa 1930′s) where Bill W. and Dr. Bob developed Alcoholics Anonymous in the summer of 1934

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182 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, New York, Bill W. home and meeting place before and during the writing of the Big Book.

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John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Mr. Rockefeller was an aarly advocate of Alcoholics Anonymous as noted in the Forward to the Second Edition, where he helped AA by not giving us additional funding, so that we would learn to be “self supporting” as our 7th Tradition states.  This way we are not accountable to anyone other than those who “have a desire to stop drinking”.

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T. Henry & Clarace Williams

Active members of the Oxford Group, T. Henry and Clarace held meetings in their home. Termed “the alcoholic squad,” Dr. Bob, Bill D., Henrietta Seiberling, Anne Smith, Henrietta Dotson and other Oxford Groupers gathered in the Williams’ home for Wednesday night meetings from the summer of 1935 through late 1939, moving then to Dr. Bob’s for a few weeks and from there to King School in January 1940. T. Henry and Clarace were criticized by many Oxford Group members who did not support their efforts to extend the program primarily to alcoholics.

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Rev. Samuel Shoemaker

Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker was the pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in New York where he headed the Oxford Group there. He was also a great friend of early AA.  Rev. Shoemaker emphasized the one-on-one sharing approach to guidance.

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The original outline for the Big Book

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The Big Book being written

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Ruth Hock

Ruth Hock was AA’s first secretary and typed the manuscript for the Big Book.

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Works Publishing stock certificate; this was established to help pay for the Big Book’s first edition

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First Edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) published in April 1939

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Click here or on the image to download a PDF of the article

”Publication of “Alcoholics Anonymous” by Jack Alexander in the Saturday Evening Post issue of March 1, 1941, marked a milestone in the history of this fellowship.

Although our national article had been published previously, the Post report on handful of men and women who had achieved sobriety through A.A. was largely responsible for the surge of interest that established the Society on a national and international basis.

The Post story is a reminder of A.A.’s development in a relatively short span of years.  In 1941,  approximately 2,000 men and women were living the A.A. program successfully. Today, the number exceeds 2,000,000, and over 60,000 groups meet regularly throughout the United States, and Canada and in more than 180 countries.

In 1941 Jack Alexander reported upon the sense of humility and service that distinguished the A.A. program and those who then practiced it.  Alcoholics Anonymous has had a tremendous growth since that time.  But the same awareness of our need to continue to serve fellow alcoholics in the spirit of helpfulness and humility remains the cornerstone of our Society. . .”

Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet – The Jack Alexander Article About A.A.

NOTE: This pamphlet can be obtained through AA’s website – www.aa.org – for more details about this historic event in our fellowship

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Bill W. Visiting new member in a hospital (circa 1935-39). Working with others is the basis of our fellowship in the earliest days of Alcoholics Anonymous as it is today!

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Sister Ignatia

Sister Ignatia befriended Dr. Thomas P. Scuderi,
(an emergency room intern who later became Medical Director at St. Thomas Hospital).
She convinced him that alcoholics were sick and accident-prone
and persuaded Dr. Scuderi to allow them to “rest” in the hospital prior to release.
Dr. Scuderi and Sister Ignatia secretly treated Bill D. (later to become AA #3) prior to his meeting Dr. Bob and Bill. She also worked with Dr. Bob, treating the first 5,000 alcoholics for free.
Sister Ignatia gave each of her newly released patients a Sacred Heart medallion, which she asked them to return before they took the first drink

Click here to read The Eulogy Of Sister Ignatia By Rev. Thomas L. Cooan

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Dayton OH Members, 1942

Members wore masks: to protect their anonymity, members of the Dayton, Ohio, AA chapter donned masks while posing for the press in 1942.

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Cleveland AA members prior to the AA’s first conference in Cleveland, Ohio in 1950.  The 12-Traditions were approved this conference.

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Dr. Harry M. Tiebout

Dr. Harry M. Tiebout was the first psychiatrist to see in A.A. a significant approach to the treatment of alcoholics.

(L-R) Dr. Bob Smith, Dr. Harry Tiebout, Bill Wilson (circa early 1940′s)

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Bill and Lois Wilson (founder of Al-Anon Family Groups) and Dr. Bob Smith Before Sobriety

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Bill Wison’s high school graduation picture (circa 1913)

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Bill Wilson just before World War I

(Bill W. is in the back row, far right)

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Bill and Lois Wilson (circa 1918)

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Bill Wilson – U.S. Army officer prior to World War I (circa 1918)

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Bill Wilson – U.S. Army officer prior to World War I (circa 1918)

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Bill and Lois Wilson traveling together in the 1920′s

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Bill and Lois Wilson on their Harley-Davidson in the 1920′s

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Lois Wilson on their Harley-Davidson in the 1920′s

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Lois Wilson (circa 1920′s)

Lois W. along with Anne S. would become the founders of what is now known as Al-Anon Family Groups
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Robert Holbrook Smith – “Dr. Bob”

AA Co-Founder
August 8, 1879 – November 16, 1950
Circa early 1900′s

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Dr. Bob and Anne Smith in the 1940′s

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Dr. Bob’s Prescription pad

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Bill & Lois after Dr. Bob’s funeral in 1950

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Bill W. at Dr. Bob’s grave

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“Stepping Stones”, Bill & Lois Wilson’s home in New York

Wilson bought a house that he and Lois called Stepping Stones on an 8-acre (3.2 hectare) estate in Bedford Hills, New York in 1941, and he lived there with Lois until he died in 1971.  After Lois died in 1988, the house was opened for tours and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Lois Wilson (circa 1940′s)

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Bill W. portrait (circa 1940′s)

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Bill Wilson (circa 1940′s)

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Bill & Lois Wilson in a Christmas photo (circa late 1940′s or early 1950′s)

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Bill and Lois Wilson (circa 1950′s)

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Bill Wilson at an AA Meeting (circa 1960′s)
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Bill Wilson’s obituary

William Griffith Wilson (November 26, 1895 – January 24, 1971)

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Bill Wilson’s Grave in East Dorset, Vermont

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Bill D. (AA number 3) with Helen B. (an early Grapevine editor) – circa 1950′s

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Winchester Cathedral tombstone referenced on page 1 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

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