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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1945 to 1948

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003


Bill W started seeing psychotherapist, Dr Frances Wickes (a Jungian) once a week on Fridays. He continued to see her until 1949 for his episodes of depression. (BW-FH 166-167, GB 66, PIO 334-335)

Apr, Earl T, founder of AA in Chicago (He Sold Himself Short) suggested to Bill W that he codify the Traditions and write essays on them in the Grapevine. Initially, the Twelve Traditions were later presented as An Alcoholics Anonymous Tradition of Relations - Twelve Points to Assure Our Future.. (AACOA 22, 203, GTBT 54-55, 77, SM S8, PIO 306, LOH 20-24)

Apr, the Grapevine included a questionnaire by E M Jellinek. It solicited information from the AA membership that was later used to produce a chart titled The Progressive Disease of Alcoholism (also popularly called the Jellinek Chart). (1989 GSC-FR 24)

Bill W was called by Barry L (who would later author Living Sober) from the 41st St clubhouse. Bill persuaded the group to take in a black man who was an ex-convict with bleach-blond hair, wearing women’s clothing and makeup. The man also admitted to being a “dope fiend.” When asked what to do about it, Bill posed the question, “did you say he was a drunk?” When answered, “yes” Bill replied, “well I think that’s all we can ask.” The man was reported to have disappeared shortly after. (BW-FH 8, PIO 317-318) Anecdotal accounts erroneously say that this individual went on to become one of the best 12th Steppers in NY. This story is often erroneously intermingled with that of a 1937 incident (“year two” on the AA calendar) involving an Akron member that is discussed in the Tradition Three essay in the (12&12 pgs 141-142).

Jun, the Grapevine announced that Bill W would be a senior editorial advisor and contribute future articles.

Jun 9-10, Cleveland, OH hosted a 2-day “Big Meeting” at the Cleveland Music Hall and Carter Hotel to celebrate AA’s 10th anniversary. Est. attendance 2,500 from 36 states, 2 Canadian provinces and 1 from Mexico. Bill W commented on Dr Bob “although we have had many differences, we have never had an angry word.” Dr Bob commented that over the last 10 years he averaged at least an hour’s reading per day and “always returned to the simple teachings in The Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James and the 13th chapter of First Corinthians in the Bible for his fundamentals.” (GSO, GTBT 27-28, Gv Jun and Jul 1945)

Aug, the Grapevine carried Bill W’s first article (titled Modesty One Plank for Good Public Relations) setting the groundwork for his campaign for the Traditions. The Jul Grapevine edition had an article by member CHK of Lansing, MI about the Washingtonians. Bill used this article to begin his essay commentaries.

Oct 20, Dr William Duncan Silkworth was hired as director of alcoholic treatment at the Knickerbocker Hospital in NYC. He worked at both the Towns and Knickerbocker Hospitals until his death in 1951. Alcoholics were referred to the “AA Ward” at Knickerbocker Hospital by the NY Intergroup Association. (SW 83, AACOA 206)

Dec 20, Rowland H (age 64) died. It is unclear whether he stayed sober or relapsed. Tragically, he lost his two eldest sons in World War II. He remained a member of the Oxford Group (Moral Re-Armament). There is no evidence that he ever joined AA. (www, EBBY 59)

Dec, the Grapevine announced it would add four more pages and raised the subscription rate to $2.50 ($25 today) per year (or 25 cents per copy - $2.50 today) starting in Jan 1946. Bill W sent a letter to 600 groups that the Grapevine would be the national AA periodical.

Late, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett made Charles R Jackson’s novel The Lost Weekend into a hard-hitting movie about alcoholism for Universal Pictures. It starred Ray Milland and Jane Wyman and won four Oscars (best picture, director, screenplay and actor). Its realistic portrayal of alcoholism generated favorable publicity for AA. (GTBT 25, 156, NG 120, GB 77, WPR 94, www)

The Alcoholic Foundation wrote to John D Rockefeller, Jr. and the 1940 dinner guests that AA no longer needed their financial help. Big Book royalties could look after Dr Bob and Bill W and Group contributions could pay the general office expenses. This ended all “outside contributions” to AA. (AACOA 203-204)


Apr, the Grapevine carried Bill W’s article Twelve Suggested Points for AA Tradition. They would later be called the long form of the Twelve Traditions. (AACOA viii, 96, 203, LOH 20, 154)

The General Service Conference was first projected. (LOH 338, SM 12 says 1945)

A dispute rose over a funding solicitation letter from the National Council for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA) by Marty M. Dr Bob and Bill W’s names appeared on the letterhead. An Alcoholic Foundation Board statement on fund raising was printed in the Oct Grapevine to disavow AA affiliation. (GTBT 29, NG 119, MMM 185)

AA Grapevine Inc. was legally incorporated as one of the two publishing arms of the Alcoholic Foundation. It had a board of directors of five members. (1989 GSC-FR 24)


Feb 20, Charles B Towns died. (SD 86)

Mar 3, Nell Wing started work at the Alcoholic Foundation, 415 Lexington Ave, NYC. Starting as a typist earning $32 a week ($260 today) she stayed for 36 years. (GTBT 15, GB 67)

Apr 8, following a year of deliberations on policy and structure, Bill W wrote a paper to the Alcoholic Foundation titled Our AA General Service Center - The Alcoholic Foundation of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It outlined a history of the Foundation and recommended implementation of a General Service Conference. It also recommended that the Foundation name be changed to the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous. (www, copy of paper)

Jun, in the 11th printing of the first Ed. Big Book, the term “ex-alcoholic” was replaced by the terms “ex-problem drinker" or “non-drinker.” (www)

Jun, the AA Preamble first appeared in the Grapevine. It was written by Tom Y, Grapevine’s first editor. The Grapevine also announced the availability of a set of two 12-inch phonograph records of a general talk on AA by Bill W at $3.30 per set ($27 today). (1991 GSC-FR 23)

Summer, Bill W took instructions in the Catholic faith from Monsignor (later Bishop) Fulton J Sheen. Bill was introduced to Bishop Sheen by Fulton and Grace Oursler. Bill’s instructions lasted for about a year after which he lost interest. (NG 52, BW-FH 174-175, PIO 280-282, GTBT 81, GB 66)

Aug, in his Grapevine Traditions essay titled Last Seven Years Have Made AA Self-Supporting, Bill W wrote “Two years ago the trustees set aside, out of AA book funds, a sum which enabled my wife and me to pay off the mortgage on our home and make some needed improvements. The Foundation also granted Dr Bob and me each a royalty of 10% on the book Alcoholics Anonymous, our only income from AA sources. We are both very comfortable and deeply grateful.” (LOH 62-66)

Dec, the Grapevine carried a notice that an important new 48-page pamphlet titled AA Traditions was sent to each group and that enough copies were available for each member to have one free of charge.

Dr Bob was stricken with cancer. (AACOA 209, BW-RT 303-304)


Summer, Dr Bob’s cancer was diagnosed as terminal. He closed his medical office and retired from practice so that he and Anne could live their last days together quietly. In his last year, Dr Bob fulfilled a life-long dream of obtaining a convertible automobile (a black Buick Roadmaster). (DBGO 320, 348)

Aug, the Grapevine announced that, based on a subscriber survey, the Sep issue would be in a new pocketsize 5 ½ x 7 ½ inches format of 32 pages.

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

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