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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1952 to 1954

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003


Jan 9, the first AFG Hq (the Clearing-house Committee) was set up at the 24th St clubhouse in NYC. (LR 174-176)

Henry (Harry) Z (A Close Shave) joined the Alcoholic Foundation Board. (GSO)

Mar, non-alcoholic groups, previously using names such as AA Helpmates, AA Auxiliary, Triple A, Non-AA, AA Associates, etc. established the name of Al-Anon Family Groups for their Fellowship. (LR 176, CB 142)

AFG sent a memorandum to AA asking permission to use its Twelve Steps. AA agreed unofficially but its members felt strongly that AFG should be a separate society and not a subsidiary of AA. (LR 176)

Apr, the 2nd experimental GSC in NYC. Panel 2 (38 additional delegates) took office for a 2 year term. Its theme was Progress. (NG 130) It recommended that:

  • At the request of the Delegates all sessions of the Conference opened with the Serenity Prayer and concluded with the Lord’s Prayer. (1952 GSC-FR 4)

  • Facsimile reproductions of the Lasker Award be made available to AA Groups in suitable form for framing where desired. (Lit.)

  • Delegates and state committeemen make a special effort to enlighten their groups in respect to the position of the GSO as the functional center of the AA movement. (Fin)

  • The non-alcoholic trustees continue to serve us without restrictions. (Fl Act)

  • The principle of rotation at all levels of AA affairs should be preserved and strengthened. (Fl Act)

Sep, Al-Anon Family Groups adopted an adaptation of the Twelve Traditions of AA. (LR 177-178)

Dec 15, Don L, was admitted as the first alcoholic patient to Cleveland’s St Vincent’s Charity Hospital’s Rosary Hall Solarium alcoholic ward. The ward was built by volunteer AA members and friends to assist (and as a tribute to) Sister Ignatia. The insignia on the door RHS coincided with the initials of Robert Holbrook Smith. It was Sister Ignatia’s dedication as a memorial to Dr Bob. (SI 185-187, 309, LOH 377, AACOA 8)


Apr, the 3rd experimental GSC in NYC. Theme: The Milestones Ahead. It recommended that:

  • Approval be given to plans of the trustees for changing the name of the Alcoholic Foundation to a new designation using “Alcoholics Anonymous” coupled with a suitable word, that word not be “international.” (Fl Act)

  • Alcoholics Anonymous not be incorporated by Congressional action. (Fl Act, AACOA 126-127)

  • No policy should be declared or action taken on matters liable to gravely affect AA as a whole unless by consent of at least 3/4 of the members present. A mere majority should not authorize action. (Fl Act) (Reaffirmed in 1954)

  • Delegates weigh this question for submission to the 1954 Conference: Does the Conference feel it should depart from its purely textbook program by printing non-textbook literature such as the 24 Hour Book of Meditation? (Lit.)

Jun, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was published. (GTBT 37) Bill W described the work as “This small volume is strictly a textbook which explains AA’s 24 basic principles and their application, in detail and with great care.” Betty L and Tom P helped Bill in its writing. Jack Alexander also helped with editing. It was published in two editions: one for $2.25 ($15.50 today) for distribution through AA groups, and a $2.75 ($19 today) edition distributed through Harper and Brothers for sale in commercial bookstores. (AACOA ix, 219, PIO 354-356)

Works Publishing Inc. was renamed to AA Publishing Inc. (NG 68)


Lillian R (actress and nightclub singer) became the first of many celebrities to break their anonymity and announce their alcoholism and membership in AA. Her book (later movie) I’ll Cry Tomorrow was a sensation. In 1955, Susan Hayward’s performance as Lillian won her an Academy Award nomination. Sadly, Lillian went on to drink again. (GB 77, PIO 308-309)

Jan 18, Hank P died in Pennington, NJ. It is attributed to Nell Wing that “if it weren’t for Bill W the Big Book would never have been written. If it weren’t for Hank P the Big Book would never have been published.” Hank was also credited with writing all but the first paragraph of the Big Book’s Chapter 10 To Employers. (www)

Jan 24, Lois W suffered a heart attack on her and Bill’s 38th anniversary. She had to severely restrict her activities for a year (PIO 360-362)

Feb 2, Bill W declined an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Yale U. (LOH 205, GB 69, BW-FH 201)

Feb 14, Bill W’s father Gilman Barrows Wilson, age 84, died penniless in Vancouver. His ashes were returned to East Dorset, VT for burial at the Wilson family plot. (BW-40 10, BW-FH 198, PIO 362)

Apr 21-25, last experimental GSC in NYC. Theme: The Great Debate and the Future of AA. The 4th recommended that:

  • All Conference-approved literature have on its face an identifying symbol. (Lit.)

  • The AA Exchange Bulletin (now Box 459) be approved.

  • The publication rights of Twenty-Four Hours a Day not be accepted. (Fl Act)

  • The Alcoholic Foundation be authorized, in its discretion to transfer all of its assets, subject to all of its liabilities, to a corporation to be formed by the existing trustees to be known as the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous Inc. (Fl Act) (SM S12)

May, Bill W engaged in a series of correspondence with notorious murderer Caryl Chessman who was on San Quentin prison’s death row. (PIO states 1956) (PIO 364-366, BW-FH 198-199)

Sep 17, Bill D, (AA #3) died. (LOH 360)

Oct, the Alcoholic Foundation Inc. was renamed to the General Service Board of AA Inc. (AACOA ix, NG 131)

Oct, the AFG Clearing House incorporated under the name of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. (LR 179)

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

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