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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1955 to 1957

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003


Jan 6, Bill W’s stepmother Christine Wilson died. (PIO 362)

Apr, the General Service Board adopted the practice of using the titles Chairman and Vice Chairman instead of President and Vice President. (GSO)

Jun 26-29 and Jul 3, held in St Louis, MO. The 5th GSC recommended that:

  • A plan for selecting Class B trustees be approved. (Note: this was the first move to establish Regions - the initial geographical groupings were called “Area A” thru “Area E”)

  • The retail price of the new edition of Alcoholics Anonymous be set at $4.50 ($30 today) the price to AA groups at $4.00 ($27.50 today) and to earmark 50 cents for the reserve fund. (Fl Act)

  • The proposed permanent Charter of the General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous - North American Section be adopted subject to approval of the 20th Anniversary Convention of AA. (Fl Act) (SM S17-S18)

Jul 1-3, 20th anniversary and second Int’l Convention at St Lois, MO. Theme: Coming of Age. (BW-RT 311, AACOA viii, GTBT 42-51, NG 131, SM S2) Bill W claimed attendance of 5,000. Nell Wing (GTBT 105) was told by Dennis, who handled registrations that attendance was 3,100 plus a few hundred walk-ins:

  • On Jul 3, by resolution, Bill W and its old-timers turned over the stewardship of the AA society to the movement. The Conference became the Guardian of the Traditions and voice of the group conscience of the entire Fellowship. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the Convention by acclamation and by the GSC by formal resolution and vote. (AACOA ix, 47-48, 223-228)

  • The second Ed. of Alcoholics Anonymous was published. Ed B and Nell Wing assisted Bill in its writing. 30 new personal stories were introduced. In his talk to the Convention, Bill thanked the attendees for purchasing the Big Book because the royalties from it had provided him and Lois with a home where they had seen more than 3,000 AA members over the years. (AACOA 220, PIO 354, 357)

Jul, the first AFG book The Al-Anon Family Groups was released at the Convention. (AACOA ix, 32-34, LR 180)

Dec, the Grapevine center-spread exhibited an oil painting by volunteer illustrator Robert M. It portrayed a man on a bed being 12th Stepped by two members. The painting’s original title was Came To Believe. In 1973, when the book Came To Believe was published, the Grapevine editors changed the name of the reproduction to avoid confusion. The Man On The Bed would later become one of the most popular images in the AA Fellowship. (www)

Distribution of the Big Book reached 300,000. (BW-FH 120, 2002 GSC-FR 15)


The wording of Step Twelve changed in the second printing of the second Ed. Big Book. The term “as the result of those steps” was changed back to the original term “as the result of these steps.” (www)

After 1955 the depression that had plagued Bill W for so long, lifted and he regained his bright outlook. However, during 1956, his best friend, Mark Whalon, died. (PIO 359, 364)

Apr 18-22, the 6th GSC recommended that:

  • Approving continuation of the present structure of the Board of Trustees of AA (8 non-alcoholic and 7 alcoholic members). It began a 10-year campaign by Bill to change the Board ratio to a majority of alcoholics. (PIO 393-397)

  • General Service Hq. designate Thanksgiving Week each year as AA Gratitude Week and that this action be noted in the annual pre-Thanksgiving appeals to groups for funds to help support AA’s worldwide services. (Fl Act)

  • Since the delegates at their meeting unanimously approved Bill’s new book (AA Comes of Age) it be produced in a first class manner, decisions as to pictures and price being left to the Board of Trustees, every effort be made to have it available for the 1956 Christmas season. (Lit.)

  • The new AA Exchange Bulletin (now Box 459) be made available in quantity to groups wishing to purchase additional copies and agreed that the Bulletin distribution should be exclusively through local groups or service offices. (Fl Act)

Apr, Dr Harry Tiebout joined the GSB as a Trustee. (GSO)

May, the AA Bulletin was renamed the AA Exchange Bulletin (later to become Box 459). (Box 459 Oct/Nov 2002)

Aug 29, Bill W joined with Aldous Huxley and took LSD in CA under the guidance of Gerald Heard and Sidney Cohen. Others invited to experiment (and who accepted) were Nell Wing, Father Ed Dowling, Sam Shoemaker and Lois Wilson. Marty M and Helen W (Bill’s mistress) participated in NY. Bill had several experiments with LSD up to 1959 (perhaps into the 1960’s). (PIO 370-376, NG 136-137, BW-FH 9, 177-179, GTBT 81-82)

The American Medical Association stopped short of designating alcoholism as a disease but passed a resolution that recognized alcoholics as legitimate patients who were sick persons. (CB 166, LOH 190, SD 188)


Creation of the first overseas GSB of AA in Great Britain and Ireland. (AACOA ix)

Apr 17-21. Theme: Stability and Responsibility Without Complacency. The 7th GSC recommended that:

  • The General Service Headquarters designate Thanksgiving Week as AA Gratitude Week. (Fin)

  • Since the delegates at their meeting unanimously approved Bill’s new book (AA Comes of Age) it be adequately priced, $4.50 ($29 today) not being too high. (Lit.)

  • No change in Article 12 of the [Conference] Charter or in AA tradition or in the Twelve Steps of AA may be made with less than the written consent of three-quarters of the AA groups. (SM S87)

  • The Conference approved a unique new set of by-laws for the GSB, which had earlier been adopted by the board itself on a contingency basis. (Fl Act)

  • Wholeheartedly endorsed the decision to increase the price of the [Grapevine] magazine from $.25 to $.35 for single copies, and from $2.50 to $3.50 ($22 today) for yearly domestic subscriptions, with proportional increases in foreign sales prices, as a necessity for the financial survival of the Grapevine. (Gv)

  • Bill’s negotiations designed to make it possible to retail his forthcoming book AA Comes of Age, at $4.00 ($26 today), if practical, be endorsed. (Delegates Only Meeting)

Apr 22, new bylaws written by Bernard B Smith, were adopted by the GSB. (SM S102-S109)

Oct, AA Comes of Age was published. Although guised as a 3-day diary of the 1955 Convention, it amounted to an entire history of AA up to 1955. (AACOA ix, PIO 354, 359)

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

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