A.A. History Collection Locations
Note: This does not purport to be, nor is it, a list of all the locations where A.A. historical items may be found. Surely various individual AAs and 12 Step people, historians and writers, recovery groups, treatment facilities, substance abuse libraries, religious institutions, non-profits, research facilities, and universities, have bits and pieces of our history—some large and some small. And A.A.’s General Service Office certainly maintains archives and some books, but access is limited. State and area archives also have collections of one sort or another. Indeed, there are some private collections which still exist and can be unearthed with effort. The sites here are simply those in which I have personally been involved or which I know to be large enough to warrant inclusion. They are of particular and unique importance to the extent that they present, as a whole, a fairly complete picture of all the spiritual history and roots of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Griffith House Library at the Wilson House, Village Street, East Dorset, Vermont
For a decade, Ozzie and Bonnie Lepper have been inviting and receiving A.A. historical materials of all kinds to become a part of the Wilson House historical treasures. Then, about five years ago, I began urging some of my benefactors to contribute funds for or make actual donations of most of the 23,900 historical items in my Maui research library on Maui. Today, most of those items are located at the Wilson House. Check the Wilson House website for more details. I believe this is the largest, most accessible, and most comprehensive library in existence of temperance, pre-A.A., Oxford Group, Shoemaker, Biblical, recovery, and A.A. history and literature. This library just had its Grand Opening in July 25, 2005. I have prepared video and audio presentations about the library, and these will soon be posted.
The Traveling Archives of Ray G., Archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home
Ray G. and his wife Ginny have a home in Newton Falls, Ohio, and also spend their winters in Seminole, Florida. Ray is the archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron. For many years, Ray has been collecting, organizing, and displaying all kinds of A.A. historical materials at such places as Archives 2000 in Minneapolis, Joe and Charlie Big Book Seminars, state and area A.A. conferences, and A.A. History Conferences. When Ray and Ginny appear, the collection is there for all to see, read, and have explained—even during the busy Founders Day period in Akron. The work is extensive and important.
The New Shoemaker Collection at the Shoemaker Room, Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh
For years, Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh has had an archivist who knew Sam and his work, but had few Shoemaker articles. This year, after being on tour with Ray G., my entire Shoemaker collection was, by two benefactors, donated outright to Calvary Church in Pittsburgh. It contains almost all Sam’s books, sermons, articles, and pamphlets, and many personal journal entries, letters, memos, and other data obtained from Hartford Seminary, Princeton University, Episcopal Church Archives in Texas, Mrs. W. Irving Harris (who ran the book stall at Calvary House and whose husband was Sam’s Assistant Minister), as well as books purchased or collected from all over the world. Calvary has an extremely knowledgeable archivist Susie who knew Sam, who is conversant with the library contents, and who has lots to tell. The collection is housed in the Shoemaker Room at Calvary.
The Annex at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio – adjacent to 855 Ardmore Avenue
Long after Dr. Bob’s Home was acquired and opened, its trustees began collecting books pertaining to the early program. I persuaded Dr.Bob’s son Smitty to donate most of his portion of his dad’s books to Dr. Bob’s Home. His sister Sue Windows sold most of her portion to Brown University. The library in Akron is voluminous, but the books—though visible on their shelves—are mostly under lock and key. It is doubtful that any of the fine volunteers could answer any questions about the books; and Dr. Bob’s Home has declined to keep any of my titles there which could, would, and do explain just about every book and its contents.
The Akron Intergroup Archives, Elma Street, Akron
Gail L. has spent many years during Founders Days in Akron presenting the historical books and materials she was able to collect. Later, she was given the position of Archivist for the Intergroup, and an excellent display of pictures and memorabilia is located at the Akron Intergroup Office. Still more materials are in a locked room there. Gail frequently gives talks on the history and historical materials. She knows her onions.
The A.A. Library at Dr. Bob’s church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron
The current rector at St. Paul’s Church in Akron has enabled and facilitated many of the donations of A.A. history books to prisons, intergroups, history locations, and to some of the sites above. In addition, the library has a small, but important collection of books on A.A.’s spiritual history. Dr. Bob became a communicant at St. Paul’s shortly before his death.
The Gate Lodge (the former home of Henrietta Seiberling) at Stan Hywet Museum and Gardens in Akron
Very recently, this historic spot where Henrietta Seiberling introduced Bill Wilson to Dr. Bob Smith was opened to the public. At the same time, explanatory displays were placed on the walls; a few important historical books were placed on display; and tapes of pioneers were made available for listening.
Brown University Collections, Providence, Rhode Island
Several years ago, A.A. antiquarian bookseller Charles Bishop sold a large collection of early temperance, anti-saloon, and alcoholism books to Brown University thanks to a benefactor named Chester Kirk. The acquisition cost was $250,000.00. The materials are in the custody of the Brown University Library system under the watchful eye of Dr. David Lewis, director of the addiction studies program there. Shortly before her death, Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue Smith Windows sold a portion of her collection of Dr. Bob’s books and memorabilia to Brown, where they now repose. The larger portion of Dr. Bob’s books is not there, but rather at Dr. Bob’s Home and in my Co-founder Collection which we hope to place at Griffith Library soon. I believe other historical materials, including some of my own, are part of the Brown collection.
Hazelden Pttman Archives, Center City, Minnesota
Over a long period of years, Bill Pittman, an author and publisher of recovery books, began collecting and making available a very large number of books and pamphlets ( particularly those pertaining to A.A.’s spiritual roots), to Hazelden Foundation. At a major conference of A.A. historians at Hazelden, the collection was dedicated; and Pittman later became Director of Historical Information at Hazelden—a position he no longer occupies.
Stepping Stones—The Home of Bill and Lois Wilson, Bedford Hills, New York
When I visited and researched at Stepping Stones in the early 1990’s, there was a large library of books belonging to Bill Wilson, practically none of which pertained to A.A. There was also a library of spiritualist and psychic books representing Bill’s personal involvement in those activities. There was a large quantity of historical manuscripts and papers of Bill’s that were directly related to A.A. history, but they had not been organized or catalogued. I was allowed to study and make copies of most of that material and included it in The Co-Founders Collection mentioned below. Later, an A.A. historian named Earl H. informed me that he had a huge collection of A.A. history books and that he had donated them to Stepping Stones. But I have never seen either the collection or an inventory of it; however, I believe whatever is there can readily be identified by contacting the affable executive director for information.
The Co-Founders Collection—now on loan to Dr. Karen Plavan in Pittsburgh as Curator and Custodian
As related above, I saw Dr. Bob’s Library—which tells so much about what early AAs did and studied—split between the inaccessible stacks at Brown University and the locked shelves at Dr. Bob’s Home. Further, there are books owned and read and circulated by Dr. Bob that are not part of either library. See Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library; The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth; and Making Known the Biblical Roots and History of A.A.. I also realized that most of the original manuscripts either written or described by Bill Wilson had never been made available until Hazelden finally published an autobiography which I have and which Bill Pittman also obtained from Stepping Stones. I also knew that the original contents of Anne Smith’s spiritual journal (which I obtained through authorization of the Trustees Archives Committee) from GSO archives had never been seen, published, or even reported until I wrote my Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939. I therefore held on to these items so they could be placed as a unit, travel widely, and be posted on the internet if that were funded. There is a large collection of materials pertaining to Clarence H. Snyder. The funding, though not yet complete, is substantially complete. And we still need to raise $15,000.00 to pass ownership of the collection. But I shipped this collection to Karen Plavan, Ph.D., former professor of counseling and chemical dependency at Penn State and presently Vice President of a global outreach ministry headquartered in Pittsburgh and named GOAL. Dr. Plavan is curator and custodian; and when the acquisition funding has been completed, she and I will work out a plan for making this vital historical material available in a permanent location, available for tour, and usable for posting on the internet. The main and permanent repository will probably be the Griffith Library in East Dorset, Vermont as, when, and if we receive the remaining $15,000.00 needed.