Sam Shoemaker Goes On Tour For AAs
Priceless Collection of Shoemaker s Books, Articles, Sermons, Talks, Papers
© 2005 by Dick B.
For the past fifteen years, I have traveled and interviewed all over the United States and communicated with many in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. In part, the quest was to locate, collect, and research the books, articles, sermons, talks, and personal letters and journals of the Episcopal priest whom Bill Wilson dubbed a co-founder of A.A. As I have written elsewhere in my titles New Light on Alcoholism and The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, you can find Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s footprints all over Alcoholics Anonymous history. And it became important to assemble, review, analyze, publicize, and make available to the religious and recovery communities the wonderful resources that today show just what Shoemaker did add to the A.A. mix.
We know that Rev. Sam Shoemaker brought Russell Firestone to Christ and to victory over liquor in 1931. We know that these events precipitated the famous visits of Dr. Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group people to Akron in 1933, where they were heard by Henrietta Seiberling and Dr. Bob s wife Anne Smith. We know that Sam Shoemaker kept in touch with the Akron people, particularly Rev. Wright, to keep tabs on the effectiveness of the meeting of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob at the Seiberling home in 1935.
We knew far less about what Sam Shoemaker taught Bill Wilson on the East Coast. The dearth of information was probably as much due to Shoemaker’s humility as to Bill Wilson’s reluctance for many years to let A.A. people in on the sources of the Twelve Steps and the Big Book. See my title Twelve Steps for You But a relentless search for the facts turned up (1) Shoemaker letters at Hartford Seminary, (2) Shoemaker articles and correspondence at the Episcopal Church Archives in Texas, (3) Shoemaker’s first radio broadcast at the Princeton Alumni Archives, (4) Shoemaker’s personal journals at the home of his daughter Nickie Haggart, (5) the content of early meetings at Calvary House through interviews with Jim Newton and Mrs. W. Irving Harris, (6) the work of Shoemaker in Pittsburgh through Calvary Church there and through the Pittsburgh Experiment and Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, (7) details about Bill Wilson, Ebby Thacher, Rowland Hazard, Shepherd Cornell, Victor Kitchen, Hanford Twitchell, Cleve Hicks, and several other Wilson/Oxford Group associates all at the papers and libraries at St. George’s Parish and Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. (8) Fragments of the history from A.A. publications like Pass It On, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, The Language of the Heart, the Grapevine, (9) Pictures of Calvary Rescue Mission, Calvary Church in New York, inscribed pictures from Wilson to Shoemaker, and pictures of the Oxford Group businessmen s team to which Bill Wilson belonged. (10) Most of all, the facts came from widely diverse interviews with James Newton, Eleanor Forde Newton, Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker, Norman Vincent Peale, Rev. Paul Everett, Nell Wing, Mrs,. W. Irving Harris, L. Parks Shipley, Sr., T. Willard Hunter, George Vondermuhll, Sr., Garth Lean, Michael Hutchinson, Nickie Shoemaker Haggart, Sally Shoemaker
Robinson, Dr. Thomas Pike, Vicar Steve Garmey, the Pittsburgh golf club crowd, and several other Oxford Group activists in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. (11) Finally, there were the large number of Shoemaker’s books, articles, sermons, letters, papers, pamphlets, and manuscripts that finally made up most of the Shoemaker Collection.
The actual items in the Shoemaker collection are specifically described in a recent article about them now posted on archivesinternational.org and on dickb-blog.com.
Thanks to the great interest and generous anonymous donation of an active member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, this entire collection is in the process of being donated free to Ray G., archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio. Other donors are being asked to help. Ray travels all over the United States and Canada with his extensive collections of Alcoholics Anonymous historical items. He displays them. He lets people read and study them. He explains them, and he carefully stewards them. They are seen at many A.A. Conferences throughout the United States. They were displayed at Archives 2000 at the A.A. International Convention in Minneapolis. And they will soon be displayed at Archives 2005 at the A.A. International Convention soon to be held in Toronto. Ultimately, when Ray has concluded his tireless trips and displays, the Shoemaker collection will go into good, long-term stewardship in the hands of an Episcopal location either at St. Georges and Calvary Church in New York, or at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh, or at St. Paul s in Akron, or possibly an Episcopal seminary library in the New York area. They will be preserved and available for generations to come.
In short, Sam Shoemaker has gone on the road. You will be able to see the Shoemaker materials at many A.A. Conferences, at Dr. Bob’s Home in the summer when Ray G. serves there as archivist, and at archival conferences such as A.A. International Conventions. This will be an invaluable opportunity for those who have wanted for so long to see his books, read his articles, absorb his sermons, and review his personal correspondence with Bill Wilson and a host of others, and actually see his own personal journal entries pertaining to Bill Wilson. Hopefully too, many of the Shoemaker materials will find their way into the internet and world-wide visibility.