Simplified A.A. Timeline of Events
1935 AA Begins
A BUSINESS TRIP TO AKRON
A short-term job opportunity takes Bill to Akron, Ohio. In the lobby of his hotel, he finds himself fighting the urge to join the conviviality in the bar. He consults a church posted on the wall with the aim of finding someone who might lead him to an alcoholic with whom he could talk. A phone call to Episcopal minister Rev. Walter Tunks results in a referral to Henrietta Seiberling, a committed Oxford Group adherent who has tried for two years to bring a fellow group member, a prominent Akron surgeon, to sobriety.
Men on a Mission
Dr. Bob lapses into drinking again but quickly recovers. The day widely known as the date of Dr. Bob’s last drink, June 10, 1935, is celebrated as the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Bob and Bill spend hours working out the best approach to alcoholics, a group known to be averse to taking directions. Realizing that thinking of sobriety for a day at a time makes it seem more achievable than facing a lifetime of struggle, they hit on the twenty-four hour concept.
1939 AA Big Book is Published
Publication and Disappointment
In April 1939, some 5,000 copies of the Big Book — titled Alcoholics Anonymous — roll off the press. After an anticipated Reader’s Digest article fails to materialize and a radio broadcast results in no orders, sales are few and far between. This disappointment foreshadows a bleak summer for the New York fellowship.
1941 Saturday Evening Post
THE SATURDAY EVENING POST MAKES HISTORY
The interest of Judge Curtis Bok, owner and publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, is piqued when he learns of A.A. from two Philadelphia friends. Bok then calls on hard-nosed reporter Jack Alexander to tell the organization’s story. The resulting 7,500-word article is published in the magazine on March 1, 1941, putting Alcoholics Anonymous on the map of public consciousness and spurring a dramatic increase in Big Book sales and membership alike.
1942 AA GOES TO PRISONS
A.A.’s PRISON GROUPS
A campaign for prison reform by Clinton T. Duffy, warden of San Quentin Prison in San Francisco, calls for addressing the special needs of inmates who had been drinking when committing a crime. Duffy seeks aid and advice from California A.A. members, leading to the formation of a prison group at San Quentin. The inmates hold their first meeting in 1942.
1944 THE AA GRAPEVINE DEBUTS
The AA Grapevine debuts
An eight-page bulletin intended to bring A.A. news to members (including soldiers overseas) expands to become the Fellowship’s official magazine, with the first issue published in June 1944. It comes to be called A.A.’s “meeting in print.”
Box 459 opens to receive mail
“About Your Central Office,” a bulletin distributed to A.A. groups by the Alcoholic Foundation, announces “As of May 1, 1944, our new address will be P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station.” Box 459 will become both the post office address and symbolic address of Alcoholics Anonymous. In its early days A.A. is an organization that must rely heavily on communication by mail.
1945 Overtures from Hollywood
1946 The Twelve Traditions
1947 A.A. Becomes Self-Supporting
A.A. becomes self-supporting
Bill W. reports that income from the Big Book and contributions from individual A.A. groups have made the Alcoholic Foundation “self-supporting.” The idea of contributions grew from an estimate that all expenses could be met if each group were to send the Foundation a sum equal to $1 per member per year. Contributions were entirely voluntary, and equal service was provided to all groups regardless of their contribution record—a policy still in effect today.
The A.A. Preamble
In the June 1947 edition of the A.A. Grapevine, a statement defining the Fellowship and its mission appears for the first time. The statement, known as the A.A. Preamble, is quickly adopted by A.A. groups and becomes a standard inclusion in A.A. literature.
1948 Dr. Bob's Health in Decline
1950 A.A.'s 1st International Convention
1950 Dr. Bob Dies
1951 General Service Conference
1952 Al-Anon is Born
1953 12 X 12 First Published
1955 Big Book 2nd Edition Published
The second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous reflects the membership’s growing diversity. The chapters on A.A. principles remain the same, and eight of the stories of early members’ efforts to achieve sobriety are retained in a section called “Pioneers of A.A.” In addition, 24 new stories appear in two separate sections: “They Stopped in Time” and “They Lost Nearly All.” The Twelve Traditions are added as well.
Bill W. passes the torch, July 1955
The St. Louis Convention culminates with Bill officially handing leadership of A.A. over to the members. The resolution he reads is passed with a roar of approval: “Be it therefore resolved that the General Service Conference… should become as of this date… the guardian of the Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the perpetuators of the world services of our Society, the voice of the group conscience of our entire Fellowship, and the sole successors of its co-founders, Doctor Bob and Bill.”
The Third Legacy
At the St. Louis Convention, Bill speaks of the Fellowship’s Third Legacy, that of Service. In his words “. . . an A.A. service is anything whatever that helps us to reach a fellow sufferer. . .from the Twelfth Step itself to a ten-cent phone call and a cup of coffee, and to A.A.’s General Service Office for national and international action.” Fifty thousand Third Legacy booklets (right), known today as The A.A. Service Manual, will be printed and distributed to A.A. groups.
1958 ICYPAA is Born
1962 Twelve Concepts Published
1964 Las Vegas Central Office Opens
Around 1961, the 1st official A.A. group was established. The Downbeat Group met at the 7/11 on Fremont Street.
1964 ushered in the first official Secretary for the Central Office. Kathy A. served as secretary and it was a non-paid position at the time. Al-Anon was established around the same time along with the Samaritan House and We Care.
In 1984, Jack F. took over as the Office Manager as a part-time position and in 1990 the position became full-time.
1971 Bill W. Dies
1973 Came To Believe Published
1975 Living Sober is Published
1976 Big Book 3rd Edition Published
1979 Groups for the Hearing Impaired
1985 A.A.'s Golden Anniversary
The Fellowship’s 50th Anniversary International Convention in Montreal in 1985 draws more than 45,000 members of A.A., Al-Anon, and family and friends — more than twice the attendance of the record-setting 1980 convention in New Orleans. Delegates from 54 nations give the gathering a truly international feel, and meetings in the Olympic Park Stadium are simultaneously translated into French, Spanish, and German. One of the honored guests is Ruth Hock Crecelius (a nonalcoholic), who is presented with the five millionth copy of the Big Book, the original manuscript of which she had typed almost half a century earlier when she was Bill W.’s secretary at their small office in Newark, New Jersey.
Joining the fold…
Fortuitously for A.A., two world-changing events coincide as the 20th Century draws to a close. The dawn of the Electronic Age facilitates communication between A.A. offices and, in turn, country-to-country sponsorship, while the transformation of governments in Eastern European countries allows A.A.s to meet openly.
Dr. Bob’s house opens in Akron
The Akron house where Dr. Bob and his wife lived and raised their children — 855 Ardmore Avenue — is opened to visitors in 1985. Much of the furniture is original (as is the still-working refrigerator, which Dr. Bob and Anne bought in 1934), and many of Dr. Bob and Anne’s books line the shelves.
1990 Seattle International Convention
Some 48,000 people converge in Seattle for the Fellowship’s Ninth International Convention in 1990, far exceeding the anticipated head count. The theme is “Fifty-five Years — One Day at a Time.” More than 250 standing-room-only meetings are held at Seattle Center and around town — at the time, the largest convention ever hosted in Washington’s largest city. Nell Wing, Bill W.’s longtime secretary and first archivist for G.S.O. New York, was presented with the Ten Millionth copy of A.A.’s Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, at a special ceremony.
1991 1st Native American Convention
1995 A.A. Goes Online
2000 Millennium Milestones
Some 47,000 people celebrate freedom from the bondage of alcoholism at the eleventh International Convention, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the summer of 2000. The theme is “Pass It On–Into the 21st Century.” One memorable event is Walk-the-Walk, in which a stream of attendees from 86 nations walks the blue line laid down from the Convention Center to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on their way to the opening ceremony. The twenty millionth Big Book is presented to Al-Anon Family Groups in a special ceremony.
Al-Anon’s first International Convention
Forty-three years after its founding, Al-Anon holds its first International Convention. The time is July 1998, and the place is Salt Lake City, Utah. As the century draws to an end, 24,000 Al-Anon and 2,300 Alateen groups are meeting in more than 110 countries.
Membership tops two million. As the new millennium begins, A.A.’s worldwide membership is estimated at 2,160,013. Another membership milestone in the year 2000 is the number of groups, which for the first time surpasses the 100,000 mark.
Pole to Pole
Even alcoholics in the most far flung parts of the world — the Arctic Circle and Antarctica — have received the Fellowship’s message by the year 2000. With the support of Canadian groups, A.A.s meet in Baffin Island and other far-north locales, while members posted to McMurdo Air Force Base in Antarctica organize meetings for military personnel and others who come and go.
A North American milestone
In April 2000, the 50th General Service Conference is held in New York City. Delegates from 92 A.A. regions and areas in the U.S. and Canada, trustees, directors and G.S.O. and Grapevine staff members listen to reports and inspect finances, just as their counterparts had done half a century before. Conference delegates also tour the new General Service Office in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.
Sponsorship Down Under
A.A. Australia, active since 1945, helps A.A.s in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, establish Khmer-speaking groups. The country’s service office also assists in the establishment of groups in East Timor, New Guinea, and other Pacific locales. The service office in neighboring New Zealand — which for years has translated A.A. literature into Maori (see Serenity Prayer at right), Fijian, Samoan, and other Pacific island languages — launches an initiative to carry the message to correctional facilities in 32 countries in Oceania and the Pacific Rim.