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History & Archives Web Facts



After a 17-year courtship, Dr. Bob and Anne Robinson Ripley married in Chicago, IL. They took up residence at 855 Ardmore Ave, Akron, OH. (Children of the Healer, Bob Smith and Sue Smith Windows by Christine Brewer page 2, Dr. Bob and the Good Old-timers, page 29)

1/24/1918 Spurred by rumor that Bill might soon go overseas, he and Lois were married at the Swedenborgian Church in Brooklyn, NY. The wedding date was originally Feb. 1.  It was all done in such a rush that the best man, Lois’s brother Rogers, arrived from Camp Devens too late to change his heavy-duty boots, and had to stomp down the aisle.  (Bill W. by Robert Thompson p. 100, Pass It On p. 58 and 407)
1929 On a trip to Manchester, VT Bill called Ebby T in Albany, NY. After an all-night drinking party, they chartered a flight with Flyers Inc. in Albany to be the first flight to Manchester at the new landing field.  They called Manchester to tell the folks that they would be the first arrivals.  The excited citizens of Manchester got together a welcoming committee.  The town band turned out.  They landed drunk and slid out of the cockpit, fell on the ground and lay there immobile (the pilot, Ted Burke, was drunk as well) and disgraced themselves. (Pass It On, p. 83-84, Bill W. by Robert Thompson p. 183-184, Ebby the Man Who Sponsored Bill W by Mel B. pp. 39-41)


Bill W. pledged again in the family Bible: “To tell you once more that I am finished with it. I love you.” (Pass It On page 81)


400 draft copies of the Big Book were distributed for evaluation.  NY member Jim B. suggested that the phrase ‘God as we understood him’ be added to the steps and basic test.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 17


Bill W. dies in Miami Beach, Florida.  It was Lois and Bill’s 53rd wedding anniversary.  Bill died at 11:30 p.m. (Pass It On, pp.402-403).



Bert T. and Horace C. establish the first A. A. Clubhouse at 334 ½ West 24th Street, New York New York.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 180.  Pass It On, p.238.


John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave a dinner for A. A.  It was held at Manhattan’s exclusive Union Club to raise awareness of AA.  Of the 400 prominent and influential people invited, 75 accepted.  Bill W. assumed that the evening was to raise money for AA and thought that their financial worth could easily be a billion dollars.  As the evening wore on, Bill’s hopes and expectations soared.  Nelson Rockefeller presented and stated, “Gentleman, you can all see that this is a work of goodwill.  Its power lies in the fact that one member carries the good message to the next, without any thought of financial income or reward.  Therefore, it is our belief that Alcoholics Anonymous should be self-supporting so far as money is concerned.  It needs only our goodwill.”  AA had received no millions of dollars and once again, Bill’s expansive hopes were dashed.  The fellowship did receive some money but it came from Mr. Rockefeller purchasing 400 copies of the Big Book.  Pass It On, p. 233-234




Works Publishing (Alcoholic Foundation) move its offices from 17 William St. in Newark, NJ to 30 Vesey St in NYC (lower Manhattan).  This move gave Alcoholics Anonymous, for the first time, a headquarters of its own.  Pass It On, p. 235.  Pass It On, p. 235


Saturday Evening Post article causes great national expansion and recognition.  Membership in 1941 jumps from 2,000 to 8,000 at year’s end.  (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 190-191, Pass It On, p.244)


Nell Wing started work at the Alcoholic Foundation, 415 Lexington Ave, NYC. Starting as a typist earning $32 a week ($260 in 2003 dollars), she stayed for 36 years. (Grateful to Have Been There by Nell Wing page 15, Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous by Nan Robertson page 67)


A second Saturday Evening Post article was written by Jack Alexander titled The Drunkard’s Best Friend (Grateful to Have Been There by Nell Wing page 34)


William Duncan Silkworth MD (age 78) “the little doctor who loved drunks” and “medical saint” died of a heart attack at his home at 45 W 81st St, NYC. In his service as Medical Director at Towns and Knickerbocker Hospitals, he was credited with treating over 40,000 alcoholics. His funeral was held at the Calvary Episcopal Church in NYC and he was laid to rest in Glenwood Cemetery in West Long Branch, NJ. (AACOA p.14, Silkworth - the Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks, by Dale Mitchell, p. 110-111, 127, Alcoholics Anonymous, p. xvi, Grapevine Apr. 1951)


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. (Lois Remembers page 176)


Ebby T died (of emphysema). He had 2 ½ years sobriety. (The Language of the Heart, AA Grapevine Inc. page 367, Ebby the Man Who Sponsored Bill W by Mel B. page 143, Pass It On page 336)


Distribution of the Big Book reached the 10 million mark. (Pass It On page 206)


The GSO moved to the 10th and 11th floors of 475 Riverside Dr. and 120th St. in NYC. (AA Service Manual and Twelve Concepts for World Service page S10, 42nd General Service Conference - Final Report Panel # 26)




Edwin (Ebby) Throckmorton Thatcher  was born in Albany, NY. (Ebby the Man Who Sponsored Bill W by Mel B., p. 20)


Bill W. and Lois began a one-year motorcycle/camping trip on a three-wheeler Harley-Davidson with sidecar to evaluate businesses. Among the places they visited were GE in Schenectady, NY and Portland Cement in Egypt, PA. By winter, they were in FL and then headed north into Canada. Bill was one of the first “market analysts.” His alcoholism progressed. (Pass It On,pp 69-75, Bill W. by Francis Hartigan, p. 5, Lois Remembers p. 37, 39, Women Pioneers in 12 Step Recovery, by Charlotte Hunter, Billye Jones and Joan Ziegler, p. 59-60)


Dr. Silkworth counseled Bill W. to break down the strong egos of alcoholics by telling them about the obsession that condemned them to drink and the allergy that condemned them to go mad or die.  Then spiritual awakening will follow.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 13


4,730 copies of the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous were published at a selling price of $3.50 ($46 in 2003 dollars).  The printer was told to use the thickest paper in his shop.  The large bulky volume became known as the “Big Book”.  The idea was to convince the alcoholic that he was getting his moneys worth.  (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. 10, 170, Not God, by Ernest Kurtz page 76, Pass It On pages 204-205, Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous by Nan Robertson page 59)


Marty M. (‘Women Suffer Too’) attended her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at 182 Clinton St. Brooklyn, NY.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. 3, 18-19, Pass It On pages 210-213, Bill W by Robert Thompson page 271, Bill W by Francis Hartigan page 8)


Ebby T. was born in Albany NY Ebby The Man Who Sponsored Bill W., p. 20


For the first time in the 23 years of Bill and Lois’ marriage, Bill and Lois spent the night in their own home in Bedford Hills, NY (it acquired the name Stepping Stones in 1944 when they visited Nantucket and saw a house name Stepping Stones).  Pass It On pp. 260-261


The First General Service Conference met in New York City.  Its theme, chosen by Bill, was “Not to Govern, but to Serve.”  There were 35 delegates on the first panel, and their general meetings were held at the Commodore Hotel.  Pass It On, p.349.




Bill went on a business trip to Bound Brook NJ with a group of Pathe Co. engineers to examine a new photographic process. It turned into a disaster. In a small hotel Bill drank Apple Jack (Jersey Lightning) and was drunk for 3 days. His contract with Wheeler and Winans was cancelled.  Pass It On, p.91-92, AA Comes of Age, p. 55-56, Bill W. by Robert Thompson, p. 165-167


Beginning of the writing of the Big Book at Hank P.’s office (Honors Dealers, 17 William St in Newark, NJ).  Most of the early hand-written Big Book manuscript documents were lost during the later move from Newark to NYC.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. vii, 159


Dr. Bob and Bill W. meet in Akron, OH at Henrietta Sieberling’s gate house.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 67


First NJ meeting held at Hank P.’s home in Montclair, NJ. NJ AA Historical Landmarks Display, Northern NJ History and Archives Committee.




Dr. Bob S. has his last drink and Alcoholics Anonymous is founded. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 71


Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. visit Bill D (‘Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three’) at City Hospital in Akron, OH.  AA Comes Of Age pages 71-73


Lois’ recollection of the first use of the term Alcoholics Anonymous.  Lois Remembers, p. 197

June 1941

Ruth Hock received a newspaper clipping of the Serenity Prayer from Jack C., it was from the “In Memoriam” column of an early June edition of the New York Herald-Tribune. The exact wording was “Mother-God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Goodbye.” Ruth was impressed with it and thought she could use it in letters to the groups and loners.   Horace C. had an idea of printing it on cards and paid for the first printing. (Pass It On, p. 252)


The A.A. Grapevine is established.  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 212


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was published. (Grateful to Have Been There by Nell Wing  Page 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 in 2003 dollars) for distribution through AA groups, and a $2.75 ($19 in 2003 dollars) edition distributed through Harper and Brothers for sale in commercial bookstores. (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age Pages ix, 219, Pass It On pages 354-356)




William Duncan (Silky) Silkworth was born in Brooklyn, NY to Isabelle Duncan and William Silkworth Sr. (Silkworth - the Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks by Dale Mitchell, p.3)


Bill sailed from Boston to NY Harbor on the British ship Lancashire. Late, on the voyage to England, an officer shared brandy with him. Detained in London, Bill visited the Winchester Cathedral and experienced a "tremendous sense of presence.” He read an epitaph on the headstone of a Hampshire Grenadier (Thomas Thetcher) later to be cited in Bill’s Story in the Big Book. (Bill W by Robert Thompson page 102-108, Pass It On pages 59-60, The Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous, by Bill Pittman, nee AA the Way It Began  146)



Bill and Lois went on another camping trip over the (300-mile) Long Trail in the Green Mountains of VT. The trip was Lois’ way to get Bill to stop drinking. On the trip, Bill decided to enter law school and later entered night classes at the Brooklyn Law School (a division of St. Lawrence U). (Lois Remembers page 31, Bill W by Francis Hartigan page 30, Pass It On page 64)



Dr William Duncan Silkworth wrote a letter of support for AA for use in fundraising for the book. The letter was incorporated into the chapter The Doctor’s Opinion. (Silkworth - the Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks, by Dale Mitchell  center-fold photo exhibits, AA Comes Of Age page 168) Dr Esther R. of Baltimore was the member who suggested to Bill to get a “Number one physician” in the alcoholism field to write an introduction. (Not God, by Ernest Kurtz page 332)


The First International Convention is held in Cleveland.  There were approximately 3,000 people in attendance.  Registration was $1.50 per person.  (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 212-213.  Pass It On, p.338)


The cartoon strip Victor E, drawn be Editor Jack M, first appeared in the Grapevine. (Grapevine, 39th General Service Conference - Final Report  24)

Jul 2-4,1965

AA’s 30th anniversary and fourth Int’l Convention at Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Theme: Responsibility. Est. attendance 10,500. Keynote The Declaration. AA’s responsibility pledge: I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. and for that I am responsible. The film Bill’s Own Story was shown for the first time. (AA Comes Of Age page x, Not God, by Ernest Kurtz page 142)


AA’s 35th anniversary and 5th Int’l Convention at Miami Beach, FL. Est. attendance 10,700 (13,000?) Keynote was Declaration of Unity: This we owe to AA's future: to place our common welfare first; to keep our Fellowship united. For on AA Unity depend our lives and the lives of those to come. It was Bill’s last public appearance. (AA Comes Of Age page xi, Not God, by Ernest Kurtz page 145-146)




Bob S. is born in St. Johnsbury, VT.  Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers, p. 9


Dr Bob and Sister Ignatia (in charge of admissions) started working together at St Thomas Hospital in Akron. On Aug16, Sister Ignatia arranged for the first AA admission, Walter B, at the request of Dr Bob. Bob revealed to Sister Ignatia his own problems with alcohol. (AA Comes of Age p. viii, Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers, pages 187-188, Not God pages 79-80)


The Grapevine carried Bill W’s first article (titled Modesty One Plank for Good Public Relations) setting the groundwork for his campaign for the Traditions. The Jul Grapevine edition had an article by member CHK of Lansing, MI about the Washingtonians. (Grapevine).


In his Grapevine Traditions essay titled Last Seven Years Have Made AA Self-Supporting, Bill W wrote “Two years ago the trustees set aside, out of AA book funds, a sum which enabled my wife and me to pay off the mortgage on our home and make some needed improvements. The Foundation also granted Dr Bob and me each a royalty of 10% on the book Alcoholics Anonymous, our only income from AA sources. We are both very comfortable and deeply grateful.” (Language of the Heart pages 62-66)


The Grapevine announced that, based on a subscriber survey, the September issue would be in a new pocketsize 5 ½ x 7 ½ inches format of 32 pages (Grapevine).


Distribution of the Big Book passed the 3 million mark. (AA Comes of Age, p. xi)




St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, OH opened. Shortly after, Dr. Bob and Sister Ignatia met for the first time. Sister Ignatia (of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine) was the registration clerk at the hospital. At this time, she was unaware of Dr. Bob’s drinking problem. Later, Dr. Bob, who loved to give people nicknames, gave Sister Ignatia

the nicknames of “Angel Alcoholics Anonymous,” "Little Angel of AA’s," "Little Sister of Alcoholics Anonymous" and "Ig." (The Language of the Heart, AA Grapevine Inc. pages 202, 372, Sister Ignatia, by Mary C. Darrah pages 6-9, Dr. Bob and the Good Old-timers pages 45-46)


Bill wrote his last promise to stop drinking in the family Bible: “Finally and for a lifetime, thank God for your love.” After that, he gave up making promises in despair. (Lois Remembers, page 79)


Board Trustee Frank Amos arranged a meeting between Bill and Eugene Exman (Religious Editor of Harper Brothers publishers). Exman offered Bill a $1,500 advance ($19,400 in 2003 dollars) on the rights to the book. The Alcoholic Foundation Board urged acceptance of the offer. Instead, Hank P and Bill formed Works Publishing Co. and sold stock at $25 par value ($325 in 2003 dollars). 600 shares were issued: Hank and Bill received 200 shares each, 200 shares were sold to others. Later, 30 shares of preferred stock, at $100 par value ($1,300 in 2003 dollars), were sold as well. To mollify the board, it was decided that the author’s royalty (which would ordinarily be Bill’s) could go to the Alcoholic Foundation. (Lois Remembers page 197, Bill W by Francis Hartigan pages 116-119, AA Service Manual and Twelve Concepts for World Service page  S6, Pass It On pages 193-195, AA Comes Of Age pages 157, 188)


Al-Anon Family Groups adopted an adaptation of the Twelve Traditions of AA. (Lois Remembers pages 177-178)





Oct. 20, Bill signed a pledge in the family Bible: “To my beloved wife that has endured so much, let this stand as evidence to you that I have finished with drink forever.” On Thanksgiving, Bill pledged again in the family Bible: “My strength is renewed a thousand fold in my love for you.” (Pass It On, p. 81)



Bill’s recollection of the first use of the term Alcoholics Anonymous. (AA Comes Of Age, page 165, Pass It On page 202)


The first NJ meeting was held in the South Orange Community Center.  NJ AA Historical Landmarks Display, Northern NJ History and Archives Committee.

October 1944

MANHATTAN MEMBER 12TH-STEPS ON CORNER . . . John B. can be found every Sunday around noon at the corner of 207th Street and Broadway. Hard by are several gin mills. In his own words, John was for years "one of the worst rummies" of that 95 per cent Irish district. He knows everybody, everybody knows him and that he is now sober because he is in A.A. John stands and waits. He never approaches any of the jittery men waiting for the bars to open at 1 P.M. He waits for them to come to him. They do. Many of them. Result: John gets all the 12th-step work he can handle--right there on that corner (AA Grapevine, October 1944).


Dr. William Duncan Silkworth was hired as director of alcoholic treatment at the Knickerbocker Hospital in NYC. He worked at both the Towns and Knickerbocker Hospitals until his death in 1951. Alcoholics were referred to the “AA Ward” at Knickerbocker Hospital by the NY Intergroup Association. (Silkworth - the Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks, by Dale Mitchell page 83, AA Comes Of Age page 206)


The Alcoholic Foundation Inc. was renamed to the General Service Board of AA Inc. (Comes Of Age page ix, Not God, by Ernest Kurtz page 131)


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 page ix, PIO pages 354, 359)

Oct 9-11, 1969

The first World Service Meeting was held in NYC with delegates from 14 countries. (AACOA x)


Lois Burnham Wilson (age 97) co-founder of Al-Anon Family Groups, died. (AACOA xi)




Bill W. was born in East Dorset, VT.  Pass It On, p. 13


Ruth Eva Miller (later Hock) was born in Newark, NJ. (Women Pioneers in 12 Step Recovery by Charlotte Hunter, Billye Jones and Joan Ziegler p. 77)

Late Nov 1934

Ebby T. visits Bill W. at 182 Clinton St. Brooklyn, NY and shared his recovery experience as “one alcoholic talking to another.”  A pitcher of gin and pineapple juice stood between them, but Bill was drinking alone.  (Bill has no great love for pineapple juice with his gin but he thought it would be less upsetting to Lois than if she came home and found them drinking straight gin!)  Pass It On, p. 111.


From the November 1944 Grapevine…JERSEYITES BUY BIG SOCIABLE CLUBHOUSE To the A.A.s of North Jersey goes the honor of being the original contributors to one phase of A.A. history, geographically speaking. They are the first of the "Along the Metropolitan Circuit" groups to buy a clubhouse of their own.Members of a dozen North Jersey groups, forming a company called Alanon Association (Joe B. is their counsel), participated in the deal that ended, in October, in the purchase of the three-story brick building at 8th Ave. and North 7th St., Newark, N.J., known as the Roseville Athletic Association.


The short form of the Twelve Traditions was first printed in the AA Grapevine. The entire issue was dedicated to the Traditions in preparation for the forthcoming Cleveland Convention. Two wording changes were subsequently made to the initial version: “primary spiritual aim” was changed to “primary purpose” in Tradition Six, and “principles above personalities” was changed to “principles before personalities” in Tradition Twelve. (Language of the Heart p. 96)


Dr Robert Holbrook Smith (age 70) co-founder of AA, died of cancer at City Hospital in Akron, OH. He was buried in Mount Peace Cemetery beside Anne. The Rev Walter Tunks conducted the funeral service. Over his 15 years of sobriety, Dr Bob helped more than 5,000 alcoholics. (AA Comes of Age pages 7 and  9, GSO, Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers p. 344)


The fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous published. It contained 24 new personal stories. (GSO)




Bill W.’s last drink.  Released from his obsession, Bill begins thinking about a movement of recovered alcoholics who would help others.  Bill and Lois start attending Oxford Group meetings.  Pass It On, p.407


Dec., Rockland State Hospital near Monsey, NY became the first mental hospital to have an AA Group (started byBob V). Dr Russell E. Blaisdell, Superintendent of the hospital, allowed busloads of patients to attend meeting in NYand NJ (AACOA p. viii, 12, Bill W by Francis Hartigan, p. 128)


The Grapevine carried a notice that an important new 48-page pamphlet titled AA Traditions was sent to each group and that enough copies were available for each member to have one free of charge (Grapevine).


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. (Sister Ignatia by Mary C. Darrah pages 185-187 and 309, Language of the Heart p. 377, AA Comes of Age p. 8)


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. (Internet sources www)


Bill W enthusiastically embraced a campaign to promote vitamin B3 (niacin - nicotinic acid) therapy and created Traditions issues within the Fellowship. (Pass It On pages 388-390)


Nell Wing retired as AA Archivist and was replaced by Frank M. (Grateful To Have Been There by Nell Wing p. 141)

12/8 and 12/9 2001

The first Special Hispanic Forum was held in Austin, TX. (2002 General Service Conference –Final Report 28)


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