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This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.

Self Supporting

Bill W. plan to finance the writing of Alcholics Anonymous or the Big Book, took him to the offices of the Rockefellers, but things did not turn out as he planned.


In Amos' report to the Rockefellers he proposed that the new society be given the sum of $50,000.

Frank Amos left for Akron the week after Bill's meeting with the Rockefeller staff (late January or early February 1938). Akron was chosen due to its success in membership numbers and length of sobriety as compared to New York. It would also be the most probable site for the first, if any, of the proposed Alcoholic Hospitals headed by Dr. Bob.

Amos was very thorough with his investigation of the new movement. He checked and re-checked everything, spoke to members of the medical and religious community as well as the alcoholics and their families. He attended the Oxford Group meetings at the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams and with the help of Dr. Bob and the other alcoholic members, scouted sites for the proposed hospital.

Frank Amos returned to New York sold on the new movement and was very excited. He was as excited as Bill had hoped he would be. In Amos' report to the Rockefellers he proposed that the new society be given the sum of $50,000 (which in today's equivalent would be $500,000). He stated that Mr. Rockefeller would be interested in this venture because it encompassed religion, medicine and reclaimed the lives of alcoholics and strengthened families once thought hopeless. He stressed that this unnamed society had found a solution and brought all the aforementioned aspects into one workable package.

Self Suporting

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. read the report with great interest and listened to the glowing praises related to him by Frank Amos. After reviewing all of the aspects presented and the history of the Washington Temperance Society as well as other movements which had preceded this new movement he made a decision.


Out of the $5,000 donated by Rockefeller, $3,000 went immediately to pay off the mortgage on Dr. Bob's house.

Mr. Rockefeller decided to turn down the request for the money requested by Frank Amos. He reiterated, "I am afraid that money will spoil this thing." While giving his reasons for turning down the request for money, it appeared that Rockefeller's reasons were virtually the same as the concerns expressed by Dr. Bob and the Akron members.

Willard Richardson then explained to Mr. Rockefeller the desperate financial predicament that Dr. Bob and Bill were in. He told Rockefeller that in order to continue with this seemingly successful venture, Bill and Bob would need some money; a stipend as it were. Mr. Rockefeller agreed and placed the sum of $5,000 into the treasury of the Riverside Church as part of a special account. Both Bill and Dr. Bob could access this account and funds could be withdrawn as needed. Rockefeller warned them that despite his help, the movement must become "self-supporting" in order to eventually become a success.

Out of the $5,000 donated by Rockefeller, $3,000 went immediately to pay off the mortgage on Dr. Bob's house and the balance was to be paid to Bill and Dr. Bob at a rate of $30 per week. This was done so that the basic necessities of life could be taken care of and that Bill and Dr. Bob could continue working on the restoration of the lives of hopeless alcoholics without too much worry.

Bill and the New York members as well as some in Akron felt that more had to be done. They suggested that a charitable trust or foundation be established so that it would be more attractive to prospective donors such as Mr. Rockefeller. With the assistance of Frank Amos, John Wood, a young New York lawyer and junior partner with one of the better law firms was retained to help with the formation of the foundation.

Foundation Formed

After many meetings, discussions and arguments, the new venture was called The Alcoholic Foundation. The Board of Trustees was comprised of three non-alcoholic members: Willard Richardson, Frank Amos and Dr. Leonard Strong. The Board was also to have two alcoholic members; Dr. Bob and a New York member who, at a later date, returned to drinking and was forced to resign. The Foundation was formed in May 1938.


They were atheists and wanted to remove all reference to God and spirituality from the writing in the book.

In Hank P.'s "Observations" section of his marketing proposal for the book, then being written by Bill, he wrote the following:

"One of the most talked-about things among us is a religious experience. I believe that this is incomprehensible to most people (author's note: Hank was an atheist). Simple and meaning words to us - but meaningless to most of the people that we are trying to get this over to. In my mind religious experience - religion - etc. - should not be brought in. We are actually unreligious - but we are trying to be helpful - we have learned to be quiet - to be more truthful - to be more honest - to try to be more unselfish - to make other fellows troubles - our troubles - and by following four steps (author's note: the Four Absolutes of the Oxford Group - Honesty, Unselfishness, Love and Purity) we, most of us have a religious experience. The fellowship - the unselfishness appeals to us."

Hank and Jimmy B. (another early member) both had problems with the religious or spiritual aspect of the new "program." They were atheists and wanted to remove all reference to God and spirituality from the writing in the book. They were outvoted, but compromises were made.

More shall be revealed...

Mitchell K.
the_archivist@excite.com

More A.A. History
Previous guest columns written by Mitchell K. for the Alcoholism site.


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