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

Saturday Evening Post Article

March 1, 1941, the Saturday Evening Post ran an article entitled, "ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, Freed Slaves of Drink, Now They Free Others."

Public Domain

This article, almost six full pages in length, detailed the workings of AA. Jack Alexander, who initially started out to expose AA as a fraud, wrote in glowing praise about what AA was doing to help reclaim the lives of countless formerly hopeless alcoholics.

Until March 1941, sales of the Big Book were minimal. AA membership, though growing was sluggish in scope and numbers. The First Edition of the book was published in April 1939 and it wasn't until March 1941 that a second printing became necessary.

According to a proposal statement by the Alcoholic Foundation (The original name of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.) the article in the Saturday Evening Post "produced a flood of inquiries." Letters of inquiry to the Foundation increased to 5,139 and over 15,000 AA pamphlets and 1,749 Big Books were shipped. This proposal stated that, "A.A. membership has more than doubled, standing now above 4000 members."It goes on to state that "Office activity continues at a high rate and is thus far in line with our original estimate of 10,000 inquiries for the fiscal year."

The Saturday Evening Post stated that the March 1st issue was sold out and probably had the largest circulation of any other issue up to that time. Thousands of people wrote to the Foundation office and to established AA groups for information and help. In Cleveland, Ohio, beginners "classes" were established to handle the large influx of new members. New ways to deal with sponsorship on a grand scale were formulated and the new prospects were "indoctrinated" into the Fellowship. Many new AA groups were formed around the country and several people who did not have access to a group "got well" with just the Big Book. Many of these newly recovered AA members went on to establish groups in their cities and towns.

This was the turning point in the growth and success of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA had been, according to Bill W., "Put on the map." Several of the groups around the country didn't like this new publicity however. They didn't know how to handle the dozens of requests for help each received. Many members felt that their anonymity was being threatened and several wrote to the Foundation expressing their concerns.

AA was truly on the move and that movement has not stopped even to this day. Despite the large amount of inquiries and necessity of another printing of the Big Book, the Foundation remained heavily in debt. The creditors and subscribers (those who purchased stock in Works Publishing) had not been repaid as promised.

Heavy in Debt

According to the Alcoholic Foundation, "The book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' is still heavily in debt -- $7,824.95 was still due creditors and subscribers as of Sept. 1st, 1941. Since publication in April 1939, very little book debt has been retired...Instead of reducing these debts, book income has been used for the greater part to pay the increasing overhead of our Central Office so that we could answer the huge number of inquiries. Plainly speaking, we have been using monies that should have been paid to creditors for the purpose of answering pleas for help."

The Foundation listed their overhead expenses at that time (beginning March 1, 1941 through September 1, 1941) as follows:

Office rent - 30 Vesey St., N.Y.C.            -$324.98
Postage for six month period                  - 426.00
Additional necessary office furniture         - 242.08
Stationery                                    - 114.21
Secretary & (3) stenographers salaries      - 2,005.00
Government taxes - Social Security, Etc.       - 62.20
Telephone & Telegraph                          - 88.37
Misc..                                          -31.79
Total - - -                                - $3,294.63

The Foundation further explained that "These expenses have been met from the following sources:"

From donations by the groups 
to The Alcoholic Foundation          $1,500.00
From sales of the book 
"Alcoholics Anonymous"                1,500.00
From outside donations 
to The Alcoholic Foundation             294.63

Total - -                            $3,294.63

In order to help with meeting the growing expenses, the Foundation suggested that group and member donations be increased from $1.00 per year, per member to $1.00 per member twice a year. They also reminded the membership that this request was, "but a suggestion."

More will be revealed...

Mitchell K.

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

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