A.A. History Collection
A Mid-Year Up-date
© 2005 All
Note: This does not purport to
be, nor is it, a list of all the locations where A.A. historical items may be
found. Surely various individual AAs and 12 Step people, historians and writers,
recovery groups, treatment facilities, substance abuse libraries, religious
institutions, non-profits, research facilities, and universities, have bits and
pieces of our history—some large and some small. And A.A.’s General Service
Office certainly maintains archives and some books, but access is limited. State
and area archives also have collections of one sort or another. Indeed, there
are some private collections which still exist and can be unearthed with effort.
The sites here are simply those in which I have personally been involved or
which I know to be large enough to warrant inclusion. They are of particular and
unique importance to the extent that they present, as a whole, a fairly complete
picture of all the spiritual history and roots of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Griffith House Library at the Wilson House, Village Street, East
For a decade, Ozzie and Bonnie
Lepper have been inviting and receiving A.A. historical materials of all kinds
to become a part of the Wilson House historical treasures. Then, about five
years ago, I began urging some of my benefactors to contribute funds for or make
actual donations of most of the 23,900 historical items in my Maui research
library on Maui. Today, most of those items are located at the Wilson House.
Check the Wilson House website for more details. I believe this is the largest,
most accessible, and most comprehensive library in existence of temperance,
pre-A.A., Oxford Group, Shoemaker, Biblical, recovery, and A.A. history and
The Traveling Archives of Ray G., Archivist
at Dr. Bob’s Home
Ray G. and his wife Ginny have a
home in Newton Falls, Ohio, and also spend their winters in Seminole, Florida.
Ray is the archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron. For many years, Ray has been
collecting, organizing, and displaying all kinds of A.A. historical materials at
such places as Archives 2000 in Minneapolis, Joe and Charlie Big Book Seminars,
state and area A.A. conferences, and A.A. History Conferences. When Ray and
Ginny appear, the collection is there for all to see, read, and have
explained—even during the busy Founders Day period in Akron. The work is
extensive and important.
The New Shoemaker Collection at the Shoemaker
Room, Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh
For years, Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary
Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh has had an archivist who knew Sam and his work,
but had few Shoemaker articles. This year, after being on tour with Ray G., my
entire Shoemaker collection was, by two benefactors, donated outright to Calvary
Church in Pittsburgh. It contains almost all Sam’s books, sermons, articles, and
pamphlets, and many personal journal entries, letters, memos, and other data
obtained from Hartford Seminary, Princeton University, Episcopal Church Archives
in Texas, Mrs. W. Irving Harris (who ran the book stall at Calvary House and
whose husband was Sam’s Assistant Minister), as well as books purchased or
collected from all over the world.
The Annex at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio –
adjacent to 855 Ardmore Avenue
Long after Dr. Bob’s Home was
acquired and opened, its trustees began collecting books pertaining to the early
program. I persuaded Dr.Bob’s son Smitty to donate most of his portion of his
dad’s books to Dr. Bob’s Home. His sister Sue Windows sold most of her portion
to Brown University. The library in Akron is voluminous, but the books—though
visible on their shelves—are mostly under lock and key.
The Akron Intergroup Archives, Elma Street,
Gail L. has spent many years during
Founders Days in Akron presenting the historical books and materials she was
able to collect. Later, she was given the position of Archivist for the
Intergroup, and an excellent display of pictures and memorabilia is located at
the Akron Intergroup Office. Still more materials are in a locked room there.
Gail frequently gives talks on the history and historical materials.
The A.A. Library at Dr. Bob’s church, St.
Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron
The current rector at St. Paul’s
Church in Akron has enabled and facilitated many of the donations of A.A.
history books to prisons, intergroups, history locations, and to some of the
sites above. In addition, the library has a small, but important collection of
books on A.A.’s spiritual history. Dr. Bob became a communicant at St. Paul’s
shortly before his death.
The Gate Lodge (the former home of Henrietta
Seiberling) at Stan Hywet Museum and Gardens in Akron
Very recently, this historic spot
where Henrietta Seiberling introduced Bill Wilson to Dr. Bob Smith was opened to
the public. At the same time, explanatory displays were placed on the walls; a
few important historical books were placed on display; and tapes of pioneers
were made available for listening.
Brown University Collections, Providence,
Several years ago, A.A. antiquarian
bookseller Charles Bishop sold a large collection of early temperance,
anti-saloon, and alcoholism books to Brown University thanks to a benefactor
named Chester Kirk. The acquisition cost was $250,000.00. The materials are in
the custody of the Brown University Library system under the watchful eye of Dr.
David Lewis, director of the addiction studies program there. Shortly before her
death, Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue Smith Windows sold a portion of her collection of
Dr. Bob’s books and memorabilia to Brown, where they now repose. I believe other
historical materials, including some of my own, are part of the Brown
Hazelden Pttman Archives, Center City,
Over a long period of years, Bill
Pittman, an author and publisher of recovery books, began collecting and making
available a very large number of books and pamphlets ( particularly those
pertaining to A.A.’s spiritual roots), to Hazelden Foundation. At a major
conference of A.A. historians at Hazelden, the collection was dedicated; and
Pittman later became Director of Historical Information at Hazelden—a position
he no longer occupies.
Stepping Stones—The Home of Bill and Lois
Wilson, Bedford Hills, New York
When I visited and researched at
Stepping Stones in the early 1990’s, there was a large library of books
belonging to Bill Wilson, practically none of which pertained to A.A. There was
also a library of spiritualist and psychic books representing Bill’s personal
involvement in those activities. There was a large quantity of historical
manuscripts and papers of Bill’s that were directly related to A.A. history, but
they had not been organized or catalogued. I was allowed to study and make
copies of most of that material and included it in The Founders Collection
mentioned below. Later, an A.A. historian named Earl H. informed me that he had
a huge collection of A.A. history books and that he had donated them to Stepping
Stones. But I have never seen either the collection or an inventory of it;
however, I believe whatever is there can readily be identified by contacting the
affable executive director for information.
The Founders Collection—now on loan to Dr.
Karen Plavan in Pittsburgh as Curator and Custodian
As related above, I saw Dr. Bob’s
Library—which tells so much about what early AAs did and studied—split between
the inaccessible stacks at Brown University and the locked shelves at Dr. Bob’s
Home. I also realized that most of the original manuscripts either written or
described by Bill Wilson had never been made available until Hazelden finally
published an autobiography which I have and which Bill Pittman also obtained
from Stepping Stones. I also knew that the original contents of Anne Smith’s
spiritual journal which I obtained from GSO archives had never been seen,
published, or even reported until I wrote my Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939. I
therefore held on to these items so they could be placed as a unit, travel
widely, and be posted on the internet if that were funded. The funding, though
not yet complete, is substantially complete. Therefore I shipped this collection
to Karen Plavan, Ph.D., former professor of counseling and chemical dependency
at Penn State; former addiction consultant to the Pittsburgh Leadership
Foundation; and presently Vice President of a global outreach ministry
headquartered in Pittsburgh and named GOAL. Dr. Plavan is curator and custodian;
and when the acquisition funding has been completed, she and I will work out a
plan for making this vital historical material available in a permanent
location, available for tour, and usable for posting on the internet.
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