Sam Shoemaker Goes On Tour For
Priceless Collection of
Shoemaker s Books, Articles, Sermons, Talks, Papers
by Dick B.
For the past
fifteen years, I have traveled and interviewed all over the United States and
communicated with many in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. In part, the
quest was to locate, collect, and research the books, articles, sermons, talks,
and personal letters and
journals of the Episcopal priest whom Bill Wilson dubbed a co-founder of A.A. As
I have written elsewhere in my titles New Light on Alcoholism (http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml)
and The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous (http://www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml),
you can find Rev. Sam Shoemaker's footprints all over Alcoholics Anonymous
history. And it became important to assemble, review, analyze, publicize, and
make available to the religious and recovery communities the wonderful resources
that today show just what Shoemaker did add to the A.A. mix.
We know that Rev. Sam Shoemaker brought Russell Firestone to Christ and to
victory over liquor in 1931. We know that these events precipitated the famous
visits of Dr. Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group people to Akron in 1933, where
they were heard by Henrietta Seiberling and Dr. Bob s wife Anne Smith. We know
that Sam Shoemaker kept in touch with the Akron people, particularly Rev.
Wright, to keep tabs on the effectiveness of the meeting of Bill Wilson and Dr.
Bob at the Seiberling home in 1935.
We knew far less about what Sam Shoemaker taught Bill Wilson on the East Coast.
The dearth of information was probably as much due to Shoemaker's humility as to
Bill Wilson's reluctance for many years to let A.A. people in on the sources of
the Twelve Steps and the Big Book. See my title Twelve Steps for You (http://www.dickb.com/12stepsforYou.shtml).
But a relentless search for the facts turned up (1) Shoemaker letters at
Hartford Seminary, (2) Shoemaker articles and correspondence at the Episcopal
Church Archives in Texas, (3) Shoemaker's first radio broadcast at the Princeton
Alumni Archives, (4) Shoemaker's personal journals at the home of his daughter
Nickie Haggart, (5) the content of early meetings at Calvary House through
interviews with Jim Newton and Mrs. W. Irving Harris, (6) the work of Shoemaker
in Pittsburgh through Calvary Church there and through the Pittsburgh Experiment
and Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, (7) details about Bill Wilson, Ebby
Thacher, Rowland Hazard, Shepherd Cornell, Victor Kitchen, Hanford Twitchell,
Cleve Hicks, and several other Wilson/Oxford Group associates all at the papers
and libraries at St. George's Parish and Calvary Episcopal Church in New York.
(8) Fragments of the history from A.A. publications like Pass It On, Alcoholics
Anonymous Comes of Age, The Language of the Heart, the Grapevine, (9) Pictures
of Calvary Rescue Mission, Calvary Church in New York, inscribed pictures from
Wilson to Shoemaker, and pictures of the Oxford Group businessmen s team to
which Bill Wilson belonged. (10) Most of all, the facts came from widely diverse
interviews with James Newton, Eleanor Forde Newton, Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker,
Norman Vincent Peale, Rev. Paul Everett, Nell Wing, Mrs,. W. Irving Harris, L.
Parks Shipley, Sr., T. Willard Hunter, George Vondermuhll, Sr., Garth Lean,
Michael Hutchinson, Nickie Shoemaker Haggart, Sally Shoemaker
Robinson, Dr. Thomas Pike, Vicar Steve Garmey, the Pittsburgh golf club crowd,
and several other Oxford Group activists in Great Britain, Canada, and the
United States. (11) Finally, there were the large number of Shoemaker's books,
articles, sermons, letters, papers, pamphlets, and manuscripts that finally made
up most of the Shoemaker Collection.
The actual items in the Shoemaker collection are specifically described in a
recent article about them now posted on archivesinternational.org and on dickb-blog.com.
Thanks to the great interest and generous anonymous donation of an active member
of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, this entire collection is in the
process of being donated free to Ray G., archivist at Dr. Bob's Home in Akron,
Ohio. Other donors are being asked to help. Ray travels all over the United
States and Canada with his extensive collections of Alcoholics Anonymous
historical items. He displays them. He lets people read and study them. He
explains them, and he carefully stewards them. They are seen at many A.A.
Conferences throughout the United States. They were displayed at Archives 2000
at the A.A. International Convention in Minneapolis. And they will soon be
displayed at Archives 2005 at the A.A. International Convention soon to be held
in Toronto. Ultimately, when Ray has concluded his tireless trips and displays,
the Shoemaker collection will go into good, long-term stewardship in the hands
of an Episcopal location either at St. Georges and Calvary Church in New York,
or at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh, or at St. Paul s in Akron, or possibly an
Episcopal seminary library in the New York area. They will be preserved and
available for generations to come.
In short, Sam Shoemaker has gone on the road. You will be able to see the
Shoemaker materials at many A.A. Conferences, at Dr. Bob's Home in the summer
when Ray G. serves there as archivist, and at archival conferences such as A.A.
International Conventions. This will be an invaluable opportunity for those who
have wanted for so long to see his books, read his articles, absorb his sermons,
and review his personal correspondence with Bill Wilson and a host of others,
and actually see his own personal journal entries pertaining to Bill Wilson.
Hopefully too, many of the Shoemaker materials will find their way into the
internet and world-wide visibility.
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