Timeline of Events Related to AA


August 8, 1879 Robert Holbrook Smith born in St. Johnsbury Vermont
Nov. 26, 1895      William (Bill) Griffith Wilson was born in a small room behind a bar in East Dorsett, VT., to Gilman and Emily Wilson.
1901      Professor William James lectures at University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Lectures published as The Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902.
     Bill's father, Gilman, deserts the family.

Bill's mother, Emily, moves to Boston and becomes an Osteopathic Physician. Bill and sister Dorothy live with maternal grandparents, Fayette and Ella Griffith.

Bill's first "success" making a boomerang - "a fitting irony".
1907      About age 12 Bill "leaves the Church" over a required temperance pledge.
1908      Oxford Group begun as A First Century Christian Fellowship. Frank Buchman, Founder. They espoused the Four Absolutes: Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love. They practiced the principles of self-survey confession; restitution; and service to others.
1909      Bill begins secondary education at Burr & Burton Academy.
1911      Ebby Thatcher and Bill first meet.
1912      Bill's "first love", Bertha Bamford, dies after surgery in New York. Bill began a three year depression.
1914-1918      World War I
1914      Bill enters Norwich University - a military college with strict discipline.

Bill meets Lois Burnham, daughter of New York physician Dr. Clark Burnham.
April 6, 1917      U.S. enters World War I.
Summer 1917      A Second Lieutenant in the coast artillery at Ft. Rodman, Mass., Bill takes first remembered drink - Bronx Cocktail - feels a miracle - relaxed and free. A profound experience he recalled vividly more than 50 years later.
Jan. 24, 1918      Bill marries Lois Burnham.
Summer 1918      On way to France, Bill visits Winchester Cathedral and is stirred by a "tremendous sense of presence". Reads epitaph on headstone of a Hampshire Grenadier.
Nov. 11, 1918      Armistice signed, World War I ends.
Jan. 16, 1919      36 states ratified constitutional amendment for prohibition
May 1919      Bill returns home.
1920      Bill enters Brooklyn Law School.
1921      An investigator for U.S. F & G and also works around Wall Street.
Christmas 1923      Bill vows to stay sober one year - Lasted only 2 months.
1925-26      Bought motorcycle and became (First?) "Market Analyst." Disease progressing.
1926      On Wall Street full time. Disease progressing.
Late 1928 - Early 1929      Bill crosses "invisible line" in his drinking.
Oct. 1929      Stock Market collapse.
Nov. 1929      Bill goes to Canada for a job with Dick Johnson.
1930 - 31      Back in Brooklyn and Wall Street. Living with Lois's family - unemployed. Disease progressing.
1930-34      Bill in "An Alcoholic Hell".
1931      Rowland Hazzard sees Dr. Carl Jung in Zurich, Switzerland. Told no medical or psychological hope for an alcoholic of his type; told the only hope was a spiritual or religious experience or conversion. This considered "the first in the chain of events that led to the founding of A.A."
Spring 1932      Bill's business deal in New Jersey - drank Apple Jack and drunk three days. Contract cancelled.
1933-34      Bill in Towns Hospital four times.

At Towns Hospital, Bill meets Dr. William Silkworth on second admission. "The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks."

Bill resumes drinking after each admission. Disease progressing.
Dec. 5, 1933      Prohibition ended.
Summer 1934      Dr. Silkworth pronounces Bill a "Hopeless Drunk."

Rowland Hazzard returns to America and becomes involved in Oxford Group.
1934      Emmett Fox publishes The Sermon On The Mount.
Aug. 1934      Rowland Hazzard and Cebra persuade court to parole Ebby Thatcher in their custody. Ebby sobers up at Oxford Group at Calvary Episcopal Mission, Sam Shoemaker.
Nov. 1934      Ebby T. carries message to Bill at home. Tells his story. "One Alcoholic Talking To Another."

Bill starts attending Oxford Group at Calvary Church, Bowery Mission.

Bill drinks again - Back to Towns Hospital.
Dec. 1934      Bill has "Hot Flash" spiritual experience at Towns Hospital.

Dr. Silkworth assured Bill he was not crazy; rather a "psychic experience upheaval" or "conversion."


The next day Ebby brought Bill a copy of William James' Varieties of Religious Experience.

Bill reads Varieties of ReligiousExperience, an explanation of need for Pain, Suffering, Calamityand "Deflation in Depth" and the "Simultaneous Transmission of Hope." The two "Halves" are joined into a "Whole."
     Bill returns to Oxford Group and works with other alcoholics, also at Sam Shoemaker's Calvary Mission and at Towns Hospital, emphasizing his "Hot Flash" spiritual experience. He noted they "seemed to do better" talking of their common problems, but no success in sobering up others.

Bill develops belief that alcoholics are resistant to the "Four Absolutes" of the Oxford Group.
1935      Bill, still sober, but no success yet in helping others. Still frequents Wall Street. Went to Akron Ohio for proxy fight. Lost proxy fight. Bill at Mayflower Hotel. Very discouraged and afraid he might drink.
May 11, 1935      Bill reached realization of: I need another alcoholic. "He starts making telephone calls. This is the final founding moment of A.A.

Rev. Walter Tunks Referred to Norman Sheppard. Then referred to Henrietta Seiberling, an Oxford Group adherent. She arranged a meeting the next afternoon at the Seiberling Estate with Dr. Bob Smith.
     Robert Holbrook (Bob) Smith: Born in St. Johnsbury, VT., Aug. 8, 1879. Dartmouth College, Pre-Med at University of Michigan. M.D. at Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL. Internat City Hospital, Akron, OH. Proctologist. His wife, Anne was a friend of Henrietta Seiberling. They brought Dr. Bob to Oxford Group meetings for 2-1/2 yrs. He continued to get drunk regularly.
May 12, 1935
5:00 P.M.
     Bill meets Dr. Bob. Bob still drinking. Bill tells Bob of his experiences with alcohol; of the hopes, promises, and failures; the obsession, compulsion, and physical allergy; of Ebby's visit and simple message, "show me your faith and by my works I will show you mine."

Dr. Bob understood with sudden clarity - the difference withthe Oxford Group. "The spiritual approach was as useless as any other if you soaked it up like a sponge and kept it to yourself." The purpose of life was not to "get" , it was to "give."

Bill had presented Dr. Bob four aspects of one core idea:
(1) Utter Hopelessness
(2) Totally Deflated
(3) Requiring Conversion
(4) Needing Others
June 10, 1935      Dr. Bob has last drink.

June 11, 1935      Dr. Bob suggests they both start working with other alcoholics.
June 28, 1935      Bill and Dr. Bob confront Bill Dotson, first "Man on the Bed." Bill D. was a prominent attorney in Akron. The 3rd A.A. Note: Bill D. had a spiritual experience without familiarity with Oxford Group principals.
Summer 1935      Bill stayed in in Akron. He and Dr. Bob worked with alcoholics and attended weekly Oxford Group meetings and received spiritual nourishment.

Henrietta Seiberling supplied them with "Infusion of Spirituality" mainly through Paul to Corinthians on "Love" and James on "Works" if faith is to have meaning.
Winter 1935      Back in New York on Clinton St., Hank P. and Fitz M. got sober.
Mid 1936      A small but solid group developing at Clinton St. in New York.

Bill's efforts with alcoholics receiving criticism from Oxford Group.

Charles Towns offers Bill a job at Towns Hospital. Bill wanted it. The question was presented to the Group and rejected because what they had, the "thing" that bound them together and those feelings could not be bought and paid for. The only authority was the Group Conscience and all decisions were to be made by the Group.
1937      Beginning of the split from the Oxford Group.

Residents at Clinton St.
Ebby T.
Oscar V.
Russell R.
Bill C.
Florence R.
Nov. 1937      Bill and Dr. Bob meet in Akron and compare notes. Forty cases sober and staying sober. More than twenty sober for more than one year. All had been diagnosed as HOPELESS.

A meeting of the Akron Group to consider Bill's ideas for a book, pamphlets and how to expand the movement. Presented but only narrowly passed by a majority of 2.
Feb. 1938      Rockefeller gives $5,000 and saves A.A. from professionalism.
May 1938      The Alcoholic Foundation established as a trusteeship for A.A.
May 1938      Beginning of the writing of the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dec. 1938      Twelve Steps written.
1939      Membership reaches 100.
April 1939      The book Alcoholics Anonymous published.
Summer 1939      Withdrawal from association with Oxford Group complete. Oxford Group renamed "Moral Re-Armament."
1940      Bill meets Father Ed Dowling who becomes his "spiritual advisor."
Feb. 1940      First World Service Office for A.A.
March 1941      Jack Alexander's Saturday Evening Post article published and membership jumped to 2000.
Jan. 1944      Dr. Harry Tiebout's first paper on the subject of "alcoholics anonymous."
June 1944      The A.A. Grapevine established.
1946      The Twelve Traditions of A.A. formulated and published.
June 1, 1949      Anne Ripley Smith died.
July 1950      First international convention of A.A. at Cleveland, Ohio. Twelve Traditions adopted.
Nov. 16, 1950      Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous died.
June 1953      The book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions published.
Oct. 1954      The "Alcoholic Foundation" becomes the "General Service Board of A.A."
July 1955      20th Anniversary Convention at St. Louis, MO. Second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous published. The three legacies of Recovery, Unity and Service turned over to the movement by its oldtimers.
1957      Creation of first overseas General Service Board of A.A. in Great Britain and Ireland. A.A. Comes of Age published in October. Membership reaches over 200,000 in 7,000 groups in 70 countries and U.S. possessions.
1959      A.A. Publishing, Inc. became A.A. World Services, Inc.
July 1960      25th Anniversary Convention at Long Beach, CA
1962      Publication of Twelve Concepts for World Service written by Bill W.
July 1965      30th Anniversary Convention at Toronto, Canada. Keynote adopted, "I Am Responsible."
1966      Change in ratio of trustees of the General Service Board; now two-thirds majority of alcoholic members; the A.A. fellowship accepts top responsibility for all it's future affairs.
1967      Publication of the book The A.A. Way of Life now titled As Bill Sees It.
Oct. 9-11, 1969      First World Service meeting held in New York with delegates from 14 countries.
1970      35th Anniversary International Convention at Miami Beach, Florida. Keynote: "This we owe to AA's of the future. To place our common welfare first; To keep our fellowship united. For on A.A. Unity depend our lives, and the lives of those to come." Bill's last public appearance.
Jan. 24, 1971      William Griffith Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, dies at Miami Beach, FL.
Oct. 5-7, 1972      Second World Service meeting held in New York.
1973      Publication of Came to Believe.
April 1973      Distribution of the book Alcoholics Anonymous reached one million mark.
1975      Publication of Living Sober.
1976      Publication of 3rd Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Oct. 5, 1988      Lois Burnam Wilson died.
November 2001 Publication of Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Edition
Feb. 9, 2002 Death of Sue Smith Windows, Dr.Bob's daughter



Bill W. by Robert Thompsen
Not God. A History of Alcoholics Anonymous by Ernest Kurtz
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, A.A. World Services, Inc.
Pass It On - Bill Wilson and the A.A. Message, A.A. World Services
The Language of the Heart, The A.A. Grapevine
Dr. Bob and the Good Old-Timers, A.A. World Services, Inc.
On The Tail of a Comet, The Life of Frank Buchman by Garth Lean
The Washingtonian Movement, by Milton A. Maxwell, Ph.D.
A.A. The Way It Began, by Bill Pittman

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