Financing the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

'Won't Money Spoil This Thing?'

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Rockefeller Helped Keep AA Non Professional. Mitchell K.

Milton Maxwell, Ph.D., in his paper The Washingtonian Movement, stated that "In the early days of A.A., the entire fellowship was bound together by a chain of personal relationships - all created on the basis of a common program, a common spirit and a common tradition."

As Bill was writing the as yet unnamed book, Hank P. was putting together "sales promotion possibilities" and "the market" for it.

Part of this marketing plan included his opinion of the prospective audience for the book:

1. Over one million alcoholics (according to the Rockefeller Foundation)
2. At least a million non-alcoholics that have definite alcoholic relatives
3. Every employer of 100 or more people
4. Those who take an academic interest
5. Two hundred & ten thousand ministers
6. One hundred sixty nine thousand physicians
7. The total would be well over three million prospects

Generating Millions of Dollars

This marketing plan, in Hank's handwriting is housed in the Stepping Stones Archives in Bedford Hills, NY. Both Bill and Hank were thinking in the millions. Not only millions of people who would purchase this new book, but in the millions of dollars it would generate.

Bill had met Hank at Towns Hospital, which was located at 293 Central Park West in NYC. Hank had been a Vice President at Standard Oil of New Jersey.

Hank had been fired due to his drinking and he was one of the first "converts" Bill worked with who stayed sober for any length of time.

Hank had opened a small office in Newark, NJ at 17 William Street. It was in that office on the sixth floor that Ruth Hock, then Hank's secretary and later Bill's, was to type the dictations and hand-written pages Bill gave to her which later formed the Big Book.

No Funds to Publish

Bill and Hank had no funds to publish the book so Bill decided to visit with his brother-in-law, Dr. Leonard V. Strong. Dr. Strong was married to Bill's sister, Dorothy and was the personal physician to the entire Wilson family.

Dr. Strong knew people connected to John D. Rockefeller, Sr. who had fought for the Constitutional Amendment dealing with Prohibition. Mr. Rockefeller also was known to have given vast sums of money towards the cause of prohibition.

Dr. Strong remembered that he had once dated the niece of Willard Richardson who happened to be the person in charge of Mr. Rockefeller's Church Charities.

A Letter of Introduction

Mr. Richardson was so excited about the new project he invited Dr. Strong and Bill to come over to Mr. Rockefeller's offices the next day. Dr. Strong could not attend but gave Bill a letter of introduction to bring with him. That letter was dated October 26, 1937.

Mr. Richardson liked the idea for the book so much that he wrote a letter to Dr. Strong. This letter, dated November 10, 1937 proposed another meeting in Mr. Rockefeller's Private Board Room in December.

The chairperson for that meeting was Mr. Albert Scott, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Riverside Church in NYC.

Seed Money Needed

After a detailed explanation of this new book and fellowship was made, Mr. Scott proclaimed, "Why, this is First Century Christianity! What can we do to help?"

Bill thought that the result of such a proposal would be the influx of millions of dollars into the movement by the Rockefeller people. He told those assembled that all they really needed was an undisclosed sum of seed money to help with the book project.

He further explained that the profits from the sales of hundreds and thousands of books would eventually get the movement on its feet and become self-sufficient.

A 'Fatal Diversion'

Bill and the other recovered alcoholics present were asked about the need for money by the Rockefeller staff.

"Won't money spoil this thing?"

They were questioned about money creating a professional class that would spoil the success of working man-to-man and that chains of hospitals, property and prestige would be a "fatal diversion."

It was decided to send Mr. Frank Amos of the Rockefeller staff to Akron to investigate this new fellowship. He was to go the very next week.

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