For pages related to AA history, please see "Big Book Q&A" and "AA History Timeline" on this site. Presentation of material below does not imply endorsement of its content. Please also note that some of the sites from which audios and videos are uploaded may sponsor ads and unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about it other than to click on “Skip."
“Sam Shoemaker and Bill W. in 1960 "AA history." Sam Shoemaker’s address to the 1960 25th Anniversary International AA Convention meeting in Long Beach, California. Shoemaker was pastor of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Gramercy Park in NYC and head of the city’s Oxford Group, which Bill W. joined after attending one of its meetings at the church’s mission on 23rd St. Bill credits Sam with transmitting to him the basic OG principles which later went into the 12 Steps of AA. Here Sam discusses, with a great deal of wit, the relationship between religion and AA and how much the church has to learn from the latter (30:29).
“Dr. Bob: His Last Major Talk.” Dr. Bob met Bill W. May 12, 1935 and had his last drink June 10, from which dates the founding of AA. He died November 16, 1950 at Akron City hospital, where he worked as a surgeon and helped many alcoholics get sober. In this, his last major talk before he passed away, Dr. Bob recounts various aspects of early AA history from a personal and spiritual point of view (45:53). For more on our co-founder, See “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” in “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories, 4th Edition, Part I: Pioneers of AA.
“Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.” This is an audio version of Dr. Bob’s story in the Big Book. We’re making it available here because, unlike the case with Bill W., audios about or by the other co-founder of AA are very hard to come by. Dr. Bob recounts how he spent 2 ½ years in the Oxford Group but could not stop drinking. He read everything he could about alcoholism and talked to anyone he thought knew anything about it, but that didn’t help either. What finally worked was talking to another alcoholic, namely Bill W. Even so, Dr. Bob tells us that he continued to have the urge to drink for more than two years after he got sober. Still, he acknowledges he stayed sober, not by his own power, but by the power of God working in his life (22:17 min.). See “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” in “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories, 4th Edition, Part I: Pioneers of AA.
“The Wilson House - Birthplace of Bill W --- History of AA - John W.- East Dorset, VT - Oct 1990.” From Bill W.'s birthplace, John W. of Pompano Beach, FL gives us a bird's-eye view of the historical figures and movements which preceded AA: from Dr. Benjamin Rush to the Temperance Movement, the Washingtonians, the Emmanuel Movement, and the Oxford Group, followed by some highlights of AA history up to the publishing of the Big Book. Interesting photos of house interior (where meetings are currently held) and other historical sites and documents (51:13 min.).
“A Day at Dr. Bob’s.” Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers: A Visit to Akron, Ohio, July 29, 2008, by David G. New and memorable photos of Dr. Bob’s house and other AA historic sites in Akron: The Mayflower Hotel with the telephone and Church Directory which led to Bill W.’s meeting with Dr. Bob; Henrietta Seiberling’s Gatehouse where they first met; T. Henry and Clarace Williams home, where the early AA’s first held meetings as part of the Oxford Group; The King School, where they first met independently; St. Thomas Hospital, where Dr. Bob worked with Sister Ignatia on countless alcoholics; the hospital’s Chapel and Sr. Ignatia Heritage Center; and portraits of the early writers, including the titles of their stories in the Big Book. A short (9:29) but thoroughly enjoyable and instructive video. See on this site “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” in “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories, 4th Edition, Part I: Pioneers of AA.
“Clarence Snyder: Came to Believe Retreat, 1982.” Dr. Bob’s sponsee, Clarence helped found the Cleveland Group of AA, the first to be named “Alcoholics Anonymous” after its separation from the Oxford Group in Akron. He helped write the Big Book and is author of “Home Brewmeister” (in 75th Anniversary Edition of BB and in “Experience, Strength, and Hope”). He had his last drink 02/11/38, and at the time of this talk had the longest period of sobriety in AA. Given not long after the publication of “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers,” his talk, like that book, presents a distinctly Akron, Midwestern view of AA (1:33:24). See on this site “Big Book Q&A,” Chapter 10: To Employers, p.138.
“Bill W. on the X Factor in Recovery: Spiritual Experience and the Grace of God.” The X Factor is what Dr. Foster Kennedy (BB’s “The Medical View on A.A.,” p. 569) said his friends in science called what to them was an unknown force at work in the recovery of alcoholics. Bill W. (and the BB and 12&12) identify it as the grace of God. That's what makes possible the spiritual experience that restores us to sanity. Bill addresses the question: If grace is available in religion, why has religion failed the alcoholic? Using a well-known metaphor, he explains that AA plants the seed and God makes it grow. But for it to grow, the seed needs the proper climate, soil, and light. That’s the environment Jung counselled Rowland H. to plant himself in, and that’s what, through Ebby's and Bill's own experience in the Oxford Group, AA learned to provide. Hence its emphasis on “a faith that works.” Talk given in 1966 (42:14). Image (clockwise): Dr. Jung, Rowland H., Ebby T., Bill W.
“AA Speaker and Co-Founder Bill W. 18th Anniversary Dinner.” As his 18th sober anniversary nears, Bill W. speaks on the theme of love and service, two principles which are central to Step 12. This is where “we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards,” and “the kind of love that has no price tag on it.” He honors two men who exemplified this kind of loving and giving and explains why he considers them to be among the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. One was a man of science, “the little doctor who loved alcoholics;” the other the libertine-turned saint who we’re told in Step 11 had gone “through the emotional wringer.” In a brief personal narrative, he shares some of the experiences of shame which he tried to compensate for by always trying to prove himself to the world. This gave him the “fierce determination to win” which would drive him as an alcoholic. Talk given in NY 11/10/52 (41:33). For more on Bill, please see “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Bill’s Story." [Note: This video is currently unavailable. We hope to make it available again if possible.]
AA Speaker Tim H. of Louisville, KYSpeaks on Steps 8 and 9. Using deeply moving stories from his own experience, Tim H. shows how he made amends to those he had harmed and how this changed his life and restored his relationships with people. A simple and ordinary talk, but one that shows the transformational power of the amends process. Given at the 21st Annual AA Fall Men’s Retreat in Vancouver, Canada, 9/20/09 (53:51). [Note: This video is currently unavailable. We hope to make it available again if possible.]
“Moments: An Evening with Bill Wilson.” Bill’s most intimate talk, delivered on November 16, 1950, a very sad day for AA. He was 16 years sober at the time, and just about to turn 55. This may be the best and most complete retelling of his story, and the most personal about his relationship with Dr. Bob (1:19:40). See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Bill’s Story,” and “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/ .
Dr. Paul O. “Love and Tolerance.” Dr. Paul is the author of the story titled “Acceptance Was the Answer” in the 4th edition of the Big Book and “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict” in the 3rd. As he headed south toward his bottom, he ended up as a patient in the nut ward of the same hospital where he had been a doctor. His story contains what is perhaps the best known paragraph about acceptance in the Big Book, on page 417. Here he speaks at the 10th anniversary of the Legacy Group of Fort Worth, in Fort Worth, Texas, 04/07/90 (1:01:20). It’s one of the funniest talks ever. Dr. Paul has an unusual ability to combine humor with wisdom. See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Acceptance Was the Answer,” on this site.
AA Number Three – Bill D. – Canton, Ohio, 1951. Prominent attorney, ex-city councilman, and former church deacon, Bill D. started his eighth detox in six months at Akron City Hospital by assaulting two nurses. He believed in God and the Bible, but couldn’t stay sober—until Bill W. and Dr. Bob carried the message to him and he became "AA number three" (1:01:06). See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” on this site.
Bill W.’s address to Fourth International AA Convention, 1965, Toronto. On the 30th anniversary of its founding, Bill retells AA’s story to the convention, whose theme is “I am Responsible.” Narrative arc goes from Carl Jung, Rowland H., Ebby T. and the Oxford Group to Dr. Silkworth, Towns Hospital, his spiritual experience, William James, and Sam Shoemaker; from his “missionary” failure in NYC to the Mayflower Hotel, the Rev. Tung, Henrietta Seiberling, Dr. Bob, “The Man on the Bed,” and the founding of the Akron group; from the founding of the NY and Cleveland groups to the publishing of the Big Book (45:26). See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Bill’s Story,” “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” and “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” on this site. See also brief excerpts on the Toronto convention from Grateful to Have Been There, by Nell Wing, Bill W.’s secretary, at http://www.barefootsworld.net/aa4thintl1965.html
Dr. Earle M. – “Physician Heal Thyself.” One of Bill W.’s sponsees, Dr. Earle rose from poverty to become a successful physician and master various fields of medicine. An apparently restless man, he went to meetings all over the world, experimented with Eastern religions, went through multiple marriages, and had his own idiosyncratic ideas about recovery. Still, he stayed sober in AA to the very end. This talk, given when he was 80, shows him to have been an accomplished speaker with a great sense of humor (1:08:24). See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Physician, Heal Thyself!” on this site. For a brief biography, click on http://silkworth.net/aabiography/earlem.html
Marty M. – “Women Suffer Too.” Author of the story by that name in the Big Book, Marty M. was one of the first women to join AA. She had her spiritual experience while reading the manuscript version of the BB, given her while under treatment by Dr. Tiebout, who later became Bill W.’s therapist. She attended her first meeting in the home of Bill and Lois in Brooklyn. Founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, she was tireless in her effort to gain acceptance for the disease concept of alcoholism (58:48 min.). See “Big Book Q&A,” Personal Stories Section, “Women Suffer Too,” on this site. See also her biography, shown above, and comments thereon in PTP's Goodreads page.
“Jim B. – A.A. Pioneer.” First self-proclaimed agnostic to join AA, Jim B. is credited with suggesting the expression “as we understood Him” to qualify “God” and make the spiritual angle more accessible to others like him. Here he gives a personal history of the trials and tribulations in the early days of the fellowship (1:11:26 min.). See story “The Vicious Cycle” in "Big Book Q&A" on this site.
“Alcoholic, Addict, Priest.” One who shares our illness shares his story. From the heart to the heart. Corapi is the rarest of priests or pastors: someone we can identify with. He bears witness to what AA historian Ernie Kurtz terms “the spirituality of imperfection” (1:01:16 min.). [Note: Video could not be embedded in page. Link will lead directly to YouTube video entitled “God’s Name Is Mercy: Personal Testimony.”]
“Ebby Thatcher, San Jose CA, 3-4-61.” Ebby is the third link in the spiritual chain of events leading from Dr. Carl Jung to Rowland H. to Bill W. to Dr. Bob and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here Ebby tells the story of how he got sober in the Oxford Group, his carrying the message to Bill, and his struggles with relapse (33:54 min.). For a biography of Ebby, see Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W., by Mel B.
“Recovery and Forgiveness," by Father Joe M.Father Joe was a priest and recovering alcoholic who founded a treatment center for alcoholism and drug addiction and spoke extensively on recovery and the 12 Steps. He got sober in 1958 and died in 2009 (46:56 min.)
"Dawn of Hope." Alcoholics Anonymous Historical Retrospective. Engaging and visually attractive narrative of AA history from Akron founding to the publishing of the Big Book. Historic photos of people and places involved in the founding and growth of the fellowship (29:35 min.)
"Bill W. Meets Dr. Bob." The meeting that changed our lives, with Ernie Kurtz and others (09:39 min.)
“Bill W.: A Documentary about the Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The real story of the people and events that made it possible for us to be sober today. No hype, glitz, or melodrama (trailer 2:07 min., movie 1 hr. 44 min.)
Rich Walker, author ofTwenty-Four Hours a Day,speaksat Boston AA meeting ca. 1957.Vintage AA (42:30 min.). For review of book, see The Little Black Book in Ray's Book Reviews
“AA: America’s Gift to the World.” Scottish writer A.L. Kennedy tells the story of AA through the voices of Bill W. and Dr. Bob and of recovering alcoholics in Great Britain today (BBC Radio, 04/06/15, 28:23 min.)