In March of 1941, a young and famous writer by the name of Jack Anderson, wrote an article Called “Alcoholics Anonymous”.
It appeared in the March 1st, 1941 edition of the very popular Saturday
Evening Post, with a cover by Norman Rockwell. When Anderson wrote it, he was only 19 years old, but his skill as an investigative reporter was already quite evident. Without revealing the names of the founders, he
told their moving and inspirational story with the same depth and clarity that would win him a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, 31 years later.And like a good investigative reporter, Anderson was not ready to buy all
the claims that AA was making. In fact, he set out to debunk the whole operation. But he was fair minded enough to embark on long journey of research to uncover the truth.
Anderson’s first stop was AA headquarters in New York, where he met with founder “Bill W.” He liked Bill and found him sincere and convincing,
but that wasn’t enough to quell Anderson’s doubts. Bill decided to take the writer to a few meetings to give him a better perspective. Later Anderson met with the families of AA members who shared their experience of how
AA had changed everything for them.
At this point, Anderson told Bill W. that he thought he might have enough material to write the article, but was still not convinced that AA was as successful as it claimed in helping alcoholics. Bill suggested that Anderson do a little more research and check out what was going on in other cities.
Anderson’s first visit was Philadelphia. There, AA members took Anderson to the psychopathic ward of Philadelphia General Hospital and showed how members worked with the inmates suffering from alcoholism. From
Pennsylvania he went to Akron, Ohio, where Anderson met “Doctor S,” who arranged meetings with more AA members, and accompanied him to other hospitals and AA meetings.
Traveling with Doc. S to Cleveland, Ohio, the writer discovered a different kind of AA member. While in Akron, Philadelphia and New York, he had met with and interviewed mostly blue-collar workers. In
Cleveland Anderson heard these same stories of personal triumph from general laborers from all walks of life.
Next stop was Chicago, and again the story was the same, but the clincher that knocked every last ounce of skepticism out of him was a visit back to his hometown of St. Louis. Here Anderson bumped into some of
his old pals, who were now members of AA. He never would have believed that these former hard-drinking buddies could have so transformed their lives! He wrote a glowing six-page tribute to the organization.
The effects were stunning. The March 1, 1941 issue of Saturday Evening Post was completely sold out and the article generated over 6000 reader inquiries! These were forwarded to AA headquarters, effectively
tripling AA membership.
After the publication of this article, the reader mail was overwhelming. Letters came in from desperate drinkers, wives, mothers, fathers and friends. The post forwarded the letters to the headquarters office
of AA in New York. The office in New York forwarded many of these letters out to various AA groups that live near the writers of the letters. There were well over 6,000 letters sent out by readers who wrote into The Saturday
Evening Post about this article with many of them searching for help.
This was the turning point in the growth and success of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA had been, according to Bill W., “Put on the map.”
The Controversy! Though a turning point for Alcoholics Anonymous, several of its groups felt concerned about anonymity and overwhelmed with requests for help. Decisions were made to limit
publicity, which is another reason this article is so rare and sought after. Today the magazine is worth up to a thousand dollars.
Unique in our market-driven society, AA remains a dues-free,
unadvertised society based on the premise that only an alcoholic who has come to terms with the disease, through AA’s 12-step program, can and must reach out to another who has not.
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