The Founding of AA – A Story in Pictures – Page 2

In keeping with AA Tradition (Tradition Eleven), this website will not

publish recognizable images of AA members who are alive or recently

deceased. All of the personal photos in this section have previously been featured in publications of AA World Services, Inc, and are reprinted with permission. We will carry the story of AA further as time permits us to develop this part of our site. The accompanying text is drawn from AA publications (Pass It On, Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers and AA Comes of Age) and recollections of oldtimer members. It has not been approved by AA World Services, Inc or the AA General Service Conference. Every reasonable effort has been made to insure the accuracy of the information contained here, but no guarantee is expressed or implied.

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William Griffith Wilson (1895-1971), Co-Founder, Alcoholics Anonymous. Born in East Dorset, VT, Bill W served in Europe during World War I after marrying his childhood sweetheart Lois Burnham in early 1918. He later became a successful stockbroker in New York until alcoholism destroyed his career and nearly his life. Late in 1934, following a visit by his boyhood friend Ebby T, Bill had a profound spiritual experience while in Towns Hospital in New York. He continued his spiritual quest by attending Oxford Group meetings in Manhattan. He never had another drink. Bill spent much time over the next few months fervently trying to pass on his new-found sobriety to drunks in the Bowery. Though not one of them remained sober, Bill did.

Bill Wilson in WWI

Dr Bob Smith as a young man

Dr Robert Holbrook Smith (1879-1950), Co-Founder, Alcoholics Anonymous. Smith earned an M.D. despite major drinking problems as a student. Though his medical career demonstrated great promise at times, alcoholism had brought him to the brink of disaster by the mid-1930’s.

Photo: Bill Wilson, c. 1960.


In April, 1935, Bill attempted to rebuild his shattered career by becoming involved in a stock-proxy battle over a small machine tool company in Akron, OH. His venture was not successful, and on the Saturday before Mothers’ Day, 1935, he found himself in the lobby of his hotel, lonely and fearful that the cheerful sounds coming from the nearby bar were becoming far too attractive. Panicstricken at the thought that he would drink again, he instinctively knew he needed another alcoholic to talk to. Almost at random, Bill picked a minister’s name from the hotel’s church directory, and through a series of remarkable circumstances, a meeting was arranged for the next day with a local doctor – Dr Bob – whose growing reputation for drunkenness was of grave concern to his friends.

Portrait of Bill Wilson

Dr Bob Smith

Photo: Dr Bob, c. 1945
Dr Bob was a member of the Oxford Group in Akron but did not find sobriety until he met Bill Wilson in May, 1935. Bill’s desperate telephone search had led him to Mrs Henrietta Seiberling, who knew Dr Bob from the Oxford Group meetings and was aware of his alcoholism. Henrietta arranged a meeting between Bob and Bill in the gatehouse of the Seiberling

estate on the evening of Mothers’ Day. Bob agreed to meet for fifteen

minutes, but the new friends talked for six hours.

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