AA had its beginnings in 1935 when a doctor and a layman, both alcoholics, helped each other recover and then developed, with a third recovering alcoholic, the organization’s guiding principles. By 1941, the group had demonstrated greater success in helping alcoholics than any previous methods and had grown to about 2,000 members. But for most of North America, AA was still unknown. Following the March 1, 1941, publication of an article written by Jack Alexander in The Saturday Evening Post (see “Alcoholics Anonymous,” below) describing AA’s extraordinary success, inquiries began to flood in, leaving the small staff of what was then a makeshift headquarters overwhelmed. Alcoholics Anonymous tripled in size in the next year and continued to grow exponentially. Today, 75 years later, AA claims 2 million members worldwide, 1.2 million of them in the U.S. Following are links to the original Post article that many credit for AA’s success and two of Jack Alexander’s follow-up articles.
Editor’s note: Four years after his groundbreaking article on AA was published, writer Jack Alexander recalled his initial doubts about the group in an AA publication.
It began when the Post asked me to look into AA as a possible article subject. All I knew of alcoholism at the time was that, like most other non-alcoholics, I had had my hand bitten (and my nose punched) on numerous occasions by alcoholic pals to whom I had extended a hand — unwisely, it always seemed afterward. Anyway, I had an understandable skepticism about the whole business.
My first contact with actual AAs came when a group of four of them called at my apartment one afternoon. This session was pleasant, but it didn’t help my skepticism any. Each one introduced himself as an alcoholic who had gone “dry,” as the official expression has it. They were good-looking and well-dressed, and as we sat around drinking Coca-Cola (which was all they would take), they spun yarns about their horrendous drinking misadventures. The stories sounded spurious, and after the visitors had left, I had a strong suspicion that my leg was being pulled. They had behaved like a bunch of actors sent out by some Broadway casting agency.
Excerpt from “Jack Alexander of SatEvePost Fame Thought AAs Were Pulling His Leg,” AA Grapevine, May 1945