Distributed December 28, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin
AA’s Dr. Bob
Alcoholics Anonymous founder’s archives acquired by Brown
Letters, notes and writings of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Dr. Robert H. Smith have been acquired by Brown University and will be made available to researchers interested in the origins of 12-step recovery programs. Among the items are Smith’s “Big Book” and the coffee pot he used to help himself and others stay sober. Dr. David Lewis, director of Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, arranged the acquisition.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The collection of correspondence, meeting notes and books of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Dr. Robert H. Smith has been acquired by Brown University and will be made available to researchers interested in the origins of 12-step recovery programs.
Among the items are Smith’s 1939 copy of “Alcoholics Anonymous” which AA members call “The Big Book,” and the metal coffee pot that Smith – Dr. Bob to followers – used to sober up with AA co-founder Bill Wilson at meetings in Smith’s home in 1935. (Those gatherings were early versions of what became AA meetings.) The book and coffee pot are expected to attract visitors as does Smith’s home in Akron, Ohio, and other sites meaningful to people in 12-step recovery programs, according to Dr. David Lewis, director of Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.
The Dr. Robert H. Smith Archive came to Brown after two years of negotiating with Smith’s daughter, Sue Smith Windows of Akron. She agreed to sell the collection to the University, where it will join a collection of materials on AA history and temperance known as the Kirk Collection, acquired by Brown in 1995.
Lewis is raising funds for the $100,000 purchase of the Smith Archive and expects to be completed within a few months. The 5,000-item collection will be made available at Brown’s libraries; “The Big Book” and coffee pot will likely go on display.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to amass a historical collection on the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous,” Lewis said. “This is the granddaddy of all self-help groups and has spawned literally thousands of other self-help initiatives. These materials will be an invaluable resource for students, faculty and scholars nationwide who are studying Alcoholics Anonymous and other self-help programs.”
The archive includes the notes of Smith’s wife, Anne, who with her husband was a member of the Oxford Group, an evangelical fellowship that was the forerunner of AA. The notes contain the spiritual principles that were the model for the 12 steps of AA, according to AA historian and archivist Wally Patton of Tuscon, Ariz. Patton was key to finding the archives a home at Brown through his friendship with Sue Smith Windows.
The Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies has established fellowships for visiting scholars to make the materials available for study.