Alcoholism has always been a scourge in Detroit. One of the earliest articles we had found in a Detroit newspaper was in the Detroit Free Press on August 19, 1853.
It tells the tale of a 105 year old man being arrested for public drunkenness by the Sheriff of Wayne County. In the story it goes on to tell how the man had fought in the war of 1812 as well as the Revolutionary War, specifically the Battle of Lex... [read more]
Dr. Benjamin Rush's Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body catalogues the consequence of chronic drunkenness and argues that this condition is a disease that physicians should be treating. Rush's writing marks beginning of American temperance movement.
Rev. Lyman Beecher's Six Sermons on I... [read more]
The Oxford Group was a Christian organization founded by American Christian missionary Dr. Frank Buchman. Buchman was an American Lutheran minister of Swiss descent who in 1908 had a conversion experience in a chapel in Keswick, England and as a result of that experience he would later found a movement called A First Century Christian Fellowship in 1921, which eventually became known as the Oxford Group by 1931.[read more]
Bill W. Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
Bill W. was born on November 26, 1895, in East Dorset, Vermont, the son of Emily (née Griffith) and Gilman Barrows W. He was born at his parents' home and business, the Mount Aeolus Inn and Tavern. His paternal grandfather, William C. W., was an alcoholic who never drank after a conversion experience on Mount Aeolus. Both of B... [read more]
Bob S. was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where he was raised, to Susan A. Holbrook and Walter Perrin S. His parents took him to religious services four times a week, and in response he determined he would never attend religious services when he grew up.
Bob began drinking in college, and early on he noticed that he could recover from drinking bouts qui... [read more]
Skid row or skid road is a shabby urban area with cheap taverns, dive bars, dilapidated hotels frequented by lowlifes, alcoholics, and itinerants. The term skid road originally referred to the path along which timber workers skidded logs. Its current sense appears to have originated in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Areas identi... [read more]
There are many myths and urban legends about the first sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous in the metro-Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
In the late-1930s there was a man living in the skid row of Detroit in need of a “cure” for the disease of alcoholism that he had acquired earlier in life. He began life with a very promising career and was a very handsome man. He... [read more]
The process for creating our book, Alcoholics Anonymous
The title of the book Bill W. wrote is Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is referred to by AA members as the Big Book. Its main objective is to help the alcoholic find a power greater than himself that will solve his problem, the "problem" being an inability to stay sober on his or her own.<... [read more]
At long last the mystery of the Serenity Prayer has been solved!
We have learned who wrote it, when it was written and how it came to the attention of the early members of AA. We have learned, too, how it was originally written, a bit of information which should lay to rest all arguments as to whi... [read more]
There are many myths and urban legends about a non-alcoholic "member" of Alcoholics Anonymous in the metro-Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
Sarah K., a non-alcoholic, had received one of the earliest copies of the "Big Book" which contained the story of Alcoholics Anonymous in April, 1939; it held the instructions for a program of recovery from alcoholism.... [read more]
Date of sobriety July 29, 1939
Tom M. was a very humble member, who did not leave any photo or much other information behind. What we did discover was that Tom was from out of town, Ohio area, and was transferred to Detroit in 1942 and lived on the west side of Detroit and when the early members decided to create two more meeting because of the growth in Detro... [read more]
There are many myths and urban legends about ”Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
Priors sinking into the deep depths of the disease of alcoholism, he led a pretty normal life. He was married to a wonderful woman, Margaret, was an executive at an auto parts supplier, Motor Products Corp. and owned... [read more]
The 1939 Liberty Magazine Article Charles Towns, owner of Towns' Hospital where Bill W. had sobered up, tried to get publicity for A.A. and finally succeeded. He had known Morris Markey, a well-known feature writer, for years. Markey was intrigued by what Towns told him of A.A., and approached Fulton Oursler, then editor of "Liberty," a popular magazine that had a religious orientation. Oursler saw the... [read more]
There are many myths and urban legends about the Non-alcoholics who help start AA in the metro-Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
The Bensons, Elmer (Ben) and Elizabeth (Beth) were the couple who planted the seed of recovery and nurtured it to bloom in Archie T.
The Bensons were an unassuming couple who were "upper-middle" class, which was a pretty good level coming o... [read more]
CAP’T TOM C.—BIRTH OF HARBOR LIGHT
There are many myths and urban legends about Harbor Light in the metro-Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
Tom C. was born November 8, 1894 at the Newbery, Michigan County Jail; his father was the sheriff of the county. He came from a large family and would often interact with the inmates and probab... [read more]
These articles appeared in the main Cleveland newspaper, the Plain Dealer, just five months after the first A.A. group was formed in Cleveland. The articles resulted in hundreds of calls for help from suffering alcoholics who reached out for the hope that the fledgling Alco... [read more]
Mutual Aid Organization-for Alcoholics
There are many myths and urban legends about the treatment center that help start AA in the metro-Detroit area. We hope this clears up many views.
The On June 16, 1930 construction for the hospital had begun. Albert Kahn was the architect that had designed the building. Kahn had his own design firm in Detroit, Michigan.... [read more]
The first group in Southeastern Michigan was born out of necessity. At this point in time we had come to rely too heavily on people outside of recovery, and for that we owed them a debt of gratitude which we can never repay, but it was time for us to stand on our own.
The wonderful accommodations at the Benson's home on 860 Ta... [read more]
A dawn of a new era was begun on June 22, 1940 when local members announced in a Detroit News article that a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous was begun in Detroit.
It started in January, 1940 (Benson’s Basement on Taylor St, Highland Park) and had grown from 3 members to 35 members, which was then located at 4242 Cass Ave.
Inquires in Detroit could be received through the Alcoholic Foundation, Post Offi... [read more]
The very first major event held in Detroit was a New Year’s celebration on December 31, 1940. It was held at Mike E’s home with about 20 members along with their spouse or guest, so roughly there were forty people in attendance.
For the 1941 celebration it was moved to the Fairview Gardens located... [read more]
East (Manistique) Group
The archive’s has many small notes and information on this group, much of it appeared to be inaccurate and confusing. We had to dissect the many notes and become forensic detectives.
By late 1940, Archie T. had moved out of skid row and was renting a room from a young Grosse Pointe couple and Mike E. and his wife who were living... [read more]
Ordinarily, diabetes isn't rated as one of the hazards of reporting, but the Alcoholics Anonymous article in the Saturday Evening Post came close to costing me my liver, and m... [read more]
It has been 14 months since the Detroit News had introduced a new method of recovery in Detroit. In the Sunday Free Press August 3, 1941, it explains how this new “club” of alcoholics helps other alcoholics to refrain from drinking.
The article explains the first three steps to recovery. The article goes on to expl... [read more]
North-West Group #0003
The North-West Group of Alcoholics Anonymous of the City of Detroit was formed in, 1941. It was the outgrowth of a separation when the original single group, then numbering approximately forty members and meeting at 4242 Cass Avenue, decided to divide into three units as a matter of convenience. Accordingly, the East Side Group, meeting at the Mack Avenue Business Men... [read more]
In 1920 the membership voted to become Presbyterian, and the church was renamed “Grosse Pointe Presbyterian Church.” In 1925 a new church house – today incorporated within the present church-house was dedicated. At this time the name became “The Grosse Pointe Memorial Church.&rdq... [read more]
On October 28, 1941, a group called the Pontiac Group was started by Dr. C.P. (Dean) M. and Ralph B. Ralph was sponsored by Dr. “Dean”, who got sober in early 1940 in Detroit and had a practice at 8705 Dexter Blvd.
Dr. “Dean” would go on to start in 1943 the Michigan Alcoholic Rehabili... [read more]
The first mention of the Metropolitan Area Groups in our files was April, 1942. This entity was created because of the urging by Bill W. for large metropolitan areas to create central committees for a couple of reasons, 1) to handle the large influx of alcoholics requesting information and 2) to ease the burden of our New York office havi... [read more]
Dr. Bob’s 2nd Talk in Detroit
In 1942 the members of Alcoholics Anonymous in Detroit decided to hold a celebration to mark a milestone of recovery in Detroit. It was to be held in the skid row area of Detroit where AA was born and nurtured in our area. They selected the Webster Hall Hotel.
The Webster was a world renowned hotel for the fact it ... [read more]
The Effects of World War II on Alcoholics Anonymous
A wide variety of commodities were rationed during World War II in the United States. Rationing ended when supplies were sufficient to meet demand.
During this period of time, World War II was in the early stages for the United States and there was a very high de... [read more]
The First Windsor Group, the Second Canadian group.
In fall 1941 and the spring of 1942 some members from the three existing Detroit groups attempted to get AA started in Windsor with very little success.
In the spring of 1943, a guy by the name of Chuck P. could not stay sober and was in pretty bad shape. He was the head draftsman for an engineering company... [read more]
We ask Thy Blessings on this meeting. Please Bless the Spirit and purpose of this group. Give us strength to follow this program according to Thy will and in all humility. Forgive us for yesterday and grant us Courage for today and Hope for tomorrow. Amen
It was decided by local (Detroit) members of AA that they would put together a celebration to mark the 10th Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous in existence, something they never dreamt of in 1935.
There was a big celebration being put together in Cleveland, but every area big or small would put on its own celebration to mark this mile... [read more]
Transcript of Archie T's talk on the history of AA in Detroit
Introduction by Mike B.:
Ladies and gentlemen, in the words of that great Galilean who lived almost two thousand years ago and whose birth we are commemorating this Christmas Day, "when you are well, you need not a physician. I come here to heal the sick..." And of the channels at his command, He ch... [read more]
Mike was the first (sic) member of Alcoholics Anonymous in the City of Detroit after Detroit’s founder.
This story that I am about to tell hasn't changed very much over the ... [read more]
Many unknown facts about the convention we now know as the March Roundup
The March Roundup as we know it today had roots that go back to the middle of 1961. The General Service structure in the Detroit area was beginning to wane, from the way it was originally set up by Bill W, in 1950. Groups were springing up everywhere, but interest in Gener... [read more]