Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AAHistory: Where to find the documents and see them

In the 21 years since I first began traveling, interviewing, visiting archives and libraries, and reading the books really involved in A.A. history, things have changed.

Today, both histories and historians abound. Yet access to the materials which can verify the writings is seldom sought. Nor are the locations very much discussed or known. Nor do writers meticulously document their historical statements with footnotes, bibliographies, indices, and endorsements. Many just write. And with the internet providing so many outlets, it is not hard to find what they write.

But suppose you wanted to verify their work. Suppose you wanted to investigate for yourself. Suppose you wanted copies of the real materials that would support or disprove their writings. Could you succeed?

Well here's what I know from having visited so many of the places where a wide variety of historical materials lie awaiting the searcher.

The Griffith Library at the Wilson House in East Dorset, Vermont. Before Ozzie Lepper died, he devoted years to building a library, collecting books, and even cataloguing them. The library is across the green from the Wilson House in the Griffith House where Bill Wilson was raised as a youngster. You can stay at the Wilson House and visit. You can stop and visit. And you can have your fill. My own collection of some 23,900 items was, thanks to benefactors, donated to the Griffith Library; and it will keep you busy for months on end. Books and items are still being donated and/or collected.

The Dr. Bob Core Library at the North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. My son Ken and I made two separate visits to this charming village where Dr. Bob was born and raised. We tried to leave no repository untouched. We visited Dr. Bob's boyhood home, but there was little to see or collect. We visited the St. Johnsbury Academy which was attended by Dr. Bob, where Bob's mother had been a student and a teacher and a historian, and where Bob's father had been an examiner. The archivist there opened the doors to scads of history about the Smiths. We visited the Athenaeum, the town library where Dr. Bob studied and visited. It is filled with good library materials and the resources to find and study them. We spent hours in the North Congregational Church where there are many records about the Smiths, their activities in the church, the sermons, the Sunday School teachings, the Year Books, and much much more about the members and their service. We obtained materials from the Fairbanks Museum across the street. And we marched into the Town Hall and obtained a copy of Dr. Bob's birth certificate. And we procured many books about this community, its famous families, and its Great Awakening of 1875. We lodged over 3000 items in the church thanks to its Pastor Jay Sprout. And you can go there, visit, read, study, and learn.

The Shoemaker Room at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. From the Episcopal Church Archives in Texas; from the Princeton archives; from Hartford Seminary Archives; from Shoemaker's church in New York; from the Shoemaker daughters; from the widow of Shoemaker's assistant minister; and from many who knew Shoemaker and wrote about him, we gathered as many Shoemaker books and papers as we could find. And, thanks to the rector, Dr. Harold Lewis, they are now lodged in the church. And Professor Karen A. Plavan is the contact person, and there is also an archivist who knew Shoemaker.

These three places, plus a visit to the Akron Intergroup Archives, the Annex at Dr. Bob's Home in Akron, to the former archivist Ray G., to the Bierce Library, to the Summit Library, to the Akron Beacon Journal, to the Seiberling Gate Lodge, and to historian Gail L. should provide ample additional material on Akron--even though most of the materials there are under glass and lock and key and not that easy either to study or to copy. Not so as to the materials Ray G. has collected over many years. He is a gracious host and a learned "teacher."

In the next article, I will list the books I have written which describe all these materials and make them come alive when you read about them and the place they have in A.A. History.

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