RtR – Big Book Explanations/Biographies

Road to Recovery Group – Big Book Explanations/Biographies & Place's



BBpxxviii "Chronic" A persistent and lasting disease or medical condition, or one that has developed slowly.

BBp4 "XYZ-32" Paper ticker tapes were used to print out stock prices, the company's names were reduced to 4 or less letters – so XYZ-32 means that a company XYZ was trading at $32 a share. No company abbreviated XYZ exists so Bill didn't want to mention the name.

BBp5 "Bathtub gin" Homemade spirit created by emptying large quantities of any cheap grain alcohol into a large vessel. Many cocktails owe their life to it gin, created in order to hide the awful taste.

BBp6 "Gin mills" A bar or saloon.

BBp7 "Belladonna treatment" An old 2 day treatment for remove the craving for alcohol using Belladonna or deadly nightshade.

BBp7 "Hydrotherapy" The use of water for soothing pains and treating diseases, e.g. arthritis, burns, and stroke patients with paralysis.

BBp7 "The goose hung high" When geese flew low, it meant that evil spirits were present. When geese flew, or "hung," high in the sky, the evil spirits were gone, and all was well.

BBp22 "The Water Wagon" Horse-drawn water carts were used to wet down hot,dry, dusty roads. Men who pledged to stop drinking said they would climb aboard a water wagon to quench their thirst rather than break their vow. 

Another, earlier, claim to the origins of this saying comes from the public procession undertaken by felons condemned to die at the Tybourne gallows. From the 14th Century until 1782 prisoners took their last fateful journey from Newgate prison to the gallows at Tynbourne (near present day Marble Arch) on a horse drawn wagon. The prisoners were allowed one [alcoholic] drink on their way to execution. If they were popular with the crowd they were often offered ale etc from amongst the throngs who'd come to enjoy the spectacle. However, the hangman (he rode in the same cart as the condemned) would do all he could to stop this practice, with the refrain "No, he's on the wagon". The condemned person had effectively taken their last drink.

BBp22 "Sanitariums" A sanatarium is a medical facility for long-term illness.

BBp38 "Trolley car" A tram

BBp41 "Highball" A cocktail: 1 1/2 oz Whiskey, Fill with glass Ginger ale, 4-5 cubes Ice

BBp52 "Longshoreman" A laborer who loads and unloads vessels in a port.

BBp56 "Post-war disillusionment" The period after the First World War brought a mood of disillusionment and pessimism for some.

BBp120 "high-stepping friends"  Having or moving with a high step; "his high-stepped stride"; "a high-stepping horse".

BBp151 "Four Horsemen" The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the forces of man's destruction described in the Bible in chapter six of the Book of Revelation: War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death.

BBp152 "Denizen" 1. an inhabitant; resident; or a person who regularly frequents a place; habitué: the denizens of a local bar. 

BBp152 "We smile at such a sally" A 'sally' is a sudden rushing forth or activity, or an outburst or flight of passion, fancy, etc.: a sally of anger; or a clever, witty, or fanciful remark. 

BBp158 "boiled as an owl" – Owls were often associated with fools or vulgar behavior. 'drunk as an owl' is an old Dutch proverb. An owl's wide gaze is compared to a drunk's glassy stare.


BBp.xviii "Fulton Oursler" A U.S. writer and editor born 1893, wrote popular books on Christian themes – including his best-known work 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'.

BBp.xviii "Liberty magazine" A popular weekly general interest magazine published in the United States between 1924 and 1950  which had a religious orientiation. 

BBp.xxvi "and so suggested a few years ago…" The allergy idea was also mentioned in an article published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1937.

BBp.xxix "a man was brought in to be treated for chronic alcoholism" Hank P. writer of the story 'The Unbeliever' in the first edition.

BBp.xxix "another case brought in by a physician prominent in New York" John Henry Fitzhugh M., who wrote the story 'Our Southern Friend'.

BBp1 "New England" A region in the northeastern corner of the US, consisting of the 6 states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

BBp1 "Plattsburg" There is a  Plattsburg Army Barracks in upstate New York.

BBp1 "Winchester Cathedral" One of the largest cathedrals in England, said to be the second longest in Europe. Construction of the cathedral began in 1079.

BBp3 "Walter Hagen" American Golfer. A spectacularly successful golfer in the 1920s. Well known for his colourful clothing and forthright opinions, he was the equivalent of Tiger Woods when Bill W was writing.

BBp4 "Elba" and "St. Helena" – Refers to places Napoleone Bonaparte, the French Emperor, was exiled after his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 (Elba) and then, for the rest of his life, after his defeat at Waterloo on 1815 (St Helena).

BBp4 "a friend in Montreal" Richard Johnson who worked for Greenshields and Co, a Montreal stock brokerage.

BBp7 "a nationally-known hospital" Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York.

BBp7 "a kind doctor" Dr Silkworth.

BBp7 "Armistice Day" Armistice Day is every 11 November and commemorates the end of World War 1.

BBp15 "one western city" Cleveland, Ohio.

BBp26 "Carl Jung" Eminent Swiss psychiatrist, born 1875 who collaborated with Freud in the invention of psychoanalysis. Later he became critical of Freud. At the time the Big Book was written Jung was probably the most famous psychiatrist in the world.

BBp28 "William James" 19th century American philosopher and psychologist. He claimed 'truth' was defined as what was useful to the believer to make them lead a useful life.

BBp28 "Varieties of Religious Experience" A book of William James lectures which became a standard of psychology and philosophy. He argued that there were beliefs that could make the world and our relationships with each other better, even though they weren’t able to be proved logically or rationally.

BBp26 "a certain American businessman" Rowland Hazard was a member of the Oxford Group. He stayed sober but was never an AA member.

BBp32 "a man of thirty" Seems to be an adaption of a couple of stories in 'The Common Sense of Drinking' by Richard Peabody. For example 'Some years ago there lived a man who decided to give up drinking until he could make a million dollars, at which time he intended to drink in moderation. It took him 5 years of sobriety to make the million; then he begins his "moderate" drinking. In two or three years he lost all his money, and in another three he died of alcoholism.'

BBp43 "One of these men, staff member of a world renowned hospital" Percy Pollick – a psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital, New York.

BBp50 "As a celebrated American statesman said 'let's look at the record'" The 'celebrated american statesman' was New York Democrat, Alfred E. Smith, a governor of New York and a US presidential candidate in 1928.

BBp51 "Professor Langley's flying machine go to the bottom of the Potomac River" Samuel Langley was a nationally renound Professor of Physics at the Smithsonian Institute. He designed a plane which flew very short distances before crashing into the Potomac river that flows through Washington DC.

BBp51 "Galileo" Galileo Galilei born in 1564 was an Italian scientist often referred to as the father of modern astronomy, physics and science. His insistence that the earth was not at the centre of the Universe was controversial within his lifetime.

BBp51 "Columbus" Christopher Columbus  born 1451 is credited as the first European to discover the Americas.

BBp51 "the Wright brothers' first successful flight at Kitty Hawk" The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, built and flew the world's first successful airplane in 1903 at the town of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.

BBp51 "Mathematical minds proved man could never fly" The claims of the Wright brothers were dismissed as a hoax. The professor of mathematics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Simon Newcomb, had published an article which showed scientifically that powered human flight was 'utterly impossible.' Rear-Admiral George Melville, chief engineer of the US Navy, wrote that attempting to fly was 'absurd'.

BBp55 "In this book you will read the experience of a man who thought he was an atheist" Fitz M. – wrote the Big Book story 'Our Southern Friend'. 

BBp96 "who failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects" – Bill W.

BBp124 "Henry Ford" born 1863, founded the Ford Motor Company and modern assembly lines. He shunned greed but amassed one of the world's largest fortunes. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation.

BBp135 "One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee drinker" Earl T., wrote 'He Sold Himself Short' in the Second Edition.

BBp136 "one member who has spent much of his life in the world of big business" Hank P., who wrote the story "The Unbeliever" in the First Edition.

BBp138 "executive of the same bank who, from his description, was undoubtedly alcoholic" Clarence S. who wrote story 'The Home Brewmeister'.

BBp140 "a prominent doctor in Chicago" Dr. Dan Craske

BBp140 "pressure of spinal fluid ruptured the brain" A book by Edward Cowles, M.D. published in 1941 said: 'The habitual drunkard craves liquor because of intracranial pressure. He has a pressure many times above that of normal individuals, even when he is not drinking.' 'This change in personality is the result of the pressure of the fluid in the brain on the higher centers of the cortex.'

BBp149 "Today I own a little company. There are two alcoholic employees" The company was Honor Dealers Company, an auto polish dealership. The employees are Jimmy B. who wrote "The Vicious Cycle"  and Bill W.

BBp156 "he was once a well-known lawyer in town" Bill D. He ran for city councilman but lost the election.

BBp158 "Devil may care young chap" Ernie G., 30 years old, who later married Dr. Bob's daughter.

BBp161 "A community thirty miles away" Cleveland, Ohio.

BBp162 "a well-known hospital" Charles B. Towns Hospital, New York City

BBp162 "one of our number was a patient there." Bill W.

BBp162 "the doctor in attendance there" Dr. Silkworth

BBp162 "Eastern City" New York City

BBp163 "an A.A. member who was living in a large community" Hank P. in Montclair, New Jersey 

BBp163 "a prominent psychiatrist" Dr. Howard from Montclair, New Jersey

BBp163 "the chief psychiatrist of a large public hospital" Dr. Russel E. Blaisdell, Rockland State Hospital near Orangeburg, New York.

BBp568 "Herbert Spencer." 19th century philosopher and scientist who was a huge fan of the idea that what we experience is always more important than what theories we have. He accepted that people’s experience of spiritual beliefs was beyond scientific study.

BBp569 "Dr G. Kirby Collier" A psychiatrist who, along with Dr. Harry Tiebout and Dr. Foster Kennedy was responsible for Bill speaking to two medical societies.

BBp569 "Dr Foster Kennedy" head neurologist of Bellevue Hospital, New York.

BBp570 "Dr W.W. Bauer" Psychiatrist and Director of the Bureau of Health Education of the American Medical Association.

BBp570 "American Medical Association" founded 1847,  is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the United States.

BBp570 "Dr. John F. Stouffer" Chief Psychiatrist, Philadelphia General Hospital.

BBp570 "American Psychiatric Association" A medical society 35,000 U.S. and international member physicians working to promote humane care and effective treatment for all persons with mental disorder, including mental retardation and substance-related disorders.

BBp571 "The Lasker Award" have come to be known as 'America's Nobels' and is the most coveted award in medical science. Since 1962, Seventy-one Lasker Award recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize, most within two years of receiving the Lasker Award.

BBp572 "The Episcopal magazine 'The Living Church'" A weekly magazine published since 1878 based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin providing commentary and news information on the Episcopal Church in the United States, generally identified with Anglo-Catholicism. 

BBp572 "Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick" born 1878, a prominent Baptist minister, an outspoken opponent of racism and injustice. His sermons won wide recognition, and his radio addresses were nationally broadcast. His brother, Raymond Fosdick, was the main mover in the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.