Alcoholics Anonymous 1939 Order Form
One of the Greatest AA Rarities
They Were Rare in 1939 – and They Are Even Rarer Today!
Original April, 1939 Promotional Reply Post Card for the Just-Released Book, Alcoholics Anonymous 5½” x 3½”, Preprinted text on both sides with handwritten entries on the back side ( shown here in italics) requesting a copy of the just-released book, Alcoholics Anonymous: Front Side: Postage Will be Paid by Addressee / [Post marked]: Newark Apr 25 7 PM 1939 N. J. / [with a 2¢ stamp affixed] / Works Publishing Co., P. O. Box 657-Church Street Annex, New York, N. Y. Back Side: ORDER FORM / GENTLEMEN: Please deliver to me 1 copies of your book: “Alcoholics Anonymous” (with personal stories) at $3.50 each, by parcel post, C. O. D. / I understand this is upon a free examination basis and the price paid will be refunded to me if I return the book to you within seven days. / NAME John Young, M.D. / STREET NO 37 N. Fullerton Av / CITY AND STATE Monteclair, N. J.
The AA Big Book was published on Monday, April 10, 1939. Shortly after this, the struggling AAs got a tremendous break when Gabriel Heatter – the host of “We the People,” one of the most popular ‘talk shows' on radio at that time – agreed to interview an AA member about how he got sober and about the new book that told people how they could quit drinking.
The radio show was scheduled for Tuesday, April 25 th at 9 PM (Eastern Time) so there was no time to lose! Everyone in AA saw this as THE big breakthrough that they had been hoping for. “Now we are REALLY going to sell some of these books!” they all thought.
In order to promote this fabulous opportunity, Henry [Hank] Parkhurst (NY AA #2) raised $500 by issuing promissory notes that both he and Bill Wilson signed. Hank had 20,000 double-postcards printed up and mailed them out to every doctor east of the Mississippi . The double-postcard was folded along a perforated edge and you were supposed to detach the order form, fill it out and mail it back to get your copy of the book. On the ‘throw away,' promotional part of the card it said:
HOW MANY ALCOHOLICS RETURN FROM INSTITUTIONS CURED?
“WE THE PEOPLE” Program
Hear how an alcoholic released from an insane asylum, and pronounced
Fully described in the new sensational book “Alcoholics Anonymous,”
THE ALCOHOLIC FOUNDATION
(NOTE: this part of the card was discarded – as it was designed to be – and is not offered here.)
The second half of the double-postcard – the one being offered here – was meant to be detached, filled out and then mailed back as an order for the book (see the text in the top-of-the-page description above). This card had a prepaid-postage indicia on it – but on the card offered here, the sender has added an unnecessary 2¢ stamp.
This postcard promotion provides one of the truly great – both funny and sad – stories in early AA history. As Bill Wilson recounts it in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (pp. 175-176):
We figured that the impact on America would be terrific, especially on the doctors who had already got our 20,000 postal cards. Within three days we figured that Post Office Box 68, Church Street Annex , New York City, would be flooded with pleas for help and book orders.
By a great effort of self-restraint we kept away for three whole days. Then we marched up the steps of the post office and headed straight for our box, each of us armed with a couple of suitcases to bring home some part of the first great influx . Peering through the glass, we were stunned to see less than a handful of postal cards. Henry, the optimist, rallied to exclaim, ”Think nothing of it, folks. They just couldn't get them into the box. I'll bet they've got a whole mailbag full out back.” The mail clerk handed us exactly twelve cards. Henry said to the clerk, ”There must be a lot more. Where are they ?” And the clerk replied, ”This is all there is, sir.” Sick clear through, we looked through the twelve replies. Some ribbed us unmercifully. Others, evidently inscribed by medics in their cups, were totally illegible. The two remaining cards were orders for the book Alcoholics Anonymous . Radio as a medium lost considerable stature in our eyes and another $500 had gone down the drain.
Over the next few days and weeks more of these postcard orders came in – but very few. The GSO AA Archive in New York City currently holds the original two valid postcards that Bill mentions (both from New Jersey !) along with eleven more responses received from this promotional mailing.
In short, this completely filled out promotional reply postcard is one of the great rarities in AA ephemera. We have never seen another one outside of the AA Archive in New York City and are unlikely to see another any time in the foreseeable future.
Original promotional reply postcard that has been filled out by John Young, M.D. requesting an “on approval” copy of the recently published book, Alcoholics Anonymous . The card has been skillfully framed with glass on two sides so that both sides of the card can be seen. An extremely rare piece of AA history – preserved here in fine condition.
Return to AA Memorabilia
AA Big Books | AA Books | AA New Books | AA Periodicals | AA Grapevines | AA Memorabilia
Oxford Group | Temperance | Spirituality | Signed Material | Narcotics Anonymous
Phone: 419 563-5905
Copyright Dangerous Publications © Aug. 2004 Content not for republication without permission.