Rowland Hazard

A certain American businessman had ability, good sense, and high character. For years he had floundered from one sanitarium to another. He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists.  Then he had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care of a celebrated physician (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed for him. Though experience had made him skeptical, he finished his treatment with unusual confidence. His physical and mental condition were unusually good. Above all he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable.  Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time…
(Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 26)

The “certain American businessman” was Rowland Hazard. These events, thought at one time to have occurred in 1930, or 1931, are now believed to have taken place in 1926. This story is intended to demonstrate the total inefficacy of “human power”, including the rising tide of psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, relatively new, but highly respected disciplines, at that time. Of course, religion was failing at about an equal rate in attempts to rehabilitate problem drinkers. The rise of AA was to prove, as had earlier groups like the Washingtonians, the Jacoby Club, and others, that drunks will listen to others drunks and that “identification” is one of the most critical tools in addressing the alcohol problem.

Dr. Bob Smith confirms this theory in his description of his initial meeting with Bill Wilson on Mother’s Day, 1935;

He gave me information about the subject of alcoholism which was undoubtedly helpful.  Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience.  In other words, he talked my language.  He knew all the answers, and certainly not because he had picked them up in his reading. (BB, p. 180)

Of course, before all of this, came Rowland Hazard.

The Hazards of Rhode Island

Members of the Hazard family were among the first settlers of the State of Rhode Island. Descendants have been known for military achievement, business success, philanthropy, and broad social activism spanning such causes as abolition of slavery, treatment of the insane and alcoholics, family planning, and innovative employee programs.

The family fortune derived largely from its textile manufacturing business at Peace Dale, Rhode Island, mining, railroad, and chemical interests, including the Solvay Process Company. (Wikipedia)

Succeeding generations of Hazards built and occupied the finest homes and estates in Rhode Island.

“X” Marks the Spot

Family patriarch, Thomas Hazard (1610 – circa 1680) emigrated from Britain in the mid 1630s. The young ship’s carpenter came first to Boston, then Portsmouth, on Rhode Island. In 1639, he became one of nine founding settlers of Newport on Aquineck Island, in the colony of Rhode Island. The entire nine were followers of their spiritual leader, the Baptist, Anne Hutchinson.

Property acquired very inexpensively from the natives was divided among the founders. Hazard made his beginnings in America as a plantation owner and a town administrator. The progenitor of what was to become a family of “eminence”, signed his name with a mark.  Succeeding generations would have available to them the very best in educational opportunities, and two of Thomas Hazard’s great grandsons rose to the position of Deputy Governor of Rhode Island, George from 1734-38, and his brother Robert from 1750-51.  A third Hazard rose to the same heights in the 1830’s.

Wool Mills

Generations of Hazards owned and operated many businesses. Much of the family fortune was made in textile manufacturing. The Peace Dale Manufacturing Co., which was started in 1802 and was in family ownership for over one hundred years, was the principal supplier of blankets to the Union Army in the Civil War. Rowland’s grandfather, also a Rowland “had great respect for the dignity of his employees… (and) introduced the first employee profit-sharing in America… He shortened the work week, built decent housing, and started a school”. (Rowland, The Messenger,

He was the very antithesis of the ‘”robber barons” ruthlessly operating other companies in the post Civil War era.

Religious Roots

“Rowland’s father, Rowland Gibson H., was superintendent of the Congregational Sabbath School for twenty-five years… Belief in God was an ingrained value in Rowland’s life. His mother’s father was a man of the cloth.” (Rowland, The Messenger).

Taft, Yale, a Wife and a War

Rowland Hazard III was the tenth generation of Hazards in Rhode Island.  He added the numerical suffix “III” to distinguish himself from a succession of “Rowlands” dating back to the middle of the Eighteenth Century. Born on October 29, 1881, the eldest of five children, Rowland was thus about two years younger than Dr. Bob Smith. Born “into privilege”, the young Hazard was sent to the elite Taft School in Connecticut, and then broke a family tradition of attending Brown University by choosing instead the alma mater of his maternal grandfather, Yale. Among his classmates, he was called “Ike”, “Rowley”, or “Roy”, his nickname within the family.

We do not know if Rowland became a champion drinker at Yale, as did Bob Smith at Dartmouth, but he graduated in 1903, and was put to work in the family business. By 1906, he was Secretary/Treasurer of one of the family’s concerns, advancement opportunities being readily available to all named “Hazard.” He spent some time in Chicago, and it was there that he met Helen Hamilton Campbell, a graduate of Briar Cliff and the daughter of a banker. They were married in 1910. The couple divorced in 1929, but remarried in 1931.

From 1914-16, Rowland served in the Rhode Island State Senate. As America’s entry to the Great War grew imminent, Rowland surrendered a civilian supply position to become a Captain in the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service. By this time, the Hazards had substantial interests in chemical manufacturing.

The Code of Silence

Whatever drinking was being done up until this point led to no embarrassing firings or material disadvantage. The family would have gone to great lengths to minimize any sort of public scrutiny of what at the time was considered to be a “moral failing”. Perhaps “Roy” was seen as wild, but alcoholism would not have been seen as something that rears its head in “the best families”.  “There is corporate denial.” (Rowland, The Messenger) Nonetheless, there is some powerful evidence that his affliction was known within the family.

In 1918, Rowland Gibson Hazard, Rowland III’s father, died. At that time, Rowland III held a number of positions within the family’s network of companies. This was an era where the right of primogeniture was ubiquitously honored, but the thirty-seven year old eldest son was bypassed as the reins of power were entrusted to his twenty-six year old brother, Thomas, only three years out of college.

Rowland was given a consolation prize, the presidency of one of the lesser companies, Solway Securities. A few years later, he moved outside the family circle to Lee Higginson & Co., a New York investment banker. His years with them were 1920-27. As modern research has the trip to Switzerland as occurring in 1926, his time at Higginson would have been a time a serious bingeing and interruptions for treatment (or detoxes) at various sanitariums. His employment was likely beyond jeopardy because of his access to investment by the numerous Hazard enterprises.

Rowland The Messenger

The inimitable Ernest Kurtz enumerates

the four “founding moments” in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. Dr. Carl Jung’s 1931 conversation with Rowland H. (now believed to have taken place in 1926);
  2. Ebby T.’s late November 1934 visit with Bill Wilson;
  3. Wilson’s “spiritual experience” and discovery of William James in Towns Hospital in mid-December 1934;
  4. and the interaction between Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith through May and June 1935… (Not-God, Ernest Kurtz, p. 33)

Rowland was present at, and involved in, the first of these, and instrumental in the second.

Geographical Tourism “Curism”

“Officially”, Rowland Hazard resigned his position with Lee Higginson & Co. to go on safari in Africa, an excursion that had become popular among the very rich. His wife may have been attempting to get him away from his drinking friends and environments. “Officially”, while in Africa, Rowland contracted some sort of tropical disease. Whether true or not, the tale provided a very useful explanation for his subsequent increasing need for hospitalization, and his disappearance from the world of Wall Street.

Hazard’s activities during the period of 1927-35 have been described as “vague and sketchy, a time of ‘health problems’ and private ventures”. (The First Links in the Chain, Barefoot World) In 1929, he purchased a New Mexico ranch.  Ever entrepreneurial, “upon discovery of high grade clay on the ranch, he organized in 1931-32 the La Luz Clay Products to produce floor and roof tile”. (First Links)

In 1932, he took up residence in Shaftsbury, Vermont, about fifteen miles south of Manchester. From 1932-36, his time was divided between Vermont and New Mexico. It was about this time that Hazard took up with the Oxford Group, and was able to get sober, a sobriety he was able to maintain, for the most part, for the rest of his life. There are some tales of some “slipping”, and he may not have died sober as he became terribly distraught over the loss of two of his four children in World War II.

Fish Stories

The story of Rowland’s visit to Switzerland to seek aid from the pinnacle of human power, Dr. Jung, is much ballyhooed. “He was treated by Dr. Jung for about a year, but when he left Jung, he soon got drunk. He returned to Jung for further treatment, but he was told it would be useless. In Jung’s opinion, the only thing that could now help free Rowland from his addiction was a ‘spiritual awakening.'” (Pass It On, p. 114) Much of this is likely true, at least, in a general way.

The error regarding the timing of the visit to Jung may have been inadvertent, but the timing of 1931 “works better”, as he would then soon after recover through “supernatural power” via the Oxford Group. Relatively recent research by historians into records and letters of Jung, Hazard, and Hazard family businesses provide  significant contradiction of AA’s official version of the story.

“The fact is that there was at the very least a considerable exaggeration of the length and depth of Rowland Hazard’s contact with Carl Jung in Switzerland. Part of the Hazard-Jung story, as recounted in later AA sources, was clearly more legend than historical reality.” (The Road to Fellowship, Richard Dubiel, (2004) p. 71) The therapy sessions with Jung were nothing approaching a year.

Of course, the Bill Wilson of “no real infidelity” fame, has been acknowledged to have skills in the crafting of tales. “Like his father before him, Bill W. was a spellbinding storyteller; and, as Robertson observes, he had ‘a lifelong penchant for embroidering the facts while accurately summarizing the gist of an event.’ Thus his factual liberties may be regarded as poetic license.” (Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, Matthew J. Raphael, p. 12)

(“Robertson” above refers to Pulitzer Prize winning, New York Times journalist and author of Getting Better, Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, Nan Robertson. The quote is from p. 78)

There is another omission from AA’s official version of Rowland’s salvation at the hands of the Christian group, subsequent to the complete inefficacy of “human power” being proven by the failure of the great psychiatrist to effect a cure. (This tale is often further enhanced by referring to Jung as “the world’s foremost expert on alcoholism!” Surely the old bearded adulterer would spin in his grave, should he hear that one.) In the early 1930s, Rowland Hazard was attending Oxford Group gatherings AND being treated on a regular basis by the highly effective lay therapist, Courtenay Baylor. The sessions with Baylor, a recovered alcoholic himself, may well have made a significant contribution to Hazard gaining sobriety. Of course, this “human power” boost would muddle an otherwise very clear, black and white message.

 Rowland to Ebby

AA’s second great “founding moment”, Ebby’s message to Bill, would not have been possible had not the message been passed to Ebby. In July of 1934, he was visited by some Oxford Groupers. Cebra Graves and Shep Cornell “had once done considerable drinking with Ebby. But this time, they ‘told me that they had run into the Oxford Group and had gotten some pretty sensible thing out of it based on the life of Christ…’ Ebby said”. (Pass It On, p. 113)

Ebby was even more wooed by his third visitor, Rowland. “I was very much impressed by his drinking career, which consisted of prolonged sprees, where he traveled all over the country. And I was also very impressed by the fact that he was a good guy. The first day he came to see me, he helped me clean up the place. Things were a mess, and he helped me straighten it up, and he stuck by me from beginning to end.” (Pass It On, p. 113)  Rowland continued working to help Ebby, but Ebby returned to the bottle after a period of sobriety, and ran afoul of the law.

Facing some dire consequences at court, “Rowland H. interceded and told the judge that he, Rowland would be responsible for Ebby… For a while he was a guest at Rowland’s home… and then came to New York City, where he stayed with Shep for a while and then went to live with one of the ‘brotherhood’ who ran Calvary Episcopal Mission on 23rd Street. It was while he was staying there and working with the Oxford Group that he heard of Bill’s desperate situation”. (Pass It On, p. 115) It hadn’t hurt that the presiding magistrate was Cebra Graves’ father.

Ebby to Bill

As with AA, in the Oxford Group, you kept it by giving it away, and Ebby was sent to bring the message to Bill who began a historical chain of one alcoholic talking to another. It was the alcoholic Oxforders who helped Ebby, and his message to Bill had weight because Bill knew Ebby to be a drinker “of his type”. Dr. Bob’s two and a half year exposure to the religious cure produced no cessation of drinking. The effect of Bill’s first conversation with him was profound.

Identification.  First and foremost.

“But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.” (Big Book, p. 18).

Park Avenue

In 1935, Rowland Hazard returned to Wall Street as a general partner in Tailer (sic) and Robinson, a brokerage firm, and later moved to Lockwood Engineers Inc. There were two years as an independent consultant, “often a resume explanation of periods of unemployment” (First Links), before becoming a VP at Bristol Manufacturing, in 1941.  It is not known if these changes of employment had anything to do with drinking, or were merely indicative of a rich guy pursuing what he found interesting.

World War II brought tragedy for Rowland and Helen Hazard as they lost one son in 1941, and a second in 1945. The death of the second son was devastating, and provoked a period of isolation.

“While at his office desk on Thursday, December 20, 1945, Rowland suddenly died of a coronary occlusion.” (First Links) At the time of Hazard’s death, at sixty-four, he and Helen were living on Park Avenue. Although eight years younger, Helen was gone less than a year later.

Rowland Hazard never joined AA, although he played a role in its coming into existence. Perhaps he had no compelling reason to, as he was (barring a rumored relapse in 1936) several years sober at the time the Big Book was published. He continued on with the Oxford Group through the difficult times in the late 30s, with the founder’s problems and the name change to Moral Rearmament. Lois Wilson said he was an ardent Oxford Grouper until his death, and a vestryman in New York City’s Calvary Episcopal Church.

It is unlikely that he would have been a big fan of the AA Agnostica website.

About the Author

Bob K. lives in the Metropolitan Toronto area, and has been a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous since 1991, and an out-of-the-closet atheist for that entire time. He has been a regular contributor to the AA Agnostica website for almost 5 years, and in January, 2015, published Key Players in AA History In 2013, he co-founded the Whitby Freethinkers meeting.

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edward calhoun
edward calhoun

very interesting and I am a serious AA member – devout agnosic – 27 yrs sober


Right off it feels like a bit much about Rowland Hazard’s upper class social life, but then again, I guess it can serve as a reminder that his kind were the ones early AA sought to save. They weren’t so much there to save alcoholics per se, as it looks, when James Garner and James Woods are taking a walk on skid row, that’s the romantic view of early AA. They were there to save their own kind, “men of value” who had fallen into alcoholism. Even I, who when I first got sober, and because of my (largely wasted)… Read more »

bob k
bob k

Serious financial difficulties propelled me into AA. Many of my friends have similar experiences. Had I been born into a wealthy family, I’d likely be dead now. The very rich and the very poor tend to be the folks who drink themselves to death. You can miss a lot of days of work if your principal occupation is “investor.”

In one of life’s ironies, Rowland Hazard had a key role in AA’s formation, but never himself became a member.

bob k
bob k

In the Introduction to KEY PLAYERS IN AA HISTORY, I confessed a fascination with rich guys gone bad–Rowland, Ebby, Richmond Walker, et al. Ebby frittered away an inheritance of $175,000 in Depression money (3-4 million in today’s money). Apparently, he lost half in the stock market crash, but pissed the rest away in about 3 years. That’s kind of impressive in a warped way 😉


Some good observations, Bob, Yea, if I had had unlimited funds I would have drank myself to death too, but I would have done it with more expensive beer. If you’re going to die anyway, then why not drink the best? – just like if I had become a rock star I would have joined the 27 club for sure. It’s so good to not have to keep running on that hedonistic tangent anymore.

alan robson
alan robson

u use the term save , aa has nothing to do with saving.

alan robson
alan robson

and how do u kno wat they wer doing? wer u ther?

dan longman
dan longman

Thanks Bob.  I have always seen the Rowland Hazard/Carl Jung story as being a rather tawdry attempt to rub up against

Herr Doktor Jung in order to try to get some psychological credibility.  It is interesting how the story indicates that the

mythic Dr. Jung had a basic understanding of AA “spirituality” a full decade before anyone else.


marty nieski
marty nieski

Join the discussion…It seems to me that the good doctor, being exasperated, didn’t know what else to say to him.

bob k
bob k

Willie did the same thing in calling the long dead William James a “founder” of AA.

Jennifer B
Jennifer B

Thanks Bob. I love history and especially  corrections, from Columbus to Bill W. , rewriting history is rampant.  It emphasizes the problem of blind faith I often find with AA’ers and religious people in general. The facts, ma’am,  just the facts.

Jennifer B



fascinating. in this day and age, where I’m increasingly clear, most of the lore on any given topic, history as taught, you name it, is at least cleansed, or more often, blatantly revised, I would say that I have no reason to trust any organization’s history as presented, thus most likely, AA’s as well. Identification. the real magic beans in any recovery system, of that I am clear, and have been talking about for years now. Identification supports courage to address that which we fear alone. no invisible man in the sky nonsense, just courage to change born of relief… Read more »