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Brief History of the AA Coin
Sister lgnatia, the nun who helped Dr. Bob get the hospitalization program started at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron was the first person to use medallions in Alcoholics Anonymous. She gave the drunks who were leaving St. Thomas after a five day dry out a Sacred Heart Medallion and instructed them that the acceptance of the medallion signified a commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery and that if they were going to drink, they had a responsibility to return the medallion to her before drinking. The sacred heart medallion had been used prior to A.A. by the Father Matthew Temperance Movement of the 1840's and the Pioneers, an Irish Temperance Movement of the 1890's.
The traditions of recovery chips,recovery medallions and birthdays(recovery gifts) vary in different parts of the country.
There is evidence that early on many people in AA carried personal mementos to remind themselves of the importance of their sobriety. Clarence H. Snyder - "The Home Brewmeister had his last drink on February 11, 1938 and he carried this medallion made from a silver dollar and a watch fob up until just before his death on March 22, 1984. It has been dated back into the mid-1940's, if not before, and the holes represent 46 years of sobriety. Clarence started AA group #3 in Cleveland in 1939, and in the beginning had a higher recovery rate than Bill and Dr. Bob combined. His story, "Home Brewmeister", can be found on page 297 of the Big Book.