This iconic photograph captures the Bray Family reading bedtime stories at the Mystic Arts commune in Sunny Valley, Oregon in 1969. Photography by John Olson Source: View Liner ltd
Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, a deep-seated social discontent developed among young people in the United States. These were men who’d been forced to fight a war they didn’t believe in only to return home to a country that didn’t want them.
The country was filled with college graduates lacking any job prospects, young women who refused to lead their mothers’ lives, and the myth of an “equal” society that couldn’t seem to shake its nasty history of segregation and inequality.
The product of this dissatisfaction was hippie culture, and from hippie culture sprang hippie communes–group living spaces, communities, or villages where like minded individuals could live simply like their agrarian ancestors (usually with the help of some mind altering substances). And, most notably, hippies placed communal needs and values above individual rights.
As University of Kansas professor Timothy Miller said, “Reason had run its course; now it was time to return to the mystical and intuitional… the hippies rejected the industrial for the agrarian, the plastic for the natural, the synthetic for the organic.”
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Hippie communes became a prominent fixture in the American counterculture landscape in the second half of the twentieth century. Focused on back-to-the-land and free love, they became the practice of the hippie philosophy put into practice.
The commune got off to a rocky start when all members and their children were arrested for vagrancy. Messy Nessy Chic
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They were saved by an unlikely hero: Howard Taylor (Elizabeth Taylor's brother). He bailed the hippies out of jail and told them they could live, rent free, on his beautiful 7 acre property. Messy Nessy Chic
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They built their beach front tree houses out of anything they could find: bamboo, scrap lumber, and salvaged materials.Messy Nessy Chic
Taylor Camp was a sanctuary for Vietnam veterans who wanted to escape the stresses of everyday life.Messy Nessy Chic
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Marijuana and psychedelic drugs were used regularly at Taylor Camp, and while it was generally "pretty innocent," former resident Hawk Hamilton recalls that "there was a rough element. We called it the ‘End of the Road,’ the ‘Wild Wild West’ and bad things happened there occasionally."Messy Nessy Chic
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With the rise of Hawaii's tourism industry, the government cracked down on Taylor camp. In 1977 the land was seized by the government, the village was burned to the ground, and the entire area was turned into Na Pali State Park.Messy Nessy Chic
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“If I could go back, I would go back this second,” said David Pearson, a surfer who moved to Taylor Camp in 1972. He's 67 now, and a retired school teacher. “I can’t imagine anything more pristine and beautiful than the life I had there. It was the single most defining experience of my life.”Messy Nessy Chic
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One of the most interesting (and strangest) hippie communes to come out of the 1970s was the Source Family.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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The women of the Source Family outside their Hollywood Hills home.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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The Source Family was the brainchild World War 2 veteran turned martial arts expert turned Hollywood restaurateur turned spiritual leader, Ed Baker, or Father Yod as he preferred to be called.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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Father Yod was not a young man, and he had 13 youthful, beautiful wives. His polyamory drew some serious criticism. Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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Father Yod fathered many children with his 13 wives.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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So many children.Photos Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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The Source Family Band practiced every morning at 3 AM. Together they recorded more than 60 limited-pressing records of psychedelic rock chants and prayers.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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The Source Family did not practice intentional poverty like members of the Farm. They were "entrepreneurial hippies," and they opened the first vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles. Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
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The Source Family became well known for their unusual living arrangements, curious antics, and long flowing hair. They became media darlings of the day.Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives.
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Father Yod died in a freak hand-gliding accident in 1977 in Hawaii. The Source Family fell apart soon after his death. Photo Courtesy of Isis Aquarian Archives
Society’s Dropouts: 31 Eye-Opening Photos Of America’s 1970s Hippie Communes
Each hippie commune was different: some were deeply religious communities while others were completely secular. Drug use was rampant on some hippie communes and forbidden on others. Some were strictly self-sufficient agrarian societies, but other hippie communes participated in capitalism--owning businesses and selling rock albums. There was no "one-size fits all" model, and each hippie commune developed its own culture, rules, and personality over time.
By the 1980s, the original fascination surrounding hippie communes had largely faded, and they began dropping off the map. While a few continue to limp along today, all that remains from a majority is photographic evidence of the time in American history when time when hippie communes thriving.
If you want to delve deeper into commune life, check out these videos about hippies, the communes they lived on, and the children they raised there: