In the aftermath of World War II, the United States experienced an unparalleled growth in wealth that facilitated the rise of the American middle class and a rapid increase in the birth rate. However, the generation borne out of this era developed belief systems distinct from those of previous generations, and in many ways, outright rejected many traditional values.
What became counterculture ideals — peace, free love, experimentation, and racial equality — crystallized around the burgeoning hippie movement. Thanks to cheap housing and a relatively open social environment, San Francisco became the nexus of hippie culture in the 1960s.
The San Francisco of this decade was a cauldron of drugs and communal living that fostered an explosive creative environment and became home to tens of thousands of newcomers seeking the hippie dream. Today, we take a glimpse inside San Francisco in the 1960s:
BuzzFeedAt the center of it all was the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. After experiencing sinking housing prices in the late 1950s, Haight-Ashbury became a destination for bohemians and beatniks, and soon thereafter, hippies.
The Leica Camera BlogRediscovered in the early 1960s and popularized by figures like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley, LSD became perhaps the most popular drug of the decade. The powerful hallucinogen, along with marijuana, was among the strongest social unifiers of the hippie movement.
The Huffington PostThe International Society for Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishnas, successfully attracted thousands of new followers in the 1960s with a message of enlightenment, peace, and inner-reflection.
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript LibraryWriting for The New York Times Magazine in 1967, Hunter S. Thompson wrote "'Hashbury' is the new capital of what is rapidly becoming a drug culture. Its denizens are not called radicals or beatniks, but 'hippies.'"
Mother JonesPerhaps the most famous hippie event in San Francisco was the Human Be-In that featured mantras spoken by Allen Ginsberg, music from the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and copious amounts of LSD provided for free by the event organizers.
BuzzFeedFormed in 1965, The Grateful Dead were revered mainstays of the San Francisco music scene. From left to right, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Jerry Garcia, and Phil Lesh pose for one of their first band photos in Haight-Ashbury.
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript LibraryThe never-ending show in Haight-Ashbury wasn't enjoyed by the rest of San Francisco's residents. Pressure from civic groups led to San Francisco taking stricture measurements about zoning, giving less opportunity for squatting and group homes.
PinterestWhile the flame burned bright for much of the 1960s, pressure from the city government along with the increased presence of law enforcement eventually made San Francisco less of a destination for the hippie counterculture.
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The party could not last forever: by the end of 1967’s “Summer of Love,” San Francisco was no longer attracting just hippies, but also tourists, criminals, and party-seekers, as well as the unwanted attention of law enforcement and government officials. In October 1967, members of the Haight-Ashbury community held a mock funeral that declared the “Death of the Hippie.”
As the organizers proclaimed:
Stay where you are! Bring the revolution to where you live. Don’t come here because it’s over and done with.
If hippie culture fascinates you, watch the report below on Haight-Ashbury and the hippie movement by IT News in 1967: