28 August 2013
How LSD created the Hippie Culture
In 1938, Lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD, was first combined by a pharmaceutical named Albert Hofmann in Switzerland. It was completely disregarded until Hofmann was analyzing crystals of the acid in 1943 and accidently absorbed some of it into his skin. This was the first known LSD trip in history. Hofmann began researching the drug to find potential health benefits, unaware of what the Lysergic acid diethylamide would become (“LSD”). Albert Hofmann’s invention of LSD created a new culture of people that stood for peace, love, and freedom; Hofmann’s invention created the hippie movement.
In the early sixties the medical community, CIA, and the United States Military were all sponsoring LSD research programs in universities and hospitals for strictly medical purposes. Researchers were not worried about it in controlled environments; however, they were nervous about the drug reaching the “wrong hands”. Even with LSD in controlled environments, the drug was still heavily affecting some of the researchers (Hippies). Timothy Leary was a professor at Harvard. He began experimenting with LSD, and his interest lead him to test the drug on students and homeless people. He believed it could treat personality disorders. After being fired from Harvard, he became known as the “King of Dope” and later led a church with LSD as its god. Also Ken Kesey, a civilian that tested LSD for the United States Army, got so attached to the drug that he went to the lengths to get a job as a night attendant at a veteran hospital so he would have easy access to the drug. His psychedelic experiences with the patients inspired him to write the book “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” With the profits from the book, Kesey came up with an idea that would soon create a culture that still exists today (Hippies).
Kesey truly believed that it was people’s birthright to trip on LSD, and he wanted everyone to know about the newfound drug. In 1965, LSD was still legal, but it was very hard to locate. However, Kesey was in luck. Owsley Stanley was an ex-army man and a newfound chemist. With Stanley’s help, Kesey was able to have LSD fueled parties to help commercialize the drug. After Kesey realized the success of parties, he started the Acid Test. The Acid Test was a bus the toured around the country allowing people test the LSD. The Acid Test became well known to the young generation. Every time the bus would stop in a town dozens of young adults would pay fifty cents to a dollar to trip and listen to music. When the Acid Test started a little known band at the time called The Warlocks, now known as The Grateful Dead, provided the music. Throughout the Acid Test Kesey exposed more people to LSD than researchers, the CIA, and Timothy Leary combined (Hippies).
January 21st 1966, was the one of the most important days in the hippie culture because it was the day the Acid Test sponsored a Trips Festival in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. Ten thousand people showed up for the festival, some of which never ended up leaving. After the Trips Festival Haight-Ashbury was hoarded with young adults wanting LSD and freedom. In March 1966, Time Magazine reported the growing number of LSD fueled communities in major cities. After the Trips Festival, music became a very large part of Haight-Ashbury. On the weekends, hundreds of people was pile into shows to listen to bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin. As the bands tripped along with their audience, they would throw free doses of LSD into the crowd. They offered a new form of music for the trippers. Music that involved long instrumentals, and songs that looped. This new form of music was called acid rock, now called psychedelic blues (Hippies). Psychedelic blues is music now commonly found at music festivals around the country.
After the Trips Festival Haight-Ashbury was crawling with LSD. The single district provided LSD for all of California. Just as much as Haight-Ashbury was crawling with LSD, it was crawling with a newfound culture. The people living there saw drugs as more than just a good time, they saw them as a way to come up with a new culture. Haight-Ashbury became a place of free love and free everything. An organization called The Diggers fed everyone and provided free clothes and shelter. Haight-Ashbury was like a commune, but one located in a big city. The people living there wanted an alternative society with emotional and sexually freedom. They believed LSD was the way to do that (Hippies).
In autumn, 1966, California criminalized the possession and consumption of LSD because of the health issue it had caused. That day three thousand people gathered at the golden gate bridge, and all placed tabs of acid on their tongues together in protest. This is one of the first protest movements by the sixties hippie movement, one completely fueled by LSD. After this protest, the hippies in Ashbury began anti-war protests against Reagan which lead to many more protests powered by the hippie movement. After Haight-Ashbury, the ideas of the small district began to get around America and more and more people jumped on the peace and love bandwagon that lead them to Woodstock as well as the Vietnam War protests (Hippies).
The hippie movement continued to flourish even after Haight-Ashbury, and even after the summer of love and the Vietnam War. The hippie movement and culture of art, music and peace, most of which from the visuals and thoughts fueled LSD, still exists even today. Hippies throughout history have helped power new ideas and values. They question what’s considered wrong and right. They question everyday values. Without LSD, the hippie movement would not be what it’s known for today.
“LSD: cultural revolution and medical advances.” Rsc.org. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2013.
Hippies. Dir. Scott Reda. History Channel, 2007, DVD.