Exclusive Interview: Psychedelic Pioneer, Author, Acid Tests Graduate & Original Merry Prankster KEN BABBS discusses his life, work, recollections of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Hunter S. Thompson, Timothy Leary, and more

Exclusive Interview: Psychedelic Pioneer, Author, Acid Tests Graduate & Original Merry Prankster KEN BABBS discusses his life, work, recollections of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Hunter S. Thompson, Timothy Leary, and more

Ken Babbs Reddit AMA

 

Ken Babbs Reddit AMA

Fri, December 4th, 2020

10:30am PT/ 1:30pm EST

https://www.reddit.com/r/gratefuldead/comments/jmloej/announcement_ask_me_anything_with_very_special/

 

 

The only true currency is that of the spirit.”-Ken Kesey

Furthur.

Ken Babbs. What a guy! This soon to be 85-year-old Merry Prankster lives on a 10-acre farm in the small, rural town of Dexter, Oregon along Lost Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River.

Babbs is still a Prankster and still boldly subjecting his endurance to unique irritations like recently answering 100 questions from a plucky sprat wordsmith who’s pieced together a rickety quasi-mythic collage of the psychedelic 1960’s while basking in the dual luxuries of 20-20 hindsight and internet access.

Writer, humorist, humanitarian, musician, athlete, Midwest native, former chopper pilot in Vietnam, Babbs is a wonderfully multi-dimensional character who is best known for co-creating the now legendary phenomenon of The Merry Pranksters.

 

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Led by literary college buddies Ken Kesey and his best friend and co-pilot, Ken Babbs, the Merry Pranksters were a core group of 14 people who helped give birth to the psychedelic counterculture in the mid-1960’s.

There was the Beat Generation, then the Pranksters, then the Hippies. Neal Cassady was the living link between the Beats and the Pranksters.

These cosmic jesters had japes aplenty. There was the core group and an extended family of peripheral associates. Just reading a list of Prankster nicknames will make you chuckle: Intrepid Traveler (Babbs), Swashbuckler (Kesey), Zonker, Hassler, Sometimes Missing, Gretchen Fetchin the Slime Queen, Captain Trips, Space Daisy, Mountain Girl, Barely There, Lord Byron Styrofoam, Doris Delay, Cadaverous Cowboy, Mary Microgram, Sensuous X, June the Goon, Marge the Barge, Dis-Mount, Mal Function, etc.

One of the most well-known adventures of the Sixties, the Merry Pranksters two month long, cross-country bus trip from June-August 1964 symbolized the searching, mind-expanding spirit of the Sixties and is the adventure that kicked off the Psychedelic Sixties.

They crammed into a psychedelically painted bus named ‘Furthur’ and filmed their zig-zagging journey from La Honda, California to “Madhattan” New York and back. Along the way, amid hallucinogenic hijinks, the Pranksters (and the bus) all blended into one rollicking amorphous organism spreading cheer, humor, kindness, and good-natured mayhem to the unsuspecting citizens of America.

Merry Pranksters (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Fueled by orange juice laced with LSD (which was still legal until October 1966), the Pranksters would stop in various cities, dress up their alter ego’s in weird clothing, play music and join people in their fluffy cozy web of institutionally-induced conformity coma. Synchronizing into a communal group consciousness, the Pranksters unsnarled uptightness and gave joy to of all forms of exploration: neurocognitive, geographic, interpersonal, multi-media, etc.

After the bus trip, the Pranksters began throwing Acid Test parties in the Bay Area of California. At an Acid Test, you would drink LSD-laced kool aid, dance to the Grateful Dead playing music live, watch Prankster home movies and engage in assorted shenanigans amongst dayglo painted everything, strobe lights, and smiles galore. There would also be the liquid light show going on, using a technique pioneered by Prankster Roy Sebern (he was also the guy who named the bus Furthur), using an overhead projector with changing cellophanes and liquid oil.

The Grateful Dead started off as a Palo Alto jug band with Bob Weir on washtub bass and Jerome “Jerry” Garcia on the banjo. They were called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, then they changed their name to The Warlocks and became the official Acid Test houseband before finally morphing into The Grateful Dead as electric rock & roll instruments transformed the musical landscape.

Everything the Pranksters stood for and promoted was geared towards generating fully joyful experiences. Blasting open those hidden vaults of your own mind, unlocking positive thinking, traversing new unexplored dimensions of your being, and accessing higher levels of reality beyond the usual mundane ordinary everydayness.

It had the flavor of a traveling circus of the mind and a sort of raw, universal quality to it. They personified the multi-colored living in the moment NOW spirit of the Sixties. Bold and inventive, the Merry Pranksters, were the ones who really, truly, unintentionally, popularized psychedelic culture on a large, global scale.

Prankster Acid Test (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Babbs and company were the focus of ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ (published August 1968), a superb in-depth tale of the Pranksters written by journalist Tom Wolfe, who never rode on the bus himself.

Although the Pranksters were early LSD proponents, the role of drugs in general has been over-magnified. Yes, the late Sixties youth culture was drenched in LSD from a veritable free flowing melting neon tap of acid but what was really at the forefront was the powerfully deep yearning amongst young people to increase their mindfulness, kindness and creativity. A line from The Bardo Thodol says “Everything can be transformed to limitlessly positive configurations” and that ethos was one of the main driving forces of the counterculture.

The impossibility of distilling the Prankster experience into words creates a hilarious paradox. The more ultra uber transformatively fantastic something is, the harder it is to accurately describe.

But Ken Babbs, whom due to his historical figure status over the decades becoming an almost fictional comic book type character himself, is gonna give it a whirl.

KEN BABBS BIO

Gretchen Fetchin and Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“My family has been in Ohio for a long time. Our ancestry is English, Scottish, Irish, German. I have nine kids. Was married three times. Had four, four, and one.”

“I grew up 30 miles east of Cleveland in Mentor, Ohio on Lake Erie. Used to call it ‘minor Cedar Point on the lake’. They had a roller rink, bowling alley, dancehall where one side was underage and the other side was for drinking age. Going there only cost a dime!”

“Fortunately, my parents accepted me being a Merry Prankster. We were never on the outs. Although, I’m sure they often found themselves wondering what happened to this All-American Boy?”

“In the past 55 years, what questions haven’t I been asked? Have I had venereal disease?” (laughs)

Ken Babbs & Neal Cassady on the Pranksters bus c. 1964 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“Oh man, the way things have been going, things are so crazy, gonna get crazier probably. Question of what’s next? In terms of global scale, this is the absolute craziest I’ve ever seen things in my lifetime. This whole Covid pandemic lockdown isolation experience forces you to dip into your creativity.”

“There’s been such a huge change from the 1960’s to now. There’s more people and everything has expanded exponentially. I love watching the faces of the world. We may totally fuck up and destroy the Earth, who knows? Need to look to space to get a good perspective on life. Best thing we’ve done lately is we got a puppy 4-5 months ago. Taking care of this creature living with us has been tremendous.”

“San Francisco and the Bay Area in the 60’s were halcyon. Hard to describe, you had to be there for the experience. As things change in life, one day’s fad is another day’s antique. Shit happens but the 60’s live on.”

“The Pranksters, the Sixties, we’re talking about myth, which is made up of everybody’s contribution to the myth. You don’t want to refute anything, just add your own version. The Sixties will be a mountain of myth. 2,000 years from now some Homer-esque historian scribe will put it all together.”

Babbs comes to Detroit

Grateful Dead at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom (December 01, 1968)

“I’ve been to Detroit once.”

“I was in Ohio at my uncle’s and Jerry Garcia called me saying the Grateful Dead would be playing Detroit (December 1st, 1968 @ the Grande Ballroom). So I got in my car and drove up there. Great show, then we all partied at a hotel downtown afterwards with Jerry, Pigpen and the gang.”

 

On The Art of Writing

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“I used to write daily. Mostly journaling, thoughts, poetry. Still write frequently. My Vietnam novel Who Shot the Water Buffalo was published a few years ago. Also, recently wrote a big book called ‘Cronies’ which is about Kesey, Cassady, and Prankster adventures but can’t find a publisher for it. Might just self-publish.”

“I co-authored The Last Go Round with Kesey in 1994.”

“A recent chapbook, ‘We Were Arrested’ is about the April 23, 1965 bust at Kesey’s La Honda home. You can buy the chapbook on my Facebook page.”

Ken Babbs-We Were Arrested

“I have piles of manuscripts. No shortage of material. I will soon be publishing a book called ‘7 Poems of Ken Babbs’.”

“In terms of what I like to read, I’m mostly into fiction, works of imagination. At the time I graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1957, Kerouac published ‘On the Road’ and the free form jazz-like flow of his writing had a tremendous influence on me.”

“Plus, my mother was a librarian. My dad was a newspaper editor. I grew up in a literary household reading Faulkner, Hemingway. There’s a great book called ‘The Way West’ by AB Guthrie Jr. I also love fiction adventure stories, detective stuff. Michael Connelly does some great stuff. There’s so many great writers today.”

Ken Babbs-Cronies

Order Ken Babbs books directly from Ken here

www.skypilotclub.com

 

 

Comic Books

Kesey and I both loved comic books. Our favorite character was The Spirit.”

“Comics are great. What we loved about Sixties Marvel comics was the heroes were always fighting against bad guys for noble ideals like rights and justice. Kesey and I had both been into comics since we were kids.”

“My dad thought comic books were trash, just a mind rotting waste of time. But not me, I loved them. Kesey even wanted to be a comic strip artist at one point.”

 

Experiences in Vietnam

Ken Babbs Vietnam (photo courtesy of Ken Babbs)

Babbs served in the US Marine Corps from May 1959-1963. He trained in Quantico, Virginia, then attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida where he learned to fly choppers. He moved to San Juan Capistrano, CA and was stationed at nearby Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine before shipping off to Vietnam. While in Nam, he flew a Sikorsky H-34D “Dawg” in the Delta and Da Nang and wrote a novel called ‘Who Shot the Water Buffalo’ which was finally published in 2011. You can buy it on his Facebook page.

“The entire experience I had in Vietnam was completely insane. It was still early in the war, I was flying the chopper, we were supplying troops. It was a beautiful country. Within a few weeks in country it was obvious that us being there was a ridiculous waste of time and resources.”

The government always has to have an enemy that they can rouse the people against. Generals want to play with their toys, the big bombs and the fun guns.”

Vietnam domino theory (courtesy of Google Archives)

“In Nam they had the Domino Theory. First Vietnam will fall, then the Philippines, then Hawaii, then suddenly the dirty Reds will be in San Francisco having babies. The Red Horde will be at your door before you know it!”

Still have my leather flight jacket.”

“The Pranksters and my Nam buddies never got together but I’ve had great experiences with both groups. Beautiful thing as you get older, all your experiences are the sum of who you are right now. Just incorporate those experiences into your being. We’re all material beings, we’re not angels. As such, we’re fucking up all the time. Over time, your fuck-ups become your best stories.”

Sikorsky H-34D in Vietnam

 

Babbs at Woodstock

August 15-18, 1969, the Pranksters attend Woodstock music festival along with an estimated 400,000 people at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York. Mistakenly anticipating violence and chaos, the police were shocked at how courteous and well-behaved the attendees ended up being. There were so many people that there was a perpetual 9-mile long traffic jam. Of the 5,000 reported medical incidents, 800 were drug related. Hog Farmer Wavy Gravy was the official head of security of “the please force.”

“Woodstock was pivotal. It was a wonderful, momentous scene and experience in American History. During times of turmoil, awful times, the magic and people living the good life, helping each other, keeps the American spirit alive. Woodstock was a celebration of collaboration among the peace-loving people.”

“I was hired by Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm to help out. We took 4 buses and about 40 people from Ken Kesey’s farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon and headed some 2,900 miles over to Woodstock in Bethel, New York.”

“Some of us Pranksters had our musical instruments. Across the hill from the main stage, we had the free stage. At one point I was on the main stage with the Grateful Dead. But mostly I was either helping out at the Freak Out tent or playing music on the free stage. I kept a very detailed journal of that amazing experience and should probably release it as a book.”

 

Memories of Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey on the Merry Pranksters bus (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs were best friends. Kesey was a groomsman at Babbs wedding in 1959. Kesey then volunteered to take mind-altering drugs at the local Menlo Park VA hospital later that year. He didn’t know it at the time but this was part of the CIA’s clandestine MK-Ultra project. He fictionalized his experiences in the instant bestseller ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1962). Couple years later he moved to a large house (7940 La Honda rd, La Honda, CA) on 3 acres in the middle of a beautiful redwood forest. This became the HQ of the Merry Pranksters where spontaneous happenings would be attended by Hunter S. Thompson and the Hells Angels. In early 1966, Kesey was busted for marijuana, faked his death and became a fugitive in Mexico. He did time at a prison work farm called the Honor Camp (7546 Alpine rd, La Honda, CA) which was hilariously located only 1 mile SE of his house, practically in his backyard. After that he moved up to a farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon and the rest is history.

Oh, God, so many great times and fun memories of Kesey!

“We met at Stanford University in the Graduate Writing program. We hit it off right away in grad school. He lived nearby on Perry Lane (9 Perry Lane, Palo Alto, CA), which was a collection of cottages. Block parties were frequent. Kesey was a social force. He’d written an entire novel called ‘Zoo’ before we even got to Stanford.”

Ken Kesey at a Pranksters Acid Test (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“He had also been a wrestler at the University of Oregon.”

“One time he hurt his shoulder. He had shown me some wrestling moves and we both signed up to compete. They wouldn’t let him participate but I did and he became my coach and mentor for that experience. My first opponent was this big red headed guy. Kesey said ‘I’m gonna teach you a trick. This is called the Telephone Takedown. When the match starts, make a big noise and commotion, make it look like you’re answering an invisible ringing telephone. Then when the guy is confused, dive, flip and pin him’. So, I took Kesey’s advice. The match starts, I do what he said to do. The red headed guy looks at me, steps back, throws me over and pins me in two seconds flat. And the sonofabitch broke my tooth, I spit it out!”

“Kesey started off as a magician. He had a ventriloquist dummy named Blinky. In his hometown of Eugene, Oregon, he would do shows on Saturday’s at the movies. In between movies, he would come out and do his magic and ventriloquism and he was great, very captivating. He was also fond of sleight of hand coin tricks. He’d be expertly pulling coins out of people’s ears and noses.”

Ken Kesey (photo by Jerry De Wile)

“I remember in the 90’s when Kesey and I were traveling around the country performing our play ‘Twister’, Kesey would bring his ventriloquist doll Blinky out.”

“Kesey had a pet parrot named Rumiako. Man, that thing could crack macadamia nuts.”

The story about Kesey’s involvement with the LSD test monkey’s is a bunch of bullshit. That was some guy down on the coast. Kesey was not involved with releasing them into the wilds of La Honda.”

 

Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

During the Pranksters bus trip, they stopped at Millbrook in upstate New York, home of psychedelic Harvard exile Dr. Tim Leary.

Leary had the flu, so we didn’t see him until leaving. He said he was sorry. We were on the same wavelength and we became really good pals shortly after that.”

Timothy Leary & Neal Cassady (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Neal Cassady

Neal Cassady at the jukebox (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Neal Cassady was a constantly on the go historical literary character who was intimately involved in both the Beat Generation in mid-1940’s New York when he linked up with Jack Kerouac and also the Merry Pranksters when he drove the Furthur bus in the mid-1960’s. From the mid-50’s onward, Cassady lived periodically in Los Gatos, CA until his mysterious death in Mexico in 1968, some 2,000 miles south of home.

“I first met Neal Cassady on the Prankster bus in 1964. Took a while for us to get acquainted. He called me a “tourist” (haha).”

Neal Cassady (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“Super guy. He was the living link between the Beat Generation and the Merry Pranksters. He was a very rambunctious, energetic, knowledgeable person. Very intelligent. He was like our elder Uncle.”

“Cassady was also the very first sales clerk at the Hip Pocket bookstore. That was Ron Bevirt and Peter Demma’s store in Santa Cruz. Bevirt’s Prankster name was Hassler

 

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson circa 1967 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Hunter Thompson was the famous Gonzo journalist from Louisville. In the 60’s he lived at 318 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco. Over the years, his work has become tremendously influential, especially the seminal ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas‘ (1971).

“Oh man, Hunter was a great guy. Lucky to get to know him. We need his acerbic wit today, right now.”

“One time in the early 70’s he wrote a story about the Marathon in Honolulu, for some running magazine. He couldn’t finish the article so the editors flew him to Eugene, Oregon and put him up in a motel. He had locked himself in a bathroom. Paul Perry got him out of there by calling me because Hunter had asked for me to get him some weed. Thompson comes out of there and lights a string of firecrackers right in the room. So I get him the pot, and he finished the article. He’s getting ready to leave. Kesey and I are outside in Kesey’s car, waiting. Then Hunter comes out. He’s standing by the car door in his white shorts, white shoes, white shirt. As we pull away, Kesey lights a long string of firecrackers and throws it at Hunter’s feet! He’s dancing around as we pull off laughing.”

 

Ken Babbs on The Merry Pranksters

Merry Pranksters bus Furthur (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“The Merry Pranksters came together through divine planning. And the labels just happen. Deadheads are followers of The Grateful Dead. The Beats were named by John Clellon Holmes. The media came up with the label Hippies. I came up with the name Merry Pranksters spontaneously, naturally. This was not an intentional calculation whatsoever.”

Early 1964, after hanging out at San Gregorio Beach, we were all back at La Honda around the campfire when I was goofing around and said: ‘Tis I, the Intrepid Traveler, who has come to meet his Merry band of Pranksters across the country in the reverse order of the pioneers. We won’t blow up their buildings, we’ll blow their minds!’.

“I’ve told that story about 6 million times. Good stories do not get old.”

Initially, we were going to take my station wagon, a 1958 Ford, but instead we bought the bus right as our group grew, and we took the bus instead.”

Merry Pranksters on the bus. Ken Babbs (lower right, striped shirt). Ken Kesey (up top in the porkpie hat playing the flute) (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

“Kesey and I were tired of writing on the manual typewriter. We were tape recording. We’d lie on the floor at night and rap stories onto tapes. Problem with that method is afterwards you have to spend too much time listening to it.”

“Then (George) Walker bought a 16mm movie camera, so we started filming everything.”

(Mike) Hagen saw the ad for the bus. It was located in Atherton. He and Kesey went to pick it up. Kesey sunk his money into the bus and the trip to Madhattan and back and the cost of filming the movie. Other than that, everyone chipped in what money they could and we did plenty of shows and performances which we got paid for.”

“On the trip, our very first prank was in Arizona. Barry Goldwater was a senator in Arizona and we drove through his hometown. Painted a sign ‘A Vote for Barry is a Vote for Fun!’ He was pro Vietnam. His actual philosophy was summed up in his phrase, ‘Nuke the Gook’.

Merry Prankster Mountain Girl (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Prankster nicknames were created in the moment spontaneously as the bus trip unfolded. Ron Bevirt became ‘The Equipment Hassler‘, which was just shortened to Hassler. This was because every morning he would be rooting around in a drawer for things.”

“The Prankster movie was about interacting. We’d stop at a gas station somewhere and people would flock to the bus. We’d get out with our musical instruments and movie camera and help turn it into a fun thing. This happened everywhere we went. NYC was the climax of the trip. It was like we were a moving theater and the random people we encountered were the audience, they didn’t have a choice.”

We would balance intentionality and spontaneity. The intentionality is shooting the movie. Being spontaneous is having no script whatsoever. We were making it up as we went along.”

“The whole Prankster thing was about being open, friendly, creative, artistic, kind. Instead of participating in violence of any kind, take another path to keep the tranquility alive.”

Merry Pranksters bus with observation bubble (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

 

The Grateful Dead

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1965: Photo of Grateful Dead when they started playing as the Warlocks (Photo by Paul Ryan)

“We became friends with them before they were even called The Warlocks.”

“They played our 1965 Halloween party at my house in Soquel. Wonderful group.”

 

LSD: The Merry Prankster’s Acid Test Parties

Merry Pranksters Acid Test handbill (courtesy of Google Archives)

The Merry Pranksters threw legendary LSD events from Fall 1965 to Spring 1966. This sort of gathering they dubbed an Acid Test, a reference to how a psychedelic chemical would test the strength and pureness of your being. An informal precursor to the official Acid Tests took place on Halloween night 1965 at Ken Babbs house ‘The Spread’ (Soquel Dr and Dover Dr, Soquel, CA). Then on November 27, 1965, the first official Acid Test also took place there. Since it was only advertised by limited word of mouth and a flyer at the local Hip Pocket Bookstore in Santa Cruz, the turnout was small compared to the thousands of attendees who would swarm future Acid Tests. The Pranksters went on to throw dozens of Acid Tests at various locations until the final Acid Test graduation at San Fran’s Winterland Ballroom on Halloween night 1966.

Pranksters LSD was put into orange juice, kool aid, and let me see, oh yeah, elephant piss! (laughs).”

LSD helped blow out the old imprints. You should keep the great ones but don’t get too hung up on old ideas. Make sure you let in some new stuff continually.”

We took LSD in whatever form the doctor prescribed. We ate mushrooms. Nitrous might have even been popular but it wasn’t always pretty.”

Ken Babbs at the Merry Pranksters Trips Festival (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

LSD was cheap enough back then, you could trade it for a pound of hash oil. Last time I took acid? 1866 or was it the Greco Roman war?

All psychedelics and drugs should be legalized.”

The original Acid Test movie reels, the raw 45 hours of 16mm film are now in a vault in L.A.

Paul Foster, a fellow Prankster, created the acid test poster, it was printed at a local shop.”

Merry Pranksters Acid Test handbill (courtesy of Google Archives)

Tom Wolfe the journalist was never on the bus. Great guy and great writer though.”

“His book Electric Kool Aid Acid Test was going to be made into a movie by Gus Van Sant but the project got shelved because a satisfactory screenplay never materialized.”

“We need Pranksters now. We need humor and off the wall happenings. The real battle is in minds between malevolent and benevolent thoughts, doing good or bad things. Don’t fight them. Just make a concentrated effort to grow your benevolent thoughts.”

Merry Pranksters Acid Test (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Ken Babbs Final Thoughts

Ken Babbs with Kesey’s parrot Rumiako (photo by Jerry De Wilde)

What’s a good way to prank a Prankster?

Ask him 95 ridiculous questions.”

 

General advice for young people?

“Follow your bliss. You need a daytime job to pay for your nighttime creative fun. As you go through life, make this your goal. Follow the donut, not the hole. Be kind.”

 

Caution: Weird Load.

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Ken Babbs)

Facebook

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Skypilot Club Homepage (order Ken’s books from him directly here)

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Email Ken Babbs

kapn@skypilot.com

Poem by Ken Babbs

Everything in a Aristotelian world

is in chronological order

but in a quantum physical

Einsteinian universe

everything is happening

all at once and we had

that experience when doing acid.

He was dyslexic, insomniac, agnostic,

woke up crying, Is there no dog?

No dog. What? No dog?

Does the universe end with a whine

and not a bark?

The wolf howled

and a heavy fog

held the cold

like a frozen blanket

juices were flowing

and the sap was rising

as spring awakened

from winter’s sleep.

We was swamped,

deluged, flooded

got muddy feet, the swamp lily,

now that was immaculate.

“Don’t eat when you’re angry,”

Cassady said, “No one

was ever happy, angry.”

—- Ken Babbs

 

Merry Pranksters & Assorted Psychedelic Timeline

NOTE: this is a raw, unpolished timeline compiled from my research notes. I approach interviews like doing detective work and always try to assemble a timeline for story coherence. Thought I’d include it since it might be a helpful resource to others. Cheers! Ryan

January 14th, 1936-Ken Babbs is born in Ohio

1938-LSD synthesized by Dr. Albert Hoffman @ Sandoz Lab (Basel, Switzerland)

1939-Al Hinkle and Neal Cassady, both 12, meet in Denver at a YMCA gym circus class

April 19, 1943-Dr. Albert Hoffman unintentionally takes the world’s first acid trip

1946-47-Neal Cassady moves to NYC, meets Jack Kerouac

1949-Dr. Max Rinkel brings LSD from Sandoz Labs in Switzerland to the USA, Boston

1951-Dr. Nicholas Bercel, a neurophysiologist at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) supposedly becomes the first American to experience LSD

1951-Dr. Humphry Osmond moves from London, England to Saskatchewan, Canada. He begins testing the therapeutic effects of LSD on schizophrenics and alcoholics at Weyburn Mental Hospital.

1951-Neal’s son John Cassady is born @ 29 Russell st, San Fran; Kerouac also lived here for a bit; Carolyn Cassady took the famous photo of them across the street

1953-CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb buys the entire known world supply of LSD so the CIA can conduct mind-control experiments with it, thus kicking off the MK-Ultra Project

1953-City Lights books opens in SanFran, owned by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A plucky young sci-fi novelist, Philip K. Dick, is a frequent customer.

Dr. Albert Hofmann (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

1954-Dr. Gottlieb starts Operation Midnight Climax where the CIA gives unsuspecting customers of prostitutes LSD inside a house (225 Chestnut Street, SanFran) so they can study their behavior

1954-68-the Hungry I nightclub in San Fran

1954-Neal Cassady buys house in Los Gatos (18231 Bancroft ave, Monte Sereno, CA). Lives here periodically until his death in 68. His wife Carolyn sells the house in 87 and it gets bulldozed.

1955-Babbs attending Case Tech school in Cleveland, then Miami University (Oxford, OH)

1955-Ginsburg reads Howl poem in San Francisco

1957-Kerouac’s book On the Road comes out

1957-Dr. Humphry Osmond coins the term ‘psychedelic’

1958-Ferlinghetti’s book Coney Island of the Mind is published

1958-Ken Kesey and his wife Faye Haxby move to California

Fall 1958-Babbs gets a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and enrolls at Stanford grad school writing program where he meets fellow outsider Ken Kesey at a cocktail party at professor Wallace Stegner’s house

1959-Pasadena, CA-Ken Babbs wedding. Ken Kesey is groomsman

Jack Kerouac (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

May 1959-Babbs enters the military; trains with USMC in Quantico, then Pensacola, FL flight school and learns to fly choppers

1959-Naked Lunch WSB

1959-Jerry Kamstra runs the Cloven Hoof Bookstore (Grant ave, SanFran)

1959-After being encouraged by Dr. Vic Lovell to sign up, Kesey volunteers at Menlo Park VA hospital (795 Willow rd, Menlo Park, CA) to take mind-altering drugs as part of MK-Ultra (financed by the CIA; they paid Stanford University; also supposedly tested LSD on monkeys). Kesey takes drugs under the supervision of Dr. Leo Hollister.

1960-Kesey lands job as psychiatric aid at the VA

1960-Cambridge, MA-Tim Leary and Richard Alpert conduct LSD experiments on themselves and others

1960-HST first encounters LSD in Big Sur but does not take any

1960-while working at Dow Chemical in Berkeley, a young Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin has his first psychedelic experience in the form of a mescaline trip at Dow

1961-Springfield, OR-Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, John Babbs all take IT-290 (aka: alpha-methyltryptamine)

1961-Ken Babbs moves to Ganado Road, San Juan Capistrano, CA. He’s stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine before shipping off to Vietnam.

1961-while living briefly in Paris, France, psychedelic researcher Dr. James Fadiman is introduced to psychedelics by friend Ram Dass when Dass, Tim Leary, and Aldous Huxley pass through town. Soon after this, Jim and Dorothy Fadiman become Perry Lane neighbors of Ken Kesey.

Ken Kesey one flew over the cuckoos nest 1st edition hardcover

Fall 1961-Kerouac writes novel Big Sur @ Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur. Later, Kamstra writes The Frisco Kid here

September 1961-Cambridge, MA; Leary takes LSD for the first time via Michael Hollingshead

1962-Tim Leary’s Good Friday psilocybin experiment in Boston

1962-Kesey’s One flew over the cuckoo’s nest published; breakout success, instant bestseller

1962-under the supervision of Dr. James Fadiman, Stewart Brand (soon to join the Merry Pranksters) has his first LSD experience at Myron Stolaroff’s International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, CA

1962-63-Babbs is USMC helicopter squadron in Vietnam (wrote novel Who Shot the Water Buffalo, unpublished until 2011); stationed down south in Delta, then north in Da Nang; he was flying a Sikorsky H-34D “Dawg”

Late 1962-Neal Cassady hangs out with Kesey in Palo Alto

1963-Babbs returns from Nam, hangs out at Kesey’s house (9 Perry Lane, Palo Alto) bongos and wine and pineapple chili. Pot wasn’t even on the scene yet

July 21, 1963-Perry Lane ends, bulldozed

1963-Leary fired from Harvard, moves to Millbrook

1963-Owsley synthesizes his own LSD in Berkeley. He then starts manufacturing homemade LSD via ‘Bear Research Group’

Merry Pranksters bus (c. 1964) Ken Babbs, Gretchen Fetchin the Slime Queen, Ken Kesey (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

November 22, 1963-JFK assassinated in Dallas

1964-Kesey publishes Sometimes a Great Notion

March 1964-sci-fi author Philip K. Dick takes LSD and says the experience transports him to Latin-speaking ancient Rome. He then writes the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch during extended amphetamines binges at his house (3919 Lyon ave, Oakland, CA)

Early 1964-Kesey moves to La Honda (7940 La Honda rd, La Honda, CA) a large house on 3 acres in the middle of a beautiful redwood forest

1964-the Merry Pranksters are named by Babbs at San Gregorio Beach, CA. The Merry Pranksters form (core group of 14 people) = zapping the “squares” out of their conformity to the Establishment by using LSD, a day glo bus, music and laughter

Spring 1964-Prankster Hagen sees classified ad for 1939 International Harvester bus for sale by Andre Hobson in Atherton, CA. Kesey buys it for $1,200 with his ‘One flew over cuckoo nest’ money

June 17, 1964-the famous Furthur bus trip starts from Kesey’s house (La Honda, CA) to “Madhattan”; “Kesey wanted to see what would happen when hallucinogenic-inspired spontaneity confronted what he saw as the banality and conformity of American society”

June 29, 1964-Pranksters arrive in NYC. While in NYC, Neal Cassady introduces the Pranksters to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Chloe Scott’s apartment (Madison Ave and 90th St)

August 1964-the Furthur bus returns to La Honda

1964-San Francisco area-Pranksters help give birth to the counterculture

Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady on the Merry Pranksters bus

1964-HST first reports on the Hell’s Angels

August 2nd, 1964-Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam

October 1964-the Hip Pocket Bookstore opens (1500 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz) Run by Ron Bevirt (aka: Prankster Hagen) and Peter Demma. Neal Cassady is the stores first sales clerk.

February 21, 1965-Owsley’s home/LSD lab (1647 Virginia st, Berkley, CA) raided by police

March 30, 1965-Owsley creates first big batch of LSD

April 12, 1965-Tim Scully first takes LSD. Shortly afterwards, Owsley hires him as a roadie for The Warlocks (whom in a few months become The Grateful Dead). After that, he becomes Owsley’s lab assistant in Point Richmond.

1965-Roy Sebern, Prankster affiliate and artist, invents the liquid light show

April 23, 1965-Kesey’s La Honda estate raided by Agent Wong (Willie Wong, SF Chinese narc) but the Pranksters had a few days heads-up and ended up pranking the cops. Kesey and 13 other Pranksters arrested

May 1965-HST first article on Hell’s Angels appears in The Nation magazine

1965-Wes Wilson creates the world’s first psychedelic concert poster (San Francisco)

Hip Pocket Bookstore (1500 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA) opened 1964

1965-While working for Dow Chemical in Berkeley, legendary chemist Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin synthesizes MDMA

1965-Vietnam big surge US troops 500,00 (Marines to north, Army to south)

July 1965-Dow Chemical Company (Midland, MI), the makers of saran wrap, score a $5 million dollar Department of Defense contract to become the US military’s only supplier of Napalm. Until 1969, they manufacture Napalm-B, a jellied mix of gasoline, benzene, polystyrene.

Aug 7, 1965-La Honda party w/ HST and some 40 Hells Angels; “amusingly incongruous cast of characters, a microcosm of an unsustainable social movement”; also present were Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsburg; 100 people total, all on LSD, HST’s first LSD experience; Lord Byron Styrofoam (aka Sandy Lehmann-Haupt) the KLSD radio station DJ, “800 micrograms in your head”

August 13th, 1965-Jefferson Airplane debut at The Matrix (3138 Fillmore st, SanFran)

August 24th, 1965-The Beatles first take LSD together @ Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house (2850 Benedict Canyon rd, Beverly Hills, CA) with Peter Fonda, David Crosby, and others

September 02, 1965-The Beatles concert @ SanFran Cow Palace (bad vibes, Pranksters leave early, return to La Honda to see 400 people there and Owsley, the world’s greatest acid chemist)

September 5th, 1965-the word “hippie” first appears in print in the San Francisco Examiner

October 15, 1965-Kesey and the Pranksters @ the Vietnam Day Committee protest @ University of Berkeley, Sproul Hall Plaza, some 15,000 people. Paul Krassner’s first encounter with the Pranksters

October 31, 1965-Babbs says that an informal Acid Test party, a precursor to the official Acid Tests, takes place during a Halloween costume party at his house “The Spread” (Soquel dr and Dover, Soquel, CA) on 400 acres

Merry Pranksters Acid Test LP

November 21, 1965-Lysergic A Go Go @ AIAA Aviation Academy Auditorium (7660 Beverly blvd, LA) event put on by Hugh Romney (aka: Wavy Gravy) and Del Close for 500 people

November 27, 1965-Soquel, CA-Babbs house ‘The Spread’ first Acid Test; advertised at the Hip Pocket Bookstore; Pranksters home movies, Cassady, Ginsberg

2nd test = December 4, 1965-San Jose Acid Test @ Big Nig’s house= The Warlocks first performance as the Grateful Dead; took place right after the Rolling Stones played San Jose Civic Auditorium

December 10th, 1965-Bill Graham takes over The Fillmore (1805 Geary blvd)

3rd test = December 11, 1965 = Muir Beach, CA feat. Grateful Dead, strobe lights; 300 people; Hell’s Angels, Owsley has LSD freakout, claims he goes into “parallel time dimension” with Count Cagliostro

December 18, 1965-acid test @ the Big Beat (998 San Antonio rd, Palo Alto)

January 1966-October 1967-Ron and Jay Thelin run the Psychedelic Shop (1535 Haight, SF)

January 8th, 1966-Fillmore acid test. Paul Krassner attends.

January 15th, 1966-Portland, OR acid test

January 19, 1966-Kesey arrested again for weed. Busted on Stewart Brand’s rooftop (Vallejo Street @ Grant St, North Beach, SanFran). Kesey along with Mountain Girl busted for only 3.54 grams of marijuana.

Merry Prankster Stewart Brand

January 21-23, 1966-Pranskters put on the Trips Festival, a 3-day long Acid Test @ Longshoreman’s Hall SanFran (considered the first true hippie festival/official gathering?) Babbs does the sound system and builds scaffold control tower; 10,000 attendees drinking LSD punch; Stewart Brand, Bill Graham

January 23, 1966-Kesey moves into Babbs house, The Spread, in Santa Cruz where he plans to, rather than do 5 years in prison, fake his death and become an outlaw in Mexico. Mountain Girl, Lee Quarnstrom, Ron Bevirt, Space Daisy, also move in.

January 31, 1966-Kesey’s abandoned vehicle is found in Orick, California. Inside is an 18-page long suicide note reading “O Ocean, ocean, ocean, I’ll beat you in the end”

February 04, 1966-Kesey becomes an outlaw in Mexico

February 1966-Ken Babbs becomes unofficial leader of the Pranksters. The Pranksters acquire the Sans Souci (saan soo see) old mansion in Stinson Beach. They have acid test at nearby Sawyer’s Church in Northridge.

Feb 12, 1966-Watts Acid Test (either 13331 S. Alameda or 9027 S. Figueroa, Compton, CA) 200 people; 30 gallon plastic trash can full of “Electric Kool Aid” (coined by Wavy Gravy), Grateful Dead

March 1966-Pranksters take the bus to Mazatlán, Mexico to visit Kesey. They do several small Acid Tests in Mexico. Kesey sneaks back into USA via Brownsville, TX.

1966-Mountain Girl has child with Kesey & also marries and separates from fellow Prankster George Walker. She later marries Jerry Garcia.

1966-Grateful Dead and Mountain Girl move to 710 Ashbury, SanFran

Summer 1966-1969-Lithuanian Leon Tabory takes over ownership of ‘The Barn’ in Scotts Valley from Big Daddy Nord. The Barn was a well-known beatnik, Prankster, hippie community gathering place located off Highway 17, just north of Santa Cruz. The Barn address (Granite Creek road and Santa Village Dr, Scotts Valley, CA).

July 24, 1966-Pranksters Lee Quarnstrom and Space Daisy (aka: Judith Ann Washburne) are married at The Fillmore. The best man is Julius Karpen.

September 1966-The Oracle newspaper begins

Merry Pranksters Trips Festival 1966 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

October 1966-Prankster affiliate Julius Karpen becomes the manager of rock band Big Brother & the Holding Company for one year.

October 6, 1966-LSD becomes illegal in the state of California (note the overtones of 666)

October 20, 1966-Kesey arrested on freeway in San Francisco

October 31, 1966-final Acid Test graduation @ Winterland Ballroom (SanFran) strange end to the Pranksters acid tests. The group gradually go their separate ways afterwards, periodically hanging out.

January 14, 1967-The Human Be-In @ Polo Fields (Golden Gate Park, SanFran) 30,000 people

Jan-Feb 1967-Tom Wolfe’s first articles on Pranksters run in New York Magazine

1967-Ken Babbs moves to Oregon

1967-Owsley living and making LSD at 2321 Valley st, Berkeley, CA

1967-Hugh Romney (aka: Wavy Gravy) starts the Hog Farm (West Conover St, Sunland-Tujunga, CA). This is a 33 acre commune in the hills above Los Angeles. To find it on a map, use the address 9401 Tujunga Valley st, Shadow Hills, CA. In 1969, the Hog Farm moves to Llano, New Mexico.

Feb 1967-HST book Hell’s Angels published

March 1967-Prankster Denise Kaufman (aka: Mary Microgram) joins all-female rock band The Ace of Cups. She does vocals, guitar, harmonica.

Merry Pranksters Acid Test Graduation (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

March 16, 1967-Houston acid test @ Rice University. Teacher and novelist Larry McMurty was a Stanford Univ pal of Kesey’s.

May 26, 1967-The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper album

June 16-18, 1967-Monterey Pop Fest in Monterey, CA (feat. Hendrix, the Who, Shankar, Joplin, etc)

June 23, 1967-Kesey goes to work farm for 5 months for marijuana charge. This is the San Mateo County sheriff’s Honor Camp (7546 Alpine rd, La Honda, CA). 11 acres. Former Boy Scout camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Pescadero Creek. It is hilariously located only 1 mile SE of Kesey’s house.

Summer 1967-San Fran-Summer of Love-“flower children followed by the sharks; Bay Area wasn’t kind of place we wanted to be around anymore”

1967-Lenny Bruce protégé & quasi-Prankster affiliate Paul Krassner founds the Yippies (Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman)

1967-Tim Leary moves to Laguna Beach to live with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (250 Woodland Dr)

1967-Quasi-Prankster affiliate Norman Hartweg car accident in Las Vegas, leaves him a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. He spends 1yr in hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then stays in Ann Arbor until moving back to LA in 1977. Norman’s father, Dr Norman E. Hartweg, was curator of reptiles at the University of Michigan, he was an international expert on reptiles.

October 21, 1967-Washington, DC-a group led by Abbie Hoffman attempt an exorcism of The Pentagon. They sing and chant, trying to get it to levitate so they can perform an aural exorcism

November 1967-Rolling Stone magazine begins

Merry Prankster The Hermit (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

November 1967-Kesey gets out of work farm after 5mnths and moves to Kesey Farm (64acres) in Pleasant Hill, Oregon

November 27, 1967-The Beatles release Magical Mystery Tour album

December 1967-William Leonard Pickard moves from Cambridge, MA to Berkeley, CA and gets a job at UC Berkeley inside Latimer Hall at the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology

December 1967-Owsley’s LSD lab raided in Orinda, CA; Owsley arrested; the Brotherhood of Eternal Love takes up the mantle of LSD production

Feb 1968-Neal Cassady dies mysteriously some 2,000 miles south of La Honda, CA in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

1968-Sausalito, CA-William Mellon (aka: Billy) Hitchcock introduces the Brotherhood of Eternal Love to chemists Nick Sand and Tim Scully

August 1968-Tom Wolfe publishes book ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ detailing the fascinating exploits of The Merry Pranksters

September 1st, 1968-Stewart Brand (Prankster) publishes the first Whole Earth Catalog

Late 1968-the hippie scene starts getting ugly as the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood turns seedy and violent after an influx of street predators move into the neighborhood

October 24, 1968-Congress passed Staggers-Dodd Bill, effectively criminalizing the recreational use of LSD-25. LSD is made illegal in USA

Electric Kool Aid Acid Test (1968) Tom Wolfe first edition softcover

November 05, 1968-Nixon elected President

December 9th, 1968-the Mother of All Demos introduces email, hypertext, and the computer mouse via Prankster Stewart Brand and computer scientist Douglas Englebart at San Fran’s Brooks Hall, Civic Center Plaza. Stewart was at SRI HQ in Menlo Park working one of the computers

March 1969-LSD chemists Tim Scully and Nick Sand make the famous Orange Sunshine acid at their farmhouse (Mitchell Lane west of Baldocchi Way, Windsor, CA). They make 3 pounds (4.5 million hits) of Orange Sunshine LSD

July 20, 1969-NASA on the Moon

August 9-10, 1969-Charles Manson’s cult the Family kills 5 people

August 15-18, 1969-Pranksters attend Woodstock, along w/ an estimated 400,000 people

September 1969-The Beatles breakup

October 21, 1969-Kerouac dies

December 6, 1969-Altamont Free Concert (Grateful Dead hire Hell’s Angels as security, one of whom stabs a man to death)

1970-LSD declared Schedule One controlled substance in USA

Charles Manson and Sharon Tate (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

1971-Prankster Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) and Jerry Garcia move into the Sans Souci mansion (18 Avenida Farralone, Stinson Beach, CA)

1971-Mark McCloud’s house (3466 20th st, SanFran) becomes an LSD museum called the Blotter Barn. He has over 30,000 blotter works of art here.

Nov 1971-HST publishes Fear & Loathing

1972-Watergate

1973-Pigpen dies

1973-Nixon creates the DEA

November 1973-Billy Hitchcock rats out the Brotherhood of Eternal Love

1974-81-Babbs involved with Spit in the Ocean publication

1975-Vietnam War ends

1975-One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest movie released starring Jack Nicholson

Jerry Garcia (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

1978-Mountain Girl finally officially divorces George Walker

1982-Owsley moves to Australia

1983-Babbs editor of The Bugle (Eugene, OR zine)

1984-Kesey’s son Jed dies in car accident

1985-Prankster Stewart Brand & Dr. Larry Brilliant co-found The Well. Larry, a native Detroiter, is the guy who delivered a Native American baby on Alcatraz Island in 1969 during the Indians of All Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz. And then in 1975 he led the UN effort that successfully eradicated smallpox in India (eradicated globally by 1980).

1994-Norman Hartweg dies

1994-Kesey and Babbs co-author The Last Go Round

1995-Jerry Garcia dies

1997-Kesey sells his La Honda house

1999-Babbs plays Frankenstein in Twisted, a play he co-wrote w/ Kesey

2001-Kesey passes away

Merry Pranksters Roy Sebern liquid light show

2001-Jim Irsay (owner of Indy Colts fb team) buys original Kerouac scroll for $2.45mil

2001-Sandy Lehmann-Haupt dies

2003-work camp where Kesey served time is permanently closed

2003-Paul Foster dies

2005-HST suicide

2005-Ken’s son Zane Kesey pulls the original Furthur bus out of the swamp at Kesey’s Oregon farm

2008-Dr. Albert Hoffman dies at the ripe ole age of 102

2010-George Walker published a chapbook

2011-Babbs book ‘Who shot the water buffalo’ published (thanks to Sterling Lord)

2011-Owsley dies

2012-Ken Babbs brother and noted fly fisherman John Babbs (his Prankster name is ‘Sometimes Missing’) passes away

Dec 2018-Al Hinkle (92; San Jose) dies; he was with Kerouac and Cassady in the On the Road story in the 1949 Hudson Commodore; Al was a brakeman and conductor with Southern Pacific Railroad for 40yrs

Dec 2018-Babbs publishes chapbook ‘We Were Arrested’ (talks about 14 Pranksters busted for pot at Kesey’s house; and the first acid tests)

July 2019-Paul Krassner dies

October 2019-Chloe Scott passes away. She was a Perry Lane neighbor of Ken Kesey’s. The Merry Pranksters stayed a night at her cousin’s apartment in New York in 1964 where they met Jack Kerouac.

February 2021-Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away at 101 years old

Ken Babbs business card (courtesy of Ken Babbs)

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Ken Babbs)

Merry Prankster George Walker (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Prankster Neal Cassady circa 1964 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Haight Ashbury poster (courtesy of Google Archives)

The Warlocks (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Pigpen of the Grateful Dead (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters Acid Test handbill (courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters Ken Kesey, Lee Quarnstrom, Neal Cassady (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters Watts Acid test (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of Ken Babbs)

Turn on tune in drop out Leary (Courtesy of Google Archives)

Mountain Girl’s Merry Prankster Acid Test diploma (courtesy of Google Archives)

October 1966, Ken Kesey outside the Warehouse, Harriet Street, South of Market, San Francisco, California (photo by Ted Streshinsky)

Ken Kesey and Mountain Girl (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Neal Cassady (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

The Grateful Dead in San Francisco (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters first official Acid Test November 27, 1965 (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ace of Cups business card (courtesy of Google Archives)

The Beatles (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Neal Cassady mugshot (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Timothy Leary poster by Brotherhood of Eternal Love (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Keseydelics (courtesy of Google Archives)

LSD chemist Owsley & Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia

Grateful Dead concert poster (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Barry Goldwater (“A vote for Barry is a vote for fun!” (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Gretchen Fetchin at La Honda circa 1965 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey’s La Honda estate (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Haight Ashbury circa 1967 (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Hunter S. Thompson (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey mugshot (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey graffiti mural (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

downtown San Francisco circa 1960’s (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Prankster Mountain Girl (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Prankster Paul Foster (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Neal Cassady sorta kinda resembling Dennis Hopper (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters at Millbrook. Ken Babbs is the shirtless weirdo (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Timothy Leary’s Millbrook estate (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

 

The Realist (courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Prankster George Walker (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

 

Merry Pranksters poster (courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Prankster Zonker (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Merry Pranksters Trips Festival

Ken Kesey (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Hunter S. Thompson the edge (courtesy of Google Archives)

LSD chemist Tim Scully (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript of ‘On the Road’ (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Owsley Stanley (courtesy of Google Archives)

The Doors psychedelic poster (courtesy of Google Archives)

Timothy Leary (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

LSD cologne (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Thelin Psychedelic Shop (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Albert Hofmann blotter acid LSD

Roy Sebern, Merry Prankster (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Trips Festival advertisement (courtesy of Google Archives)

Ken Kesey circa 1957 (photo from The Eugene Guard newspaper in Eugene, OR)

Timothy Leary trippy gif (courtesy of Google Archives)

The Diggers funeral notice for the death of the hippie (October 1967, San Francisco) image courtesy of Google Archives

Hells Angels annual party (c. 1971)

Grateful Dead-trip or freak (c. 1967)

The Barn (Scotts Valley, CA) c. 1966-69

Spit in the Ocean literary journal by Ken Babbs (photo courtesy of PBA Gallery)

Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

The Grateful Dead Book (1973) Hank Harrison (image courtesy of Abebooks)

Timothy Leary (photo courtesy of Google Archives)

Owsley Stanley (photo by Explorewithstorm)

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection is a fascinating hidden gem.

Housed on the 8th floor of the South Stacks of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, the Papyrology Collection contains 18,000 pieces of papyrus.

Estimated to be worth $100 million dollars, it’s the largest collection of papyri in North America and the 5th largest in the world.

I’m standing in 807 Hatcher with the head archivist, Brendan Haug. Also present is manager, Monica Tsuneishi. Brendan has been archivist since 2013, taking the helm from a position started by Traianos Gagos, who was the first archivist in 1991.

This 8th floor hidden perch offers a spectacular vantage of campus as well. There’s a clear view of the Burton Bell Tower and Hill Auditorium to the north and a stunning panorama to the south, which includes the Big House and the Law Building.

The view from 807 Hatcher (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brendan and I are sitting in a reference library next door to a chilled room full of 3,000+ year old treasures in the form of papyri (pap-eye-ree; the plural of papyrus), that great preserver of everyday writing from the ancient world.

U of M’s papyrus (pronounced pap-uh-russ) is written in Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian: Hieroglyphs, Hieratic (cursive hieroglyphs), Demotic (a still-later stage of Egyptian), Latin, Coptic (Egyptian language written in Greek characters with a few additional symbols), Arabic and Hebrew.

Most of the papyri here range in size of fragments from pinky-nail size to full document size.

Egyptian Book of the Dead (11th cen BC) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrology is the study of everyday writing on papyrus and other surfaces like broken pieces of pottery (ostraca), wooden tablets, and stone.

Thanks to the dry Egyptian climate, these objects were preserved for centuries, giving Michigan plenty to study. The goal of papyrologists is to produce complete transcriptions of ancient papyri, thus, bringing long dormant documents back to life.

The work of papyrology can also be incredibly frustrating, since many of those teasing half-there scraps of papyri are damaged beyond translation.

To give you an example of the manifold difficulties of papyrology, only about 5% of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection has been studied, accurately translated and published academically. The rest sit there, waiting to be explored.

Brendan explains more about the Collection

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrus was used from the fourth millennium BC to around 1000 AD. It lasted 4,000 years, until being phased out by parchment and paper. Papyrology, the study of handwritten texts on papyrus and other writing surfaces, is a specialized sub-discipline within Classical Studies.”

“The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection was founded in 1920 by Francis Willey Kelsey. He was a Latin professor and polymath, interested in everything from music to archaeology. Because Ann Arbor was so far from the Mediterranean, Kelsey wanted to bring back antiquities for students at his Midwestern public university to study.”

“Although Kelsey died in 1927, there was still a great deal of money available during this period, particularly before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, so we were able to continue acquiring papyri until the 1940’s. Also, because more people were exposed to Greek, Latin, and the Classics in school during this period, and there was rather more popular interest in the recovery of ancient texts on papyri than there is today.  If you’re interested in Michigan’s history of antiquities collection and archaeology, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology here on campus is a great place to visit.”

U of M’s Francis W. Kelsey (photo courtesy of UofM)

“All of Michigan’s papyrus came from Egypt and our Papyrus Collection began with the purchase of 534 papyri, which was curated by Kelsey himself. After that, U of M continued to purchase texts on the Egyptian antiquities market, many from the famed Egyptian antiquities dealer Maurice Nahman.”

“Since dealers never kept accurate records of where they acquired their papyri, we rarely if ever, have good provenance for texts acquired on the antiquities market. Controlling the circumstances of recovery is therefore extremely important.”

“With this in mind, Michigan obtained permission from the Egyptian government to excavate the ancient Graeco-Roman village of Karanis for eleven seasons, from 1924-1935. Located in Middle Egypt on the northeastern margins of the Fayyum, Karanis is known for producing mass quantities of Graeco-Roman antiquities, which offer great insight into everyday life in a country village.”

The Fayyum was at that time already well-known to antiquities dealers and European academic institutions as major source of papyri.  In fact, a major find of papyri from the region’s central capital city had been dispersed to Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in 1887-88.  So, we knew that excavation in the Fayyum was likely to be very fruitful.   And it turned out to be even more productive than we could have imagined.”

“Over 11 seasons, we acquired thousands of papyri and other artifacts, which we split with the Egyptian government. Fortunately, the desert margins of the Fayyum, where Karanis is located, are hyper-arid, so perishable organic material like papyri are well-preserved in an almost laboratory-perfect environment.  If you visit the Kelsey museum, you’ll see that they have everything from wooden artifacts to foodstuffs, perfectly preserved!”

c. late 1920’s University of Michigan in Karanis, the Fayyum, Egypt (photo courtesy of U of M)

“As for the papyri, Karanis gave us many fragments of Greek literature, including pieces of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony. It also gave us thousands of documents of great significance, such as the Karanis Tax Rolls from 171-175 AD, which allow us to reconstruct the population and demographics of the village during these years.”

“We also have a great many papyri from elsewhere in the Fayyum, including about 150 papyri from the Archive of Zenon, which is largest ancient archive to survive. Zenon was a Greek functionary in Egypt during the early Ptolemaic period (3rd century BC) and the papyri provides us with considerable insight into a period during which Greeks were still consolidating their power over Egypt.”

“But we don’t just have texts on papyri. We also have a great many parchment fragments, such as a piece of a codex of Demosthenes, the from 4th century BC Athenian orator, along with a great many ostraca, pottery sherds that people used for quick notes or short texts like receipts.”

“In 1972, Cornell University also donated all of their papyri to U of M, which had better facilities for the continued care and storage of such fragile material. So really, we have just a major collection, maybe 18,000 fragments. Let’s go take a look at some of this stuff.”

The Environmental Room

Environmental Room @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“This room was specially designed in 1993 by Maria Grandinette and since it’s full of organic material, the stability of temperature and humidity is the most important thing, so we keep it at a cool 65 degrees F and about 45% humidity.”

“The majority of the papyri are stored in acid-free archival folders but we do have a few hundred “glazed” papyri, texts that have been put between two archival glass panes.”

“The great thing about this documentation is that it puts you in contact with ancient people. Although ancient people were in many ways very different from us, they are identical to us in the most important and fundamental ways.”

“For instance, we have two letters on papyrus written in Italy by a young man and sent back to his mother in Karanis.  He had joined the Roman military fleet and was very far from home so, of course, he wrote to let his mother know where he was and that he was safe and well.  What could be more relatable? Still, papyri like these can be a tease, revealing tiny, brief glimpses of the past and leaving us wanting more.  But usually we can never know more, as in the case of this mother and her son. These two short letters are all we have.”

Abstracts of Contracts papyrus (c. 40’s AD from Tebtunis, Egypt) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“But despite this shortcoming, we still have all sorts of material here: the tax rolls from Karanis, papyri from the Tebtunis notary office in the south of the Fayyum, a birth certificate for a young Roman-citizen girl from 190’s AD Alexandria, a drawer full of wooden mummy tags in Greek and Egyptian.” 

“We also have fragments of a book-binding where discarded papyrus was used to stiffen the covers, a large fragment of book 18 of the Iliad, almost anything you could imagine. It’s just so rich that you are constantly seeing something that you could spend hours investigating and only just begin to understand fully.”

“Our oldest piece is in fact a fragment from the Egyptian Book of the Dead from the 11th Century BC. It was purchased in 1925 in Egypt. The papyrus came from the tomb of a woman who is referred to as a Chantress of Amun. She was a temple singer and you can see her making an offering to a hawk-headed god named Re-Harakhte (pronounced ray ha-rock-tey) in the illustration on the papyrus.”

“Basically, the text is a collection of magic spells to ensure that the deceased person’s soul survives the underworld. There are hieroglyphs on the right and hieratic on the left. Some of the sentences are, “Thoth has come, fully equipped with magic” and “who gave jackals to those who are in the watery abyss.” It’s a neat piece and, in fact, it’s still not published since the surviving bottom portion of the fragment isn’t here but in Germany.”

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“By far, however, our most popular papyri are the 30 leaves, i.e. 60 pages, of one of the earliest known copies of The Epistles of Saint Paul. Dating anywhere from the late 2nd-early 4th century AD, they’re written in Greek on papyrus.”

“Known as P46 to New Testament scholars, the pages were part of a large collection of early Biblical manuscripts, most of which were purchased by the businessman and antiquities collector, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.”

“Another 56 leaves of this book survived and they are now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Beatty bought them in 1930, U of M bought some in 1932 and two years later, Beatty purchased the rest.”

Epistles of St. Paul papyrus @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

What is Papyrus?

Papyrus growing along the Nile River in Egypt (photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Papyrus, which is a sedge, grows in Egypt and Sicily, however papyrus plants grew predominantly in marshlands along the Nile River, which is why Ancient Egypt had a veritable monopoly on papyrus production.

Papyrus plants can reach 15 feet tall. To make papyrus sheets for writing, you strip the green husk from the stems and then carefully cut the white pithy interior of the stem into thin strips. You then soak the strips in water for a time and afterwards line the strips up side by side vertically to form one layer, then you create another layer on top with strips running horizontally.

You then use either a mallet or, these days, a hand-cranked press, to smash the layers together and expel the water. The sheets are then and dried. In antiquity, these sheets could then be used singly or glued together to form a long roll.  These rolls could be of any length you wanted.

Papyrus in the dirt (photo courtesy of Rossella Lorenzi @ Archaeology Magazine)

Papyrus was an extremely valuable export commodity, especially for the Roman Empire. Papyrus was also used as cartonnage filler for mummy cases, those form-fitting cases which held mummies inside their sarcophagi.

Water and humidity are the enemies of papyri. Modern paper comes from wood pulp from ground up pine trees and has the same enemies.

To write on papyrus, the Egyptians would most commonly use either a rush pen or a Greek reed pen known as a kalamos. The ink was a mix of lampblack (fine charcoal soot from burning oil in lamps), gum from the acacia tree (gum Arabic) and water, somewhat similar to modern India ink.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (photo courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine)

How old are you?

Okay, now subtract your age from 4,500. Odds are, you’re probably somewhere in the 4420-4485 range. The oldest known papyrus, fragile yes but inexplicably resilient and durable enough to survive, is about that old.

Cool! What does that mean? It means that most papyrus pre-dates the Julian (46 BC) and Gregorian (1582 AD) calendars. Zero became a number around 3 BC in Mesopotamia. That’s right, papyrus predates the number zero by about 3,000 years! Mind = Blown. Canite Sapiunt.

Fast-forward to 4,500 years from now. Year 6,500 AD. Space archaeologists and paper-ologists revisit the old planet Earth to do some digging and uncover a 5,500-mile-long paper artifact. Upon closer inspection it turns out to be an insanely long CVS Pharmacy receipt from the year 2020 AD!

This is what they would be doing… if it were written on papyrus. CVS receipts long enough to wrap a mummy in will not be around in 6500 AD. However, papyrus from Ancient Egypt will most likely still be around.

Egyptology

Egypt (photo courtesy of Google)

“In 1798 when Napoleon invaded Egypt, the country was still terra incognita to Europeans. He brought scientists and engineers on his expedition to learn about Ancient Egypt. Through their scientific surveys they created The Description of Egypt (23-36 volumes), which comprises the foundation of Egyptology, the study of Pharaonic Egypt.”

“Thus, Western political conquest of Egypt opened the country to international study. In 1882, the British took over and started the Egypt Exploration Fund. In 1922, Egypt was made “independent” by the Brits but they still controlled the government.”

“That same year, 1922, amateur archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb at a time when Egypt was beginning to be fed up with Western domination. King Tut’s Tomb was of a quality and quantity unseen before.”

“In response to popular pressure, the French scholars in charge of the Antiquities Service did not allow Carter to take any of Tut’s treasures out of Egypt. The discovery captured the world’s imagination. This sort of grand, romantic, Egyptomania gripped the entire world, including the Egyptians themselves. Art Deco design also started incorporating Egyptological elements.”

Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb c. 1922 (photo courtesy of Smithsonian)

“After that, it became harder to get antiquities out of Egypt and other countries. The 1920’s-30’s was the last major era for getting stuff out of the country. This question started being asked heavily: To whom does this belong?

We owe the survival of documents to climate. Alexandria is on the Mediterranean Coast, it’s wet, eroding, and a lot of ancient Alexandria is actually today underwater. Regarding the big Library of Alexandria, we don’t know the size of the collection, how they were stored, etc. We are therefore dealing with the “survival of the least fit,” as the papyrologist Roger Bagnall has said. ”

“That is, we get the overwhelming majority of our papyri from small sites that were on the very edges of Egypt’s cultivated land, right along the margins of the desert. So, the Library of Alexandria was the literary and cultural center of the country and its contents tell us a lot of information about their culture, it would be a time-machine. There are no more ancient libraries to discover, sadly.”

“There’s not as much interchange between Papyrologists and Egyptologists as there could be. The disciplinary divides that exist are linguistic. Knowing all the ancient languages, knowing 8,000 years of history, etc, it’s just not possible, so you inevitably have to divide up the discipline. Languages alone, you must have expertise in Egyptian (hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic, Coptic), Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, etc, it’s too much for any one person to master in a lifetime.”

Biography of Brendan Haug

Wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My academic interests include the environmental history of Graeco-Roman Egypt, the history of Egyptology and Egypt during the European colonial period. I work largely in Greek and Arabic although I have some training in Coptic.”

“I graduated from the University of Washington in 2004 with a B.A. in Classics and the University of California-Berkeley in 2012 with a PhD in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.”

“Berkeley has the other large papyrus collection in the United States, the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri at the Bancroft Library, which is where I did my grad work. Overall, U of M has a more diverse collection than Berkeley, whose papyri largely come from a single site.”

Fragments of a leather hand-carved book where papyrus was used as paperboard (c. 3rd cen) University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“It was by accident really that I became a papyrologist. I was majoring in Classical Studies and doing my undergrad work at Seattle, studying Greek and Latin. One of my history instructors was going to teach a grad seminar on the Hellenistic World and she invited me to join it. She assigned each student a region to research for the semester and I was given Egypt. I ended up sticking with it, pursuing an honors major, and wrote an honors thesis on certain aspects of Ptolemaic Egypt.”

“After that I got into Berkeley (barely) and began to work at their papyrus collection. The director, Prof. Todd Hickey, needed a student assistant and I was hired on and ended up working there for eight years.”

“Over time, I evolved more into an environmental historian, not a pure papyrologist. Specifically, I’m interested in the human-nature interactions in rural Egypt from the Hellenistic to the early Islamic periods.”

“The world’s largest collection of papyri has to be the 500,000 fragments from the Egypt Exploration Society. It’s housed at Oxford University in the Sackler Library.”

“The papyri came from the city of Oxyrhynchus (oxy-rink-us) in Egypt, which has produced the greatest number of surviving papyri of the Roman period.”

Brendan’s Final Thoughts

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“There’s still a small black market for papyrus but it’s far harder to create monetary values for it because antiquities smuggling is easier to track now. Hobby Lobby, for example, was recently caught importing cuneiform tablets, which they labeled ‘roofing tiles.’”

“Every once in a while, something incredible pops up on Sotheby’s or somewhere but it’s fairly rare. Nowadays, you must have a permit to dig in Egypt, nothing is expatriated and anything you find goes to the government.”

The Classical world in general is not as big a part of the mental landscape as it used to be when it was a part of every educated person’s schooling. The thrill of the hunt and musing on what treasures are potentially buried in unexcavated urban centers is still fun though.”

Book 18 of Homer’s Iliad @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The ultimate goal of papyrology is publishing texts in an effort to reconstruct the culture and society of ancient civilizations, slowly refining our assumptions and arguments as more and more evidence accumulates. The difficulty is simply that there are so, so many documents out there, most of which are very fragmentary. Therefore, it might literally take until the year 4,000 AD for us to publish every papyrus in all the world’s major collections, that’s how slow and difficult it is.”

“Much of what we do these days is online, thanks to emerging digital technology. In 1996, our archivist Traianos Gagos helped create APIS, the Advanced Papyrological Information System, a digital catalog where all images of our photographed papyri are open-access to anyone in the world, it’s a tremendous resource.”

“Beyond that, I recommend that you come up to 807 Hatcher and visit us in-person to see the collection. We’re in the South Stacks, which is a sort of book storage and study space area. I also recommend checking out the 6th floor Special Collections Reading Room while you’re here.”

Epistles of St. Paul @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection

https://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrology-collection

 

Contact

papycollections@umich.edu

 

U-M Papyrology Collection APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System)

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/a/apis

 

Top 20 Most Impressive Ancient Manuscript Collections

https://www.onlinechristiancolleges.com/20-most-impressive-ancient-manuscript-collections/

 

LHPC (directory of over 3,000 known papyrus collections worldwide; around 230 are in the USA)

https://www.trismegistos.org/coll/index.php

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Incomplete Timeline of Papyrus, Papyrology & Allied Interests

Compiled by Place from a variety of sources

Egypt (332 BCE) Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. Koine Greek becomes the official language of Egyptian power.

World (4000 BC) Clay tablets are all the rage.

Abydos, Egypt (3400 BC) The earliest known Egyptian hieroglyphs date back this far.

World (3000 BC-1000 AD) Papyrus is created in Egypt and replaces clay tablets. Papyrus lasts 4000 years until being phased out by parchment paper.

Egypt (3000 BC) Egyptians invent papyrus. Papyrus proves far more portable than heavy clay tablets, which had been the primary writing surface prior to papyrus.

Egypt (2562 BC) The Diary of Merer is the world’s oldest surviving writing on paper. Found by Pierre Tallet in 2013 AD. According to the Diaries, Merer worked for Pharaoh Khufu as head of transportation of the massive blocks of white tura limestone for Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza. Merer was also getting copper at Wadi-el-Jarf. His diary also contains the first known spreadsheet.

Egypt (2500 BC) Carrier pigeons carry messages written on scraps of papyrus.

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (2500 BC) Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets are used for record-keeping. An estimated 500,000 tablets survive today, mostly in broken chunks.

Egypt (1700 BC) Egyptian Book of the Dead spells and occult symbols and writing start popping up in tombs.

Thebes, Egypt (1633- 1552 BC) The sarcophagus of Queen Mentuhotep features some of the earliest known examples of the Book of the Dead.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Egypt (1550 BC) Copies of the Book of the Dead start being written and passed around. The Book of Coming Forth By Day.

Mount Sinai, Egypt (1200 BC) Moses atop Mount Sinai. The Torah is copied by Moses onto a papyrus scroll.

Athens, Greece (399 BC) Socrates says papyrus scrolls are for sale everywhere in the local market, the Agora of Athens, their central public Forum.

Alexandria, Egypt (300 BC-48 BC) Ptolemy I Soter founds the legendary Library of Alexandria, the most important library of the ancient world. The library contains 500,000-1 million scrolls of papyrus. The library’s main mission was to collect a copy of every book in the world. Any works not written in Greek are translated.

Alexandria, Egypt (284 BC) Zenodotus of Ephesus is the first recorded librarian of Alexandria. He developed an organizational system of arranging books by subject matter, then organized alphabetically by the author’s name. Some of his compiled glossaries were found during the excavation of Oxyrhynchus.

Alexandria, Egypt (246 BC-222 BC) Sometime during this timeframe, Ptolemy III builds the Serapeum Library of Alexandria. An offshoot branch of the main library, the Serapeum contained around 50,000 papyrus scrolls.

Alexandria, Egypt (245 BC) Greek scholar Callimachus of Cyrene creates the world’s first library catalog at the Library of Alexandria. The cataloging system of Callimachus was based on alphabetical subject classification and his system was so effective that it was copied throughout the entire Roman Empire. His famous 120-volume Pinakes (Greek for “Tables”) was a master list of information on the books at the Library of Alexandria.

Rome, Italy (240 BC) Livius Andronicus pens the first known literary works written in Latin when he writes his two stage plays.

Pergamum, Turkey (197-159 BC) Eumenes II expands the Library of Pergamum, one of the top libraries of the ancient world. Eumenes also invents parchment paper as a replacement for hard-to-obtain papyrus.

Pergamon, Turkey (150 BC) Crates of Mallus, scholar of the Library of Pergamum, creates the first-ever globe representing Earth.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Greece (146 BC) Roman takeover of Greece.

India (150 BC) Bookbinding originates here in the form of Sanskrit texts bound by sewing palm leaves with twine. Traveling Buddhist monks helped spread the technique.

Rome, Italy (131 BC) the world’s first newspaper, the Acta Diurna, is first chiseled on stone and displayed in the public Forum for the public to read. It is soon copied by slave-scribes onto papyrus and distributed around Rome.

Rome, Italy (87 BC) The Tabularium, official records office of ancient Rome, was housed inside the Roman Forum and consisted of thousands of papyri scrolls.

Athens, Greece (86 BC) Roman General Sulla is Master of Athens and manages to steal the remains of Aristotle’s famous personal library of hundreds of papyri scrolls.

Edfu, Egypt (57 BC) The Temple of Edfu is completed. Inside the temple are two rooms of books comprising a private temple library, called the House of Books of Horus. The Archive of the library is chiseled on the wall and you can still view it to this day!

Alexandria, Egypt (48 BC) Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invades Alexandria, his fire ships attack Egyptian ships. The fire spreads to the shore and the famous Royal Library of Alexandria is torched along with 500,000 papyrus scrolls. The Ptolemies built the Library in 300 BC.

Rome, Italy (46 BC) Julius Caesar implements the Julian Calendar.

Rome, Italy (39 BC) Rome’s first public library is built atop Aventine Hill by Gaius Asinius Pollio inside the Atrium Libertatis. Pollio also organized literary clubs where authors read their works aloud. Virgil would read his Aenied here.

Egypt (30 BC-640 AD) Romans rule Egypt. Thus, most legal documents from that period are written in Latin.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (3 BC) Zero becomes a number.

Rome, Italy (64 AD) The Great Fire of Rome includes the destruction of the Palatine Library inside the Temple of Apollo.

Rome, Italy (77 AD) Pliny the Elder publishes instructions on how to make papyrus paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (79 AD) Mount Vesuvius erupts. It’s path of destruction incudes the Villa of the Papyri, which was the luxury estate of Lucius Calpurnius Piso (Julius Caesar’s father-in-law) and contained a world-class library of 2,000 or so papyrus scrolls. The papyrus scrolls were carbonized in the eruption and discovered mostly intact in 1752. Some of the scrolls included those from philosophers Epicurus and Philodemus and were written in Greek. You can see them on display at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

China (105 AD) Cai Lun invents paper.

World (2nd  Century AD) Parchment begins eclipsing papyrus as the most popular paper of choice.

Rome, Italy (113 AD) Trajan opens the Ulpian Library around his famous column.

World (3rd century AD) The Codex becomes popular. A codex is pages of papyrus or parchment compiled into a book.

Tabennisi, Egypt (320 AD) Saint Pachomius establishes the first monastic lending library in Egypt, consisting of hundreds of scrolls of papyri.

Istanbul, Turkey (350 AD) Sometime hereabouts, the Imperial Library of Constantinople is built by Constantius II. He created a Scriptorium to preserve the ancient Greek classics, where an army of scribes transferred them from papyrus to parchment. The Library at one point contained 100,000 volumes. It was destroyed in 1204 AD during the Fourth Crusade. It was the last of the great libraries of antiquity.

Drawer full of wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rome, Italy (388 AD) Saint Augustine confesses his love of papyrus over parchment.

Europe (4th -15th Centuries AD) Medieval European scribes write on parchment paper, not papyrus.

World (6th century AD) Papyrus rolls gradually vanish and codices become the main medium.

Squillace, Italy (538 AD) Cassiodorus, after succeeding Boethius, establishes the Vivarium Monastery library and scriptorium. Shortly afterwards, he moves to the walled city of Constantinople. Cassiodorus remains a lifelong believer in the supremacy of papyrus.

Seville, Spain (600 AD) the quill pen comes into vogue and its popularity spreads.

Egypt (639 AD) Egypt is conquered by the Arabs.

Talas River Valley, Kyrgyzstan (751 AD) Arabs capture Chinese paper-makers. They’re brought to Samarkand, Uzbekistan and begin teaching others.

Baghdad, Iraq (794 AD) Arab paper mills are built using the Chinese method of paper-making. In less than 300 years, Chinese paper totally eclipses papyrus throughout Arabia.

Vatican, Rome (1083 AD) the last papal bull written on papyrus. They are henceforth written on parchment.

Spain (1100’s AD) The secret art of paper-making finally reaches Europe.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (1200 AD) The Dresden Codex and its fabulous Venus Tables is published. Consisting of 39 sheets (front and back), it is the oldest Mayan manuscript and was written on Mesoamerican bark paper (Amate). You can view it on display at the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany.

Runnymede, Surrey, England (1250 AD) The Magna Carta is written on sheepskin parchment.

Strasbourg, France (1440) Gutenberg invents the moveable type printing press, which quickly revolutionizes the world. His famous Gutenberg Bible is published in 1455 on vellum.

Italy (1490) Leonardo Da Vinci supposedly hunts for “rare” papyrus.

Europe (1582) The Gregorian Calendar is implemented.

England (1623) Shakespeare’s First Folio is published on rag paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (1752) Papyri is discovered in this south Italian city. They had been buried by the eruption of Vesuvius 79 BC.

Vatican, Rome, Italy (1755) Padre Antonio Piaggio, noted Vatican calligrapher, begins deciphering the charred papyri from Herculaneum.

World (1788) Papyrology as a discipline begins when Danish classicist Niels Iversen publishes a papyrus written in Greek, the Charta Borgiana (aka: the Schow Papyrus) from 193 BC detailing daily work in Faiyum, Egypt. The papyrus was a roll with 12 and ½ surviving columns. It was bought in 1778 near Memphis. The Papyrus is donated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. You can view it on display at the Museuo Nazionale Archeologico in Naples, Italy.

Egypt (1798) Napoleon invades Egypt. Egyptology starts in the 1800’s after Napoleon’s information about the fascinations of Egypt spreads around the world.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rosetta, Egypt (1799) The Rosetta Stone (created 196 BC) is discovered at Fort Julien in Rosetta, Egypt. In 1801, the British seize the stone and it’s now on display at the British Museum.

Luxor (1820) The Turin King List papyrus is purchased by Bernardino Drovetti. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.

Thebes, Egypt (1822) Drovetti buys the Turin Papyrus Map of Egypt from 1160 BC, it’s the oldest surviving map of the ancient world. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. Drovetti later dies in an insane asylum in Turin in 1852.

Egypt (1824) The Westcar Papyrus is purchased. Dating from somewhere in the 1800-1650 BC range, it contains five stories about magic at the Royal Court of Cheops and is often called ‘King Cheops & the Magicians’.

Berlin, Germany (1828) Germany establishes the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Halifax, Canada (1838) Newsprint (paper from wood pulp) is invented by Charles Fenerty.

London, England (1842) the Illustrated London News becomes the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine.

Germany (1842) German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius publishes a collection of ancient mortuary texts, which he calls Totenbuch (“The Book of the Dead”).

Karnak, Egypt (1843) Prisse d’Avennes rescues the Karnak Kings List, a list of 60 kings carved on tablets from 4,000 BC and a papyrus scroll from 1800 BC later named the Prisse Papyrus. Widely considered the oldest literary work on paper, it is 18 pages of The Maxims of Pthahhotep by the Grand Vizier Ptahhotep. You can see it on display at the Louve in Paris.

Cairo, Egypt (1851) French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette becomes famous for finding the Serapeum of Memphis. He then founded the Egyptian Department of Antiquities.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nineveh, Iraq (1851) Sir Austen Layard discovers the ancient Royal Library of Ashurbanipal. This was the kings two-room private library inside the Palace of Ashurbanipal, which was built sometime 668-627 BC. It once contained some 30,000 cuneiform clay tablets, including the Epic of Gilgamesh. The library was noted for being the world’s first systematically organized reference collection. You can view several of these tablets at the British Museum.

Turin, Italy (1852) Drovetti dies in an insane asylum.

Cairo, Egypt (1858) Egypt’s Department of Antiquities is established by Frenchman Auguste Mariette. This department still exists today under the name Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Luxor, Egypt (1858) Alexander Henry Rhind purchases a 16-foot-long roll of papyrus, which comes to be known as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Written in Hieratic in 1550 BC, it’s the world’s best-known example of Ancient Egyptian mathematics.

Luxor, Egypt (1862) The Edwin Smith Papyrus is purchased. The contents prove that Egyptians invented medical surgery. You can view it on display at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Boston, Massachusetts (1863) Wood is pulped and turned into paper, creating the Boston Weekly Journal.

Kiman Faris, Faiyum, Egypt (1877) Peasants digging in ancient mounds find thousands of papyri. Called the ‘First Faiyum Find’, most are purchased in Cairo by Austrian dealer-collector, Theodor Graf. He sells them to Archduke Rainer in 1884. Rainer ends up donating the collection to the Austrian National Library.

Alexandria, Egypt (1880) Herbert Greenfield purchases the Greenfield Papyrus, an 121 foot long copy of the Book of the Dead and one of the best surviving examples of a funerary papyrus. Dating from 970 BC it was a funerary papyrus for Princess Neisitanebtashru. His wife Edith donated it to the British Museum, where you can see it on display.

Egypt (1881) Russian Egyptologist Golenischcheff purchases the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. It’s a papyrus dating from 2000-1710 BC and is possibly the oldest fantasy text ever written. You can see it on display at the Imperial Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Egypt (1882) British military occupation of Egypt. The Egypt Exploration Fund is created to fund excavations in the Nile Delta area.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Hawara, Egypt (1888) British Egyptologist, Sir William Flinders Petrie, excavates the area and discovers a fabulous rolls of papyrus containing most of Homer’s The Iliad. Dated to 150 AD, this document is now called ‘The Hawara Homer‘ and is currently kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.

Luxor, Egypt (1888) Wallis Budge swipes the Papyrus of Ani. Dating from 1250 BC, the 78-foot-long papyrus is from Theban royal scribe Ani, who was also governor of a large granary at Abydos and inventory tracker of temple property at Thebes. It is the world’s most complete surviving version of the Book of the Dead. You can view it on display at the British Museum in London.

Gurob, Faiyum, Egypt (1889-90) Whilst digging in the ancient Ptolemaic cemetery, Sir Flinders Petrie finds papyri written in Greek inside Ptolemaic tombs from 250 BC. The papyri includes Plato’s Phaedo and Homer’s Iliad. He finds mummies covered in cartonnage of demotic and Greek papyri.

World (1891) The “miracle year” for papyrologists in terms of papyri being translated and published. Poems of Herodas and Aristotle’s ‘Constitution of the Athenians’ are published from papyrus at the British Museum.

Thebes, Egypt (1892) Russian Egyptologist Golenischev purchases the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus from 1850 BC, Egypt’s oldest math text. You can view it on display at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia.

Abu Gorab, Egypt (1893) The Abusir Papyrus is purchased. Dating from 2500 BC, it is the largest and most important papyrus on Ancient Egyptian administration from the Old Kingdom.

Egypt (1890’s) Egyptomaniac Wallis ‘Budgie’ Budge acquires 47,000 artifacts from Egypt for the British Museum. “In doing so, he committed almost every crime of cultural thievery in the book,” says John Gaudet, “Budge left a record. He and possibly Napoleon had taken the largest number of items ever removed from Egypt.”

Oxyrhynchus, Egypt (1896) Two Brits, Grenfell (Egyptologist) and Hunt (papyrologist) find papyri, then Jan 13, 1897 they hit the mother lode while digging in rubbish mounds. They find a codex leaf, the Logia Iesu, containing the “sayings of Jesus” from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. The Egypt Exploration Fund sells it to the Bodelein Library. “The flow of papyri soon became a torrent,” said Grenfell. They dig until 1907. These excavations are the source of the world’s largest collection of papyri, including fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, Euclid’s Elements, plays of Menander, writings of Pindar, Sappho, Sophocles, the Apocalypse of Baruch, etc.

Egypt (1896) Wallis Budge acquires a 15ft long papyrus containing 20 poetic Odes of Bacchylides.

University Chicago (1898) Papyrology in the USA begins with Greek papyri from Egypt via Edgar J. Goodspeed who sells them to Chicago Egyptologist James H. Breasted. You can view them on display at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.

Tebtunis, Faiyum, Egypt (1899-1900) The Tebtunis Papyri are found by Grenfell and Hunt in an expedition financed by Phoebe Apperson Hearst at the University of California-Berkeley. They find papyri from mummies and also crocodile mummies, including Sobek the ancient Egyptian crocodile god, also known as Soknebtunis (Lord of Tebtunis). You can view these at UCal-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

World (1900) Papyrology finally becomes an accepted and respected discipline.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Susa, Iran (1901) The Code of Hammurabi is found. Dating from 1754 BC, it’s an ancient Babylonian code of law carved into a stone slab. You can view it on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Germany (1902-14) Germany creates the Deutsches Papyruskartell to purchase papyri from dealers in Egypt and sell to German institutions.

England (1908) Grenfell and Hunt produce the first volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri where they gave every papyrus a name and number.

Armann, Egypt (1912) The famous Nefertiti Bust is found by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt inside the ancient workshop of sculptor Thutmose who created it in 1345 BC. It is now housed at the Neues Museum in Berlin. Borchardt also found the Timotheos Papyrus in a wooden sarcophagus at Abusir.

Faiyum, Egypt (1914) Archives of Zenon discovered. Some 2,000 papyri from 258 BC, detailing life in early Ptolemaic Egypt.

Egypt (1920) Oxford papyrologist Bernard Grenfell and University of Michigan scholar Francis Kelsey visit several archeological sites across Egypt.

Egypt (1922) Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb.

Karanis, Egypt (1924-35) Francis Kelsey, University of Michigan Latin professor and philologist, starts excavating Karanis, Egypt. Kelsey dies in 1927 and the digging continues. Finds are sent back to U of M to Elinor Husselman, the curator of manuscripts and papyri.

Michigan (1927) The University of Michigan Department of Manuscripts and Papyrology is founded.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brussels (1930) Papyrologists first assemble internationally for the first time.

Tebtunis, Egypt (1931 and 1934) Enormous amounts of papyri found during Italian excavations.

Saqqara, Egypt (1935) Walter Emert finds two blank yet fully intact rolls of papyrus in the Tomb of Hemaka. At 5,000 years old, they are verified as the most ancient paper ever found.

California (1938) the UC-Berkeley papyri collection starts.

Nag Hammadi, Egypt (1945) The Nag Hammadi codices on papyrus are found, 13 total, bound in leather.

Khirbet Qumran, Israel (1946-56) The Dead Sea Scrolls are found in 11 caves. 930 documents total: 800 written on parchment 130 written on papyrus. 590 documents alone are found in Cave Four. The stash was thought to be from the Essenes.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nahal Hever, Judean Desert (1960-61) Archaeologist Yigael Yadin finds cave of letters in Judean desert from the survivors of the Bar Kockhba revolt, who hid here in 132 BC. The papyri are written in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic.

Derveni, Macedonia, Greece (1962) the only papyrus found in Greece is the Derveni Papyrus, which consists of 266 fragments of an ancient Macedonian papyrus from 340 BC and widely considered to be Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript.

Vatican, Rome (2006) The Bodmer Papyrus Codex (renamed the Hanna Papyrus) containing the Gospels of Luke and John (c. 175 AD) is donated to the Vatican by Frank Hanna. The papyrus was originally found in Dishna, Egypt and sold to Martin Bodmer Foundation, library of the famous collector, who had 150,000 works in Geneva, Switzerland in his private collection.

London (2011) Two heretofore unknown poems of the female Greek lyric poet Sappho are discovered on papyrus written in ancient Greek. Her poetry was once collected into 9 volumes at the Library of Alexandria but was lost to history.

Egypt (2013) Digging since 2011, Pierre Tallet finds 30 caves hidden in a limestone hill. It was a boat storage area 4,600 years ago. In 2013, he finds papyrus written in hieroglyphics and hieratic (ancient Egyptian cursive script). Turns out to be the world’s oldest known papyrus. Written by two Egyptians who helped build the Great Pyramid (Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb) at Giza. He found 30 papyri at the Red Sea port of Wadi-al-Jarf. The Diary of Merer (4500yrs old) are logbook-diaries, telling of his transporting limestone to Giza. They are now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Egypt (2019) The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities operates 72 antiquities warehouses in Egypt. Egypt recently announces they are imposing life imprisonment and millions in fines for antiquities smuggling.