Timothy Francis Leary, Jr. (1920-1996), a psychologist and writer, became known as an advocate for the use of psychedelic drugs and a counterculture icon. The Timothy Leary papers contain records created and accumulated by Leary over his entire life, as well estate records created after his death. The papers comprehensively document his life and activities: as a child, student, professional psychologist, lecturer and researcher at Harvard, unaffiliated psychedelic guru, prisoner, escapee, exile, and futurist.
Biographical/historical: Timothy Francis Leary, Jr. (1920-1996), a psychologist and writer, became known as an advocate for the use of psychedelic drugs and a counterculture icon.
Timothy Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Timothy and Abigail (neé Ferris). He attended Springfield Classical High School and graduated in 1938. His college education and military career overlapped. Leary had enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1940 only to resign that same year. He subsequently enrolled at the University of Alabama and soon after enlisted in the United States Army. During his time in the army, Leary was suspended while continuing to receive training through the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) at Ohio State University. He was reinstated in fall 1944 and married his first wife Marianne Busch. Several months later, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.A. in Psychology. Leary went on to receive a M.S. in Psychology from Washington State University and a Ph.D. in that same subject from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950. While finishing his doctorate, he and Marianne had two children, Susan (b. 1947) and Jack (b.1949).
For most of the 1950s, Timothy Leary worked as a psychologist in several capacities. He was part of the Department of Psychology at the Kaiser Hospital in Oakland; Director of Psychiatric Research at the Kaiser Foundation; assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco; and a consultant for Edward Glaser & Associates. His research from this time period resulted in his first published book, Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality (1957). During this period Leary's personal life was turbulent. His first wife, Marianne, committed suicide in 1955. One year later, Leary married Mary Della Cioppa. Leary finished out the decade by living in Italy and Spain with his children.
In 1960, Leary was named a lecturer at Harvard University at its Center for Personality Research. In this capacity, Leary brought a newly realized interest in researching and analyzing the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on human subjects. At Harvard, Leary and his associates, notably Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), began a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Their subjects included students, prisoners, and, through connections formed via Allen Ginsberg, intellectuals and artists. After receiving the appropriate doses, participants in these various studies were given psychological tests and wrote essays detailing their experiences. Notable participants included Richard Alpert, Jack Kerouac, Ralph Metzner, Aldous Huxley, and Allen Ginsberg. Leary, Alpert, and their colleagues reported their findings via academic papers and lectures.
Leary was dismissed from Harvard in 1963. The same year, Leary founded the Internal Foundation for Internal Freedom or IFIF. The purpose of the organization was to establish a series of research centers in which studies involving psychedelic drugs would be conducted. Information about the research was published in its official newsletter, The Psychedelic Review. Originally based at the Hotel Catalina in Mexico, they soon wore out their welcome in Mexico. In 1964, the organization returned to the United States and moved into an estate owned by the Mellon heirs, Peggy, Billy and Tommy Hitchcock, in Millbrook, New York. Here, the IFIF was replaced by a new organization known as the Castalia Foundation. This organization's purpose, among other things, was "to disseminate scientific information resulting from research into states of consciousness…and the results obtaining [sic] from an alteration of the state of consciousness." To achieve this, the foundation offered lectures, psychedelic drug sessions, and other mind-expanding events. During this time, Leary co-authored The Psychedelic Experience: A Manuel Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert. Leary also met and married his third wife, Nena Von Schlebrügge.
Between 1965 and 1968, Timothy Leary was arrested twice for possession of marijuana. Within that time, he established two new organizations. The League for Spiritual Discovery or LSD was formed as a replacement for the Castalia Foundation and professed itself to be an "orthodox psychedelic religion." In addition to establishing a reading room and meditation center in the West Village, Leary and his associates in the group toured the country promoting the organization and presenting "Psychedelic Celebrations" which mimicked the effects of hallucinogens for the audience. The second organization was a response to the initial arrest and was called the Timothy Leary Defense Fund: Committee for the Reform of Marijuana Legislation (TLDF). The purpose of TLDF was to raise awareness about drug laws and to bring attention to Leary's legal troubles. Initially, LSD had some administrative control of the organization. Leary married Rosemary Woodruff in 1967.
Despite a court case which successfully proved the unconstitutionality of The Marijuana Tax Act (Leary v. United States), Leary was incarcerated at the California State Prison in February 1970. He wrote and published Jail Notes at this time. By September, he had escaped and fled to Algeria where he stayed with Eldridge Cleaver. Traveling in Switzerland, Leary met Joanna Harcourt-Smith and separated from Rosemary. He was apprehended in Kabul and sent to Folsom Prison to serve the rest of his sentence. While incarcerated, Leary wrote Neurologic Written in Prison, Starseed Written in Prison, Confessions of a Hope Fiend, and Terra II. As Leary served his prison term, Harcourt-Smith operated the Starseed Information Center which served to publish Leary's writings as well as raise support for Leary's cause. He had many friends and colleagues who were sympathetic to his situation like Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other members of the San Francisco Bay Area Prose Poets' Phalanx.
In 1976, Timothy Leary was released from prison and he married Barbara Chase two years later. Over the next two decades, he continued to be a prolific author publishing essays, articles, and books such as The Intelligence Agents, Changing My Mind among Others, and The Game of Life which was co-authored with Robert Anton Wilson. He was also an active speaker, delivering lectures throughout the United States and internationally. His status as a symbol of countercultural life made him a popular choice for roles in television and film.
Leary founded Futique, Inc. in 1982 in order to give him a platform from which he could advance his interest in computer and technology-focused projects. In this capacity, he collaborated with software companies such as Interplay, Electronic Arts, and The XOR Corporation to create games, educational courseware, and programs. The most prominent was a video game based on the William Gibson novel Neuromancer. His writings at this time reflect this interest in cyberculture. Chaos & Cyber Culture and Surfing the Conscious Nets were published in 1994 and 1995, respectively.
Leary was diagnosed with cancer in 1995 and used this as an opportunity to explore post-death possibilities, such as cryogenics. He also established the Futique Trust whose purpose was to administer his estate, manage his archives, and collect and distribute his royalties to the appropriate parties. Timothy Leary died on May 31, 1996.
Content: The Timothy Leary papers contain records created and accumulated by Leary over his entire life, as well estate records created after his death. The papers comprehensively document his life and activities: as a child, student, professional psychologist, lecturer and researcher at Harvard, unaffiliated psychedelic guru, prisoner, escapee, exile, and futurist.
His papers also provide insight into the lives of the many individuals and organizations with which he interacted and the countercultural milieus in which he operated. Given Leary's important roles in psychological and psychedelic research, the counterculture of the 1960s, the escalation of drug use and drug law enforcement in the 1960s and 1970s, and the emerging cyberculture of the late 1980s and early 1990s, his papers also yield traces of key historical transitions and phenomenon in post-war 20th century America.
The archive includes nearly every conceivable type of paper record (including correspondence, manuscripts, and printed material), as well as sound recordings and videos, electronic records (textual and executable files), and artifacts. His papers are arranged into eleven series. The first six represent distinct periods in Leary's life: I. 1917-1938; II. 1938-1950; III. 1950-1960; IV. 1960-1976; V. 1976-1996; VI. 1996-2011. Series seven through eleven represent record genres and formats: VII. Clipping Files; VIII. Audio and Video Recordings; IX. Photographs; X. Artifacts; and XI. Posters and Art.
The transitions between the phases of Leary's life represented by each of the first six series were marked by significant changes in Leary's situation and were often accompanied by a physical relocation or dislocation. Therefore, the records from each of these periods remain relatively discrete. However, given the persistence of some of Leary's activities and projects and his manner of keeping his archive, there are documents and files in some series dating outside the date range of its series title.
The first two series are relatively small, and consist in large part of records Leary probably acquired later in his life, most likely from his mother and other relatives. Series III and IV cover Leary's professional life, and contain many relatively well-ordered groups of files created by Leary and his colleagues during their academic and experimental studies. This order was somewhat compromised by Leary's frequent moves throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his legal troubles, his exile, and imprisonment. Ironically, it is the records he created and accumulated during the most stable period of his life, when he spent 20 years in Los Angeles, that present the greatest challenges for the researcher. During these years, Leary involved himself in dozens of projects concurrently, many never fully realized. He generated an enormous amount of correspondence, notes and drafts, plans, clippings, legal files, and research and background materials. Meanwhile, he remained a magnet for many people-known and unknown to him and the world at large-seeking his blessing, advice, or contribution to their cause or project. As a result, he was sent thousands of unsolicited invitations, prospectuses, manuscripts, brochures, magazines, books, and letters. Moreover, Leary seems to have retained everything he generated and accumulated throughout this period, though his record-keeping was sporadic and very often done retrospectively by his friends and colleagues.
In arranging and describing Leary's papers, NYPL staff made every effort to keep files and filing systems intact when they seemed to have been created by Leary, his colleagues, or those helping him later in his life to organize his archives. However, this approach was not always followed for several reasons. First, many files were used, titled, and sometimes reused, but did not obviously belong into any discernible filing system. Second, many files or groups of files seemed to mirror other aggregations or individual files. Third, a significant amount of material arrived unfoldered or in folders with no meaningful labels. Last, Leary, his friends, and associates often rearranged material within the papers. Sometimes Leary drew from his own archives, such as when he was writing his memoir Flashbacks. At other times, however, idiosyncratic categories were established and material relocated in attempts to organize or even commodify the archive.
For these reasons NYPL staff sometimes created new aggregations of files arranged chronologically, alphabetically, or by form or genre; combined similar filing systems and files into larger accumulations; and refiled material whenever possible when it was removed from its original context into an unusual and not altogether useful category such as "gems."
Extent: 263.78 linear feet 575 boxes 1.78 Gigabytes (4,043 computer files, 56 disk images)