( Return to Info Main Page )
A Cultural Chronology of
Early Beat Generation Literature 1944-1960
- World War II is going on throughout
Europe and Phillippines; D-Day landing of U.S. and allied troops
at Normandy; United Nations is established; D.H. Lawrence's Lady
Chatterly's Lover found obscene in U.S.
Rexroth engineers Berkeley
Renaissance with William Everson, Philip Lamantia, Robert Duncan...
Circle magazine around West Coast Anarchist and Libertarian
Circles around Berkeley.
- European Surrealists in New
York City during the war meet with American artists and writers.
- First meeting of Jack
Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg,
William S. Burroughs
and Herbert Huncke in New York City, around Columbia University
and Times Square. Kerouac
marries Edie Parker while held in jail as a material witness
in friend Lucien Carr's murder trial
(marriage lasts a few months). Kerouac
and Burroughs write novel
together "And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks."
Broadway: Harvey, I Remember Mama
Films: Double Indemnity, Gaslight
Music: Swing is in vogue - Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller,
Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey
Art: Edward Hopper, Clyfford Still
Fiction: John Hershey's A Bell for Adano
Poetry: Pulitzer to Karl Shapiro's V- Letter and
- Harry Truman takes over presidency
after death of Franklin D. Roosevelt; end of WW II- first atom
bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan (189,000 casualties), then
- At Columbia University, Allen Ginsberg is expelled
for harboring Jack Kerouac
in his room and for writing offensive protest words on his dormitory-room
Broadway: Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie
and He Touched Me
Films: The Lost Weekend, Mildred Pierce, The Body
Music: Be-Bop jazz evolves with Dizzy Gillespie and
Art: Abstract Expressionist art is thriving throughout
the Beat Era with such artists as Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey,
William de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline,
Jasper Johns, many of whom gathered in the Greenwich Village
scene with writers.
- First U.N. General Assembly
Meeting in London; national strikes in coal, railroad, General
Electric industries. Post-War Baby Boom (birth rate in U.S. increases
- Dr. Benjamin Spock's The
Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care is published; advent
of television use of commercial jet airlines; popularization
of Jean Paul Sartre's existentialism. German Nazi's are sentenced
to death at Nuremburg trials.
S. Burroughs and common-law
wife Joan Vollmer move to Texas with their daughter; Neal
Cassady meets Kerouac
and Ginsberg in New York
City; Kerouac begins writing
The Town and the City after the death of his father.
Broadway: O'Neil's The Iceman Cometh, Hellman's
Another Part of the Forest, and Born Yesterday
Films: The Best Years of Our Lives treating
dissatisfied war veterans wins Academy Award as best picture.
Bogart in The Big Sleep
Fiction: Carson McCullers' A Member of the Wedding,
Camus' The Stranger, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's
Poetry: Pulitzer to Robert Lowell's Lord Weary's
- Ginsberg, Kerouac
and Cassady live in Denver
for summer; Cassady meets
future wife Carolyn Robinson; Ginsberg
and Cassady visit Burroughs
- Un-American Activities Committee
begins hearings on Hollywood communists; college enrollment reaches
all time high of 67.1 million.
Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named
Film: Gentleman's Agreement Miracle on 34th Street
Music: Top jazz performances by Benny Goodman and
Duke Ellington Band, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra
Fiction: Schulberg's The Harder They Fall, Michener's
Tales of the South Pacific
Poetry: Pulitzer Prize to W.H. Auden's Age of Anxiety.
- Truman is elected president;
Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by Hindu extremists in India;
12 Communist leaders are indicted for Smith Act Violation; publication
of Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.
- John Clellon Holmes meets Kerouac and Ginsberg
in New York City around Columbia University where Ginsberg
has re-enrolled and graduates. Ginsberg begins his series of
William Blake visions. Kerouac
and Cassady take first
on the road trip together.
Broadway: Mr. Roberts, Anne of the Thousand
Films: The Red Shoes, Key Largo, Sorry, Wrong Number
Televison: "Douglas Edwards and the News,"
"Candid Camera," "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts,"
"Milton Berle Show," "Studio One," "Philco
Music: Stan Kenton appears at Hollywood Bowl
Art: Andrew Wyeth, Ben Shahn, Arshile Gorky
Fiction:The Plague by Albert Camus, The Naked
and the Dead by Norman Mailer.
- North Atlantic Pact is signed,
NATO is created; Apartheid begins in South Africa; 500,000 steelworkers
strike; minimum wage rises from 40 cents to 75 cents an hour;
fear of Cold War with Communist China and Russia grows.
- Ginsberg is arrested in NYC for harboring stolen
goods from Huncke and sent to New York State Psychiatric Institute
for 8 months where he meets Carl Solomon, fellow patient and
hero of "Howl" poem. Ginsberg
visits William Carlos Williams.
Burroughs in Mexico City.
Broadway: Death of a Salesman by Arthur
Films: Pinky, Home of the Brave, Sands of Iwo Jima
Television: "The Goldbergs," "Captain
Video and the Video Rangers" "Mama"
Music: "Cool Jazz" of Mile Davis, Jerry Mulligan,
Dave Brubeck; Billie Eckstine is popular singer
Fiction: Nelson Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm,
George Orwell's 1984
Ferlinghetti, then Kenneth
Patchen move to San Francisco; Gary
Snyder, Lew Welch, and
Philip Whalen at Reed College
in Portland, Oregon; Rexroth
conducting weekly soiree in San Francisco home; KPFA, Pacifica
Foundation, first public radio, in Berkeley; Burroughs
is writing novel Junkie. Kerouac's
The Town & the City (Harcourt, Brace) treats life
in working class Lowell, Mass. and New York City. He marries
Joan Haverty for six months; travels to Denver then to Mexico
to visit with Cassady to
- Korean Police Action involvement,
UN forces to be lead by General MacArthur; Senator Joeseph McCarthy
charges Communist infiltration of State Department.
Broadway: Come Back, Little Sheba, The Cocktail
Films: All about Eve, The Asphalt Jungle Sunset
Television: "You Bet Your Life"(Groucho
Marx), "Your Hit Parade"
Music: Big Bands giving way to smaller groups-George Shearing,
Fiction: Faulkner's Collected Stories, Bradbury's
The Martian Chronicles
Poetry: Pulitzer to Carl Sandburg's Complete Poems;
books by Howard Nemerov, Delmore Schwartz, William Carlos Williams'
Collecter Later Poems
- Korean War involvement; draft
age lowered to 18; U.S. conducting tests of A-Bomb; suspected
Russian spies the Rosenbergs are found guilty of treason and
sentenced to death.
- Ginsberg and Kerouac
meet Gregory Corso in New
York City; Kerouac writes
initial draft of On the Road in three weeks, becomes interested
in Buddhism; Burroughs
accidentally shoots and kills his wife, Joan.
Broadway: The Rose Tattoo, The Moon Is Blue
Films: An American in Paris, A Place in the Sun
Television: "Your Show of Shows" with Sid
Caesar and Imogene Coca; Kefauver crime hearings.
Music: Jazz figures: Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Maynard
Fiction: J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
Poetry: Pulitzer to Marianne Moore's Collected
Poems; books by Adrienne Rich, Randall Jarrell, Theodore
- Truman orders seizure of U.S.
Steel mills to avert strike (later ruled as unconstitutional);
Eisenhower elected president of U.S. with Richard Nixon as V.P.;
subversives are barred from teaching school in U.S.; England
has A-Bomb and new Queen, Elizabeth II.
- Kerouac completes Visions of Cody, lives
with Neal and Carolyn Cassady
in San Francisco, writes Dr. Sax while living with Burroughs in Mexico, visited
- Go first Beat Generation novel by John Clellon Holmes
who writes "This Is the Beat Generation" for New
York Times; germination of New York Poets group-Frank O'Hara,
Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest.
Broadway: The Seven Year Itch
Films: High Noon, Viva Zapata!, Come Back, Little
Sheba;first Cinemascope and Cinerama films
Television: "The Jackie Gleason Show," "Ernie
Music: Louis Armstrong tours Europe with his All Stars
Fiction: Pulitzer to Hemingway's The Old Man and the
Sea, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Steinbeck's East
Poetry: Pulitzer to Archibald MacLeish's Collected
Poems 1917-1952; Dylan Thomas doing U.S. reading tour
- NYC, San Francisco, etc.
- Death of Stalin; Health, Education,
and Welfare Department is created; Rosenbergs are executed as
spies; Charlie Chaplin leaves U.S. complaining of persecution
by "vicious propaganda"; Screen Actors Guild adopts
by-law banning Communists.
Snyder working at Sourdough
Mountain meets Kenneth Rexroth,
then enters Berkeley as a graduate student; City Lights Bookstore
founded by Ferlinghetti
and Peter Martin, begins publishing City Lights Magazine;Burroughs'
novel Junkie is published by Ace Books; Kerouac
writes Maggie Cassidy and The Subterraneans in
NYC where he reunites with Burroughs
and Ginsberg who are editing
their correspondence as The Yage Letters.
Broadway: The Crucible, Picnic, Camino Real
Films: From Here to Eternity, The Big Heat
Music: Vocalists-Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King"
Cole, Four Freshmen
Fiction: James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain,
Saul Bellows' The Adventures of Augie March
Poetry: Pulitzer to Theodore Roethke for The Waking;
books by Richard Eberhart, May Sarton
- Joseph McCarthy probe of the
Army for Communists begins, finally results in disputes, Edward
R. Morrow's expose of McCarthy on"See It Now," and
Senate condemnation of McCarthy methods; Supreme Court rules
racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional
Ginsberg arrives in San
Francisco, working in market research, meets Peter
Orlovsky; North Beach bohemian scene at cafe's, bars, jazz
clubs- - includes writers Jack Spicer, Richard Brautigan, Bob Kaufman, John Weiners,
Bay Area Poets Coalition; Weldon Kees and Dick Martin organize
first SF Poets Follies; Black Mountain College fosters projective
verse through poets Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan,
Denise Levertov, Paul
Blackburn, et al.
Broadway: The Bad Seed, Witness for the Prosecution
Films: On the Waterfront, The Caine Mutiny, The
Fiction: Golding's Lord of the Flies
Television: Army-McCarthy hearings, "Davey Crockett"
episodes on "Disneyland" program; "I Love Lucy"
Radio: Popular disc jockey Alan Freed coins term for new
music as "rock 'n' roll"
- Ginsberg organizes Six Gallery Reading in San
Francisco garage- gallery, featuring: Rexroth
as MC, poets: Philip Lamantia, Michael
McClure, Philip Whalen,
Gary Snyder and Ginsberg's
own reading of Howl, Kerouac
cheering them on (Oct. 13); McClure
completes studies at San Francisco State College; Ferlinghetti
launches City Lights Books with Pocket Poets Series: #1, his
own Pictures of a Gone World, #2 Rexroth's
30 Spanish Poems, Patchen's Poems of Humor and Protest;
Kerouac writes Mexico
City Blues, befriends Gary
Snyder at Berkeley, who is translating Chinese poetry of
Zen poet Han- Shan; he and Kerouac
go mountain climbing, discuss Buddhism; Kerouac
returns briefly to North Carolina, writes "Jazz of the Beat
Generation" for New World Writing; Corso's
The Vestal Lady on Brattle is published with support of
friends at Harvard.
- Nikita Krushchev becomes Soviet
Party Secretary; Congress authorizes U.S. president to use force
to defend Formosa; Richard J. Daley elected mayor of Chicago;
Martin Luther King Jr. leads Civil Rights Movement; rebel actor
James Dean (24) dies in auto crash
Broadway: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bus Stop,
The Diary of Anne Frank, A View from the Bridge
Films: Rebel without a Cause, The Blackboard Jungle,
Marty, The Rose Tattoo
Televison: first presidential press conference is
broadcast; "64,000 Question"
Art: "Pop Art" of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy
Warhol, et al-Morris Graves, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers
Fiction: McCarthy's A Charmed Life, Mailer's The
Poetry: Pulitzer to Elizabeth Bishop's Poems: North
and South- - A Cold Spring
- 11 Blacks are arrested during
Montgomery Bus Boycott; Krushchev threatens that Russia will
produce ICBM missile; anti-soviet demonstrations in Poland and
Hungary are met with troops in Hungary; Egypt and Israel clash
over Gaza Strip; Steel Strike lasts 33 days; accidental sinking
of "Andrea Dorea" ship; Salk vaccine for polio menengitis
is distributed; Eisenhower wins landslide election, Richard Nixon
as V.P.; marriage of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, Grace
Kelley and Prince Ranier of Monaco
- Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems City Lights'
Pocket Poets Series #4; Kerouac
living with Snyder in Marin
County cabin, spends summer as lokout on Desolation Peak, Washington;
Snyder leaves for Japan;
Kerouac leaves for Mexico
City, joined by Ginsberg,
Corso, and Orlovsky;
Kerouac is writing Visions
of Gerard, Desolation Angels, and The Dharma Bums;
- Ginsberg returns to New York City, visits William Carlos Williams;
his mother dies; Michael McClure
and James Harmon edit Ark II-Moby I which blends work
of Beats and Black Mountain poets with Buddhist thought; San
Francisco Poetry Center directed by Ruth Dewitt features readings
by Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth,
Broadway: Beckett's Waiting for Godot with
Bert Lahr and E.G. Marshall; Chayefsky's Middle of the Night
Films: Giant, Lust for Life, The Ten Commandments,
Baby Doll, The Seventh Seal
Television: Elvis Presley's appearance on Ed Sullivan
Show starts protest; daytime soap operas; late night Steve Allen
Show; "Playhouse 90" produces "Requiem for a Heavy-weight";
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
Music: Harry Belafonte prompts interest in Calypso music;
Rockabilly and Rhythm and Blues merge in Rock 'n' Roll;
Art: Georgia O'Keefe and Helen Frankenthaler shows
Fiction: Bellow's Seize the Day, Algren's A
Walk on the Wild Side, Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
Poetry: Pulitzer Richard Wilbur's Things of This
World; books by John Berryman, Marianne Moore, Donald Hall
- U.S. Customs seizes Howl
in San Francisco; Ferlinghetti
and Shig Murao stand trial; Ginsberg
is in Europe at the time; Kerouac's
On the Road is published by Viking through help of Malcolm
Cowley-receives strong NYTimes review, becomes a best
seller; Kerouac visits
Burroughs in Tangier,
helps with Naked Lunch manuscript; Kerouac
and mother travel to San Francisco, tries to settle there, meets
Philip Whalen and Neal
Cassady; love affair in New York with Joyce Glassman (Johnson);
Norman Mailer writes "The White Negro" essay on hipsters
and Beats; Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency
poems published by Grove; Poetry-and-Jazz scene begins in San
Francisco with Rexroth
and Ferlinghetti performing
at The Cellar, Kenneth Patchen and Chamber Jazz Sextet at The
Blackhawk; Evergreen Review editors Barney Rossett and
Donald Allen do special focus on Beats in "San Francisco
Poets" Vol. 2
- Eisenhower Doctrine is adopted
to help Mid-East countries; Ike proposes two year test ban of
nuclear weapons; Russia launches "Sputnik," first space
satelite; Teamster president Dave Beck is ousted for corruption,
Jimmy Hoffa is elected; Billy Graham draws 92,000 to Yankee Stadium
Broadway: The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,
Compulsion, Look Back in Anger
Films: The Bridge on the River Kwai, Twelve Angry
Men, Peyton Place, A Face in the Crowd
Televison: Mike Wallace Interviews, "Maverick,"
"American Bandstand," "Gunsmoke"
Music: "Third Stream" combination of Jazz with
classical European music as in Modern Jazz Quartet; in reaction
Charlie Mingus fosters open and improvisational forms
Art: Picasso exhibit in NY, Chicago, Philadelphia
Fiction: Malamud's The Assistant, Morris's Love
among the Cannibals; Durrell's Justine; James Agee's
A Death in the Family (Pulitzer)
Poetry: Pulitzer to Robert Penn Warren's Promises;
books by James Wright, Denise Levertov, Nellie Sachs
- Lenny Bruce is performing at
S.F. Hungry I, along with Beat comics Lord Buckley, Lou Gottlieb;
Burroughs moves to Paris,
London, Tangier (1958-1966); Cassady
serves two year jail term in San Quentin for possession and sale
of marijuana; Kerouac moves
to Long Island with mother, publishes The Subterraneans
and The Dharma Bums, begins work on Lonesome Traveler;
Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions); Corso's broadside
"Bomb" and book Gasoline (City Lights); Snyder returns to San Francisco,
stays at East-West House with Lew
Welch, Joanne Kyger, and others studying Zen; Snyder's "Cold
Mountain Poems" of Han-Shan published in Evergreen Review;
LeRoi and Hettie Jones begin to publish Yugen and Totem
Press; Alan Watts's essay "Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen"
appears in Chicago Review.
- Strategic Air Command is formed;
U.S. and USSR begin cultural exchanges; V.P. Nixon is stoned
in Caracas while on Goodwill tour; Russian Sputnik III orbits
Earth, brings on U.S. study of "Crisis in Education"
in U.S.; conflicts in Beruit, Algeria, Hungary, China; Fidel
Castro rebels seize capital in Cuba; John Kenneth Galbraith's
The Affluent Society portrays materialism and conformity
of U.S., argues for fair distribution of wealth to end poverty.
Beat Generation art and lifestyle has cultural impact.
Broadway: MacLeish's J.B., O'Neil's A
Touch of the Poet
Films: The Defiant Ones, Some Came Running, The
Televison: "Naked City," "Peter Gunn,"
"The Rifleman"; David Susskind's "Open End"
Music: Kingston Trio help launch new Folk Music; first
Monterey Jazz Festival; Duke Elington plays Carnegie Hall;
Fiction: Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Barth's
The End of the Road
Poetry: Pulitzer to Stanley Kunitz' Selected Poems,
1928-1958;books by Muriel Rukeyser, William Meredith, W.C.
Williams' Patterson, Book V
- Beatitude magazine edited by Bob
et al; Rexroth turns on
Beats, attacks them as pretenders; after Chicago Review
is censored,Big Tablepublishes Burroughs'
"Ten Episodes from Naked Lunch"; then book Naked
Lunch is published by Olympia Press of Paris; Gary
Snyder and Joanne Kyger marry in Japan in order to live together
in Zen monastery; his Riprap is published by Origin Press;
Philip Whalen publishes
Self-Portrait from Another Direction (Auerhahn Press);
Beat film Pull My Daisy is produced and directed by Robert
Frank and Alfred Leslie, with Kerouac's
narration and Ginsberg,
Peter Orlovsky, and Corso; New Cinema follows Beat
parallels of spontaneity and realism, example John Cassavetes'
Shadows; Lew Welch
meets Kerouac in S.F. and
drives him to New York; Kerouac's
Dr. Sax, Maggie Cassady and Mexico City Blues are
published; Ginsberg records
his Howl for Fantasy Records and is writing Kaddish.
Articles on "The Beats" begin to appear in Time,
Life, and in Lawrence Lipton's critical The Holy Barbarians;
Michael McClure's Hymns
to St. Geryon (Auerhahn); McClure
directs production of his play The Feast! using beastial
language and performed by Bay area poets and artists; Philip
Lamantia's Ekstasis & Narcotica (Auerhahn); David
Meltzer's Ragas; he and wife Christina are performing
with folk music in S.F.; Ferlinghetti's
"Tentative Descripion of a Dinner to Promote the Impeachment
of President Eisenhower" read at Berkeley and receives cool
response from some Beats as too politically involved-Ferlinghetti
responds with quotes from Sartre on the need for engagement,
concludes "Only the dead are disengaged."
- Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg
travel to Chile for South American Conference of Leftist writing;
novel Her (New Directions)
- Castro takes Havanna, Batista
flees; Pope John calls for Ecumenical Council; Khrushchev threatens
U.S. with military superiority; Ike's call for on-site missile
inspection is rejected; Laos asks for U.S. aid against North
Vietnam; Ike and Khrushchev meet at Camp David.
Broadway: Loraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the
Sun; Gibson's The Miracle Worker, Paddy Chayefsky's
The Tenth Man
Films: Room at the Top, Suddenly, Last Summer,
On the Beach
Television: Top Quiz Shows exposed as pretense; "The
Many Loves of Dobey Gillis" includes Beatnik Maynard G.
Krebs; "The Twilight Zone," "The Late Show"
Music: Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come,
Miles Davis and John Coltrane create "free jazz"; Rock
'n' Roll receives wide acceptance despite some protests of its
Fiction: Roth's Goodbye Columbus and Five Short Stories,Kurt
Vonnegut Jr.'s The Sirens of Titan, Leon Uris' Exodus;
Allen Drury's Advise and Consent wins Pulitzer
Poetry: Pulitzer to William Snodgrass' Heart's Needle;
books by Robert Duncan, James Wright, Robert Lowell
- Blacks sit-in at Greensboro,
North Carolina lunch counter; Russians and Fidel Castro sign
economic agreement; U-2 reconnaissance jet is shot down by Russia;
anti-U.S. demonstrations in Japan; Kennedy wins narrow election
victory as president; Democrats sweep Congress.
- Donald Allen publishes New
American Poets anthology featuring many of the Beats; Burroughs
begins using cut-up techniques in Minutes to Go and Exterminator;
Kerouac tries futiley to
write at Ferlinghetti's
cabin in Bixby Canyon at Big Sur, makes friendships with Lew Welch and Leonore Kandel,
Philip Whalen, and Ferlinghetti;
Ginsberg in South America,
at Harvard takes LSD with Timothy Leary, Proliferation of Beat
writings: Snyder's Riprap
and Myths and Tests (Totem/Corinth); Corso's
The Happy Birthday of Death (New Directions); Whalen's
Like I Say; (Totem/Corinth); Jack Spicer's After Lorca
Poems; Philip Lamantia's Exstasis & Narcotica;
writings about the Beats: Rexroth's
Bird in the Hand: Essays; Elias Wilentz's The Beat Scene
(Corinth); Thomas Parkinson prepares A Casebook on the Beat
(Crowell); Seymour Krim's The Beats (Fawcett).
Broadway: Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic;
Jean Anouilh's Becket; An Evening with Mike Nichols
and Elaine May
Films: The Apartment, Psycho, Never on a Sunday,
Television: Route 66, The Flintstones, Face the
Nation, The Bob Newhart Show
Music: Dave Brubeck's Time Out, John Coltrane's
Fiction: William Styron's Set this House on Fire,
John Updike's Rabbit, Run, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
Poetry: books by James Dickey, Kenneth Koch, W.S.
Merwin, Anne Sexton, Charles Olson, Denise Levertov