Time, Life, and the Psychedelic Sixties

July 2, 2010, 1:33 pm

In a must-read recent post on slate.com, Jack Shafer detects a serious omission in Alan Brinkley’s big new biography of Henry R. Luce, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century. This omission does not involve politics, nor does it involves Luce’s rumored affairs with Lady Jeanne Campbell, Mary Bancroft, and producer Jean Dalrymple.  Rather, Shafer claims, Brinkley’s book is lacking because it does not discuss in enough detail the zeal with which Luce and his wife Claire Booth Luce used LSD in the 1950s and 60s, and the way in which their enthusiasm for psychedelic experience found its way into the magazines Time and Life.

Arguably, the way in which LSD was treated in Life Magazine especially may have accelerated its acceptance among psychologists, celebrities, and young people.  Shafer quotes Abbie Hoffman: “I’ve always maintained that Henry Luce did much more to popularize acid than Timothy Leary.  Years later I met Clare Booth Luce at the Republican convention in Miami.  She did not disagree with this opinion.”

For a comprehensive look at how Time and Life helped create the psychedelic movement, see Stephen Siff’s “Henry Luce’s Strange Trip: Coverage of LSD in Time and Life“.

To read my Emergency Medicine News column describing the Life article that really started the psychedelic craze, click here. The actual article — “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” from the May 13, 1957 issue — can be found here.

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