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Communes of the Era

Communal living was not a new phenomenon, but did see resurgence in the United States during the decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s. With the beginning of the youth counterculture movement and Hippies, many thousands of communes were established between 1967 & 1975 throughout the country. The reasons behind these communes ranged from the religious to the drug related and everything in between. Most were founded as a way of “dropping out” of the establishment, hoping to reshape the capitalistic ways the United States was decaying into.The amount of research and interest in this subject has grown exponentially in the last ten years. As the participants of these communes have aged they have written numerous accounts of those years. The social repercussions of the counterculture and the communes have been of great interest to students, social scientists and psychologists.


Subject headings are very helpful in your research journey. When searching within the library catalogs and databases for resources concerning communes the subject headings below will be useful.

Collective settlements-United States-History
Communal Living-United States-History
Social ValuesUnited States-social conditions-1960-1980  
Radicalism-United States
Alternative Lifestyles-United States-History &
Family-United States-History
Subculture-United States

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There are many books written on this subject, most are first hand accounts by the participants in the communes, and their experiences as part of the counterculture. These are mainly personal journals, diaries and autobiographies. Although these sources may not be completely accurate and somewhat fictional they will give the researcher much information and will lead them to other pertinent sources. These books may be the starting point to pique interest and give the researcher the questions he will need to do further research.

Coyote, P.  (1998). Sleeping where I fall: a chronicle. Washington DC. Counterpoint.

This book is a first hand chronicle of the authors life, it covers many years and many difference experiences of the counterculture and communal living.  The author was one of the founding members of Black Bear Ranch, probably the most well known commune of the era. It also traces his personal transition and elevation to actor and writer.

Kopecky, A. (2004).  New buffalo: Journals from a taos commune (1sted.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

This book also chronicles the establishment and the day to day life on a commune by one of the founders. It is written as a daily journal and published much as it was written at the time. An excellent first hand account for the researcher to gain insight into the life on a commune.

Price, R.  (2004). Huerfano: A memoir of life in the counterculture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

This book follows the life of the author, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, it chronicles her visiting of the communes in New Mexico while doing her thesis and her eventual relocating to the commune. It illustrates how communal living progressed from the “dream” of a new society to the reality of making the commune work. An excellent source from a participant on all the major problems associated with communal living.

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There have been many books, other than autobiographies and personal journals, written on the subject of communes. There are many more dealing with the counterculture and specifically the hippie culture.  I found one particular author, Timothy Miller, who has done extensive research on the subject and written many books. I have included three of them here, but browsing in the area above will lead you to many more.

Miller, T. (1991). The hippies and American values (1st ed.). Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.

This book was compiled by extensive field work by the researchers. Timothy Miller dedicated much time in interviews and compiling the data used in this book. Topics range widely from all areas of interest, including the communal living experiment.

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Miller, T. (1998). The quest for utopia in twentieth-century America (1st ed.). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.

The first in a series of three, this book covers the period from 1900-1960, a period thought to not have many communes. Most of the communes of this period were religious based. This book sets the mark for future communes.


Miller, T. (1999). The 60s communes : Hippies and beyond (1st ed.). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.

This is the second book in Miller’s series on communal living and communes in America.  There was extensive research done by the members of “The 60’s Commune Project.” More than 500 interviews were conducted as well as other research, this book is essential for the researcher on the subject of communes. He is currently working on the third book which will detail the communal phenomenon to the present.

Miller, T. (1990). American communes, 1860-1960 : A bibliography. New York: Garland Pub.

Wagner, J. (1982). Sex roles in contemporary American communes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Horowitz, M., Walls, K., (1988). An annotated bibliography of timothy leary. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books.

Coyote, P. (1998). Sleeping where I fall: a chronicle. Washington DC. Counterpoint.

Kopecky, A. (2004). New buffalo: Journals from a taos commune (1sted.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Price, R. (2004). Huerfano: A memoir of life in the counterculture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Miller, T. (1991). The hippies and American values (1st ed.). Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.

McCleary, J. B., & 4. (2004). The hippie dictionary : A cultural encyclopedia (and phraseicon) of the 1960s and 1970s (Rev. and expand ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press.

Hamilton, N. A. (1997). The ABC-CLIO companion to the 1960s counterculture in America. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Abc-Clio.

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Internet Sources

The internet resources are especially useful when researching, the sources are accessible from many locations, and now the amount of sources is extraordinary. I would like to include many more sites than I have, but these seem to be the most credible and interesting sites available. I searched Google with keywords “sixties” and “communes.”

The Hippie Museum: The Sixties Communes.

This website is maintained today by the members and founders of many of the communes of the era. I found it well put together, informative and factually based. The links to other sites were easy to navigate and the information credible.  I have included the link below.


The Digger Archives: San Francisco Diggers 1966-68…and beyond.

This site is established and maintained by many of the original “Diggers” of the San Francisco area in the sixties. They were well known for the “free food, free land” theory that many of the communes used as their doctrine. A well put together and easy to navigate website, I found the information credible and factual, as well as interesting.  I have included the link below.


Lisa Law: A Visual Journey: Photographs by Lisa Law 1965-1971.

This site is accessible through the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and chronicles her time living on a commune. Law is a well known and respected artist, writer and activist.  I found her account to be credible and interesting. I have included the link below.


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