Scope and arrangement
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."
The Timothy Leary papers are arranged in eleven series:
Papers in this series document Leary's life from birth through high school, including his childhood, education at Saint Michael's School and the Classical High School, and attendance of Camp Norwich in Massachusetts. These records include letters he sent to his parents while at camp, school work and records, a scrapbook of jokes, his baby book, printed ephemera, photographs, and a copy of Leary's high school newspaper, which he edited.
The military records, letters, and photographs (dating from 1917 to 1956) of Timothy Leary's father primarily document his time in the Army Dental Corps and as a Merchant Marine.
Additional family photographs and albums from this time period may be found in Series IX: Photographs
This series spans the years Leary studied as an undergraduate and graduate student, attended West Point, and served in the United States Armed Forces. The files identified as General Academic records span institutions and include diplomas, transcripts, essays, and unidentified schoolwork. Other records are filed by institution.
College of the Holy Cross records contain essays, printed ephemera, academic records, and correspondence. The bulk of the records in this series document Leary's time at the United States Military Academy at West Point. These records include extensive correspondence with his mother, in which Leary describes his experience at the Academy and his disciplinary problems. Other records from this period consist of writings, programs, coursework, requisitions and reports, memorabilia and ephemera, and publications. The papers from his time at the University of Alabama are primarily correspondence.
Leary's training in Personnel Psychology during his service in the Army is documented in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) records. The army files also hold his Officer Candidate School application, records documenting his hearing loss, financial records, writings, and printed ephemera. Leary and his then girlfriend Marianne Busch took Rorschach tests, the results of which are with the writings. Leary's Master's thesis and doctoral dissertation are in the Washington State University and University of California, Berkeley files respectively.
Leary spent the 1950s in California as an assistant professor, psychiatric researcher, practicing psychologist, and consultant.
Records in this series document Leary's personal and professional life from his receiving a Ph.D. in psychology in 1950 up until his appointment at Harvard University in 1960. It is arranged in three subseries: Personal, Professional, and Writings.
Personal files document family life, travels, and Marianne's death, as well as Leary's subsequent relationship with Mary Della Cioppa. These files also include material created by Leary's wife, Marianne, and their children, Susan and Jack.
Professional files document his work at Berkeley, Edward Glaser & Associates, and Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. Files consist of therapy session transcripts; research papers, notes, data, and drafts; psychological tests; and samples of his Interpersonal Checklist booklet and forms. These files also data for a study Leary conducted with Merton Gill at Kaiser Permanente over several years.
Writings consist of notes, a diary (not Leary's), and drafts, including one of Leary's book The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A functional theory and methodology of personality evaluation.
Between 1960 and 1976, Leary was appointed as a Lecturer at Harvard's Center for Personality Research and conducted his most famous studies; was dismissed from Harvard; founded other organizations based in Mexico and then Millbrook, New York, to continue his psychedelic research; was arrested twice for possession of marijuana; founded the Timothy Leary Defense Fund; married Nena von Schlebrügge and Rosemary Woodruff; ran for Governor of California; was incarcerated at the California State Prison from which he escaped and fled to Algeria; met Joanna Harcourt-Smith in Switzerland and separated from Rosemary; was apprehended in Kabul and sent to Folsom Prison; and wrote several books and articles. It is during this period that Leary became a public figure-notorious, controversial, and an icon for certain strains of the emerging counterculture.
The records in this series were generated by Leary's activities from his appointment at Harvard until his release from prison in 1976. The series has been arranged into eleven subseries.
The first four subseries (IV.A. though IV.D.) contain records generated during Leary's work under the auspices of Harvard, Internal Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF), Castalia Foundation, and the League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD). Except for Harvard, Leary helped establish each of these organizations; each were founded to continue the work of the previous organization, so the division of each organization's work and records is not completely distinct.
The Timothy Leary Defense Fund was formed in 1966 shortly after Leary's first arrest for marijuana possession. Fund records (subseries IV.E.) represent the efforts of Leary's friends, colleagues, and supporters to build a legal case on Leary's behalf, as well as instigate a broader review of the drug laws then in place. The Exile subseries (IV.F.) contains records produced while Leary was a fugitive living in Algeria and Switzerland. The Starseed Information Center records (IV.G.) reflect its purposes: to publish Leary's writings and advocated for his cause, primarily during his second prison term from 1973 to 1976. Starseed was primarily administered by Joanna Harcourt-Smith.
The Name Files (IV.H.) and General Correspondence (IV.I.) were groups of files established by Leary. They each include material that span the entire time frame covered by the series. The Writings subseries (IV.J.) consists of drafts, notes, and other material related to particular books, articles, subjects, or ideas. The Personal and Legal files (IV.K.) are an amalgamation of otherwise unsorted files relating to Leary's personal life and legal issues during the entire period, and includes his writings and correspondence from both of his stints in prison.
Generally, writings and correspondence connected directly with the institutions or distinct time periods represented by subseries are filed within those subseries, though researchers should also thoroughly check the subseries that span the entire period (IV.H-IV.K) when researching any particular event or phase in Leary's activities.
The largest series in Leary's papers, Series V contains the records he produced and accumulated during the last twenty years of his life, from his release from prison in 1976 until his death in 1996.
Series V documents Leary's career as a writer and public speaker; his intermittent career as an actor; his business ventures, including Futique, Inc.; and his relationships with software companies with whom he collaborated, such as Interplay, Electronic Arts, and XOR Corporation. This series also traces Leary's association with scholars and organizations, such as Joseph Banks Rhine, (founder of the parapsychology lab at Duke University), Neil Freer, John C. Lilly, The L-5 Society, and Esalen Institute. Writings, correspondence, and a wide-variety of printed material and ephemera represent Leary's exploration of the various, but related, topics on which he focused throughout this period, including transhumanism, futurism, space migration, cyberculture, virtual reality, intelligence increase and life extension, personal freedom and self-realization, and, in his final years, cryonics and "designer death."
Correspondents include a wide variety of friends and colleagues in the entertainment, publishing, software, and art worlds, such as Larry Flynt, G. Gordon Liddy, Danny Sugarman, Helmut Newton, Bob Cuccione, Jr., Tony Scott, Keith Haring, Spike Jonze, David Byrne, Robert Anton Wilson, Cheech Marin, and Joi Ito.
This series is organized into eight subseries: Correspondence, Chronological Files, Alphabetical Files, Writings, Financial Records, Legal Files, Family Files, and "Countercultural Files." It contains a wide variety of paper material, including letters, manuscripts, printed material, contracts, calendars, posters, business cards, photographs, and artwork. The electronic records consist of textual documents-such as letters and writings-and executable software.
These subseries were established by a combination of identifying and maintaining files and filing systems created by Leary and his associates, aggregating these files and systems into larger groups to facilitate use of the records, filing unsorted material when it was possible, and establishing new groups to accommodate unsorted materials and files not easily associated with other groups of files. More than in any other period, many of these records arrived at the Library unsorted, unidentified, and even unfoldered.
Several attempts were made by Leary and his associates to review and organize his archives during his life, especially during the 1990s. These attempts were never fully realized, and were sometimes based on somewhat idiosyncratic categories and methodologies. When these systems were applied over a large body of material-such as in the so-called Countercultural Files-they were retained.
There is a considerable overlap in the time periods and activities documented within the various subseries, especially between Correspondence, Chronological Files, Alphabetical Files, and Writings. Therefore, researchers with an interest in particular people and projects from this time in Leary's life are advised to scrutinize each subseries as a potential source.
Some of Leary's projects continued work begun before 1976. Therefore, some related material can be located in Series IV. Some files contain material predating the time span of this series; this is a product of Leary and his collaborators mining his own archives for material relevant to a given project or interest he was pursuing during this time.
Leary established the Futique Trust to administer his estate, collect royalties, distribute dividends and other income to survivors, and manage his archives in anticipation of his death. In 1996, Les Klinger of Kopple and Klinger was chosen to represent the Leary Estate and Futique Trust. This series contains founding documents for the Trust, Trustee's reports, Leary's will, financial records, royalty statements, contracts, and other material generated by the administration of the Trust. There is also material documenting the arrangement and management of Leary's archives and intellectual property, consisting of inventories, appraisals and sales done by Butterfield & Butterfield, Christie's Auction House, and Sotheby's; correspondence regarding the ownership of Leary's art and estate; and statements recording his residuals and assets.
Items selected for possible duplication, research, or auction by people working with Leary on his archives were labeled "Gems" (1936-1990s).The bulk of the Gems are letters from notable correspondents such as Allan Ginsberg, Walter Houston Clark, Richard Alpert/Ram Dass, and Ralph Metzner during Leary's experiments with psychedelic drugs, but they also include materials from earlier in his life. Several files are from a "book of famous letters." Other notable correspondents include Abbie Hoffman, Carl Sagan (1974), Yoko Ono, and Ken Kesey. Gem files that were pulled intact from an earlier filing systems have been refiled, as is the case with session reports and Harvard correspondence files. (As time and resources are available, the Library will (re)file these items in their original or appropriate files.)
Programs, correspondence and other material documents memorials and reunions hosted by Trust members. The Trust records also include records generated in the course of negotiations regarding the motion picture rights for Flashbacks, publishing deals, and work with other Leary-associated companies, such as the agency Panacea and the web design firm Retinalogic.
Files titled Timothy Leary include legal documents and writings. Manuscripts by other authors include a memoir by Rosemary Woodruff (1997).
This series contains newspaper and magazine clippings, some annotated, organized and titled by Leary under topical and chronological headings. Numbers found on folders and items correspond to an organizational scheme not maintained by Leary even as he continued adding to the files. These files complement those found in the Alphabetical Files subseries in Series V. The files reveal Leary's wide variety of interests-in computers, politics, sports, religion, for instance-though the bulk of the files are drug-related.
This series contains recordings made by and about Leary, and include lectures, appearances, and personal events.
This series consists of photographs, slides, negatives, transparencies, and contact sheets. While the majority of the photographs in the papers can be found here, there are photographs filed in most of the other series. Subjects depicted include friends, family, and the various places Leary traveled to throughout his life. Periods covered range from family photographs dating from before Leary's birth up to his death.
The Artifacts series contains objects and clothing that Timothy Leary collected or received as gifts. The majority of the artifacts date from the 1980s and 1990s. There are a few items from his time at West Point.
This series is comprised of art produced during the 1960s through the 1990s in a variety of media, including pen, pencil, marker, crayon, watercolor, collage, charcoal, and computer art. The series also includes reproductions. Much of the art was inscribed by the artists and often sent to Leary unsolicited as fan mail of sorts. Leary signed some art himself, in keeping with his habit of inscribing many of the things sent to him by friends, family, and fans. Though most of the artists are unidentified or not widely known, this series also includes the work of well-known figures like Howard Hallis, Keith Haring, Eileen Getty, and Brummbaer, all of whom Leary collaborated with. Some of the art speaks to Leary's relationships with the artists; for example, the series contains Howard Hallis's artwork from Surfing the Conscious Nets, a book for which Leary wrote the text. The art is primarily psychedelic or is otherwise abstract in nature, though there are portraits, anime art, and a variety of other styles. Several pieces of art, including art by Howard Hallis, Brummbaer, and Carolyn Ferris, feature Timothy Leary's likeness.