Coverage of the hippie movement in the ’60s


The New York Times, Aug. 16, 1969

The New York Times, Aug. 17, 1969

The New York Times, Aug. 18, 1969

By Elizabeth Sanders

The Woodstock Music and Art Festival went down in history as one of the most pivotal events in the hippie movement that occurred in the 1960s. Thirty-two artists performed on a 600 acre dairy farm near Bethel, New York across three days- Aug. 15 to 18 1969. The crowd totalled an estimated 400,000 people in attendance, much larger than anyone could have expected. It marked an era of change with an assemblance of young people bent on progression and change.

Photo credit: AP Images "Woodstock 1969" (for educational use)

Photo credit: AP Images “Woodstock 1969,” for educational use

Details of the festival

One of the most notable events of the hippie movement was the Woodstock musical festival in Bethel, New York from Aug. 15 to 18, 1969. The New York Times began covering the event with a small Page 1 article on Aug. 16, 1969, that jumped to an inside page. The article mainly portrayed the high traffic level in Woodstock and the unexpectedly large turnout. The reporter speculated attendance rose to double the original estimate. Security forces — limited to about 200 police officers — had very little trouble from the crowd, as most attendees remained polite to law enforcement.

The next day, on Aug. 17, a New York Times article, “200,000 Bound for Rock Festival Jam Roads Upstate” documented the size of the crowd: “John Roberts, the 24-year-old president of Woodstock Ventures, the fair’s sponsor, estimated the crowd tonight at 200,000 to 250,000 within the presentation area and upward of 150,000 in the hills, woods and farmlands surrounding the site.” The crowd was so overwhelmingly large that the sponsors had trouble collecting fees from all the attendees, according to Roberts. Logged arrests totalled about 50, mostly for drug possession. However, none were arrested for marijuana. A sergeant in the state police was quoted saying, “’ As far as I know the narcotics guys are not arresting anybody for grass. If we did there isn’t enough space in Sullivan or the next three counties to put them in.’”

Coverage over the next few days was more prominent, with news about Woodstock on the front page, and with larger headlines and pictures. It detailed how the festival turned muddy on the 600-acre farm, and how the crowd remained well-behaved despite being cramped in the space.

Artists included Joan Baez, Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane. The article did note that a batch of “bad acid” distributed amongst some attendees did cause some people to seek medical treatment. The article also noted that food was scarce due to the unexpected high attendance.

The last article from Aug. 18, 1969, “Tired Rock Fans Begin Exodus,” related the aftermath as people began to leave the festival: “Waves of weary youngsters streamed away from the Woodstock Music and Art Fair last night and early today as security officials reported at least two deaths, and 4,000 people treated for injuries, illness and adverse drug reactions over the festival’s three-day period.

Articles published from the New York Times about Woodstock and other related links can be found here.

Reactions to drug use

On Aug. 17, 1969, the New York Times also ran a Page 1 article, “Varied drug laws raising U.S. fears,” and placed it next to the Woodstock article, “300,000 at Folk-Rock Fair Camp Out in a Sea of Mud.” The article explained how many states were passing contradictory drug laws in response to the spike in drug use in the U.S. (unless you mean rural areas) The article stated, “Because of this concern, the Justice Department is trying to sell the various states on the idea of a model state drug control act, which would standardize narcotic and drug laws throughout and bring them into closer conformity with Federal laws.”

Elizabeth Sanders is a journalism senior at Texas State University. More information on her can be found at her website: She can be contacted by email at

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