The Archives

A description of the Archives – By Michael Horowitz, Tim’s Personal Archivist and Bibliographer

The Leary Archive, stored in more than 300 boxes, contains scores of manuscripts and thousands of letters (both to and from Leary), mixed with thousands of miscellaneous printed and ephemeral pieces.  The Leary Archive is extraordinarily deep and rich in materials representing every aspect of Timothy Leary’s varied career as West Point cadet, psychologist, psychedelic drug researcher, teacher and lecturer, activist philosopher, political dissident, generational icon, sloganeer, man-of-letters, gubernatorial candidate, prison convict, escapee and exile, stand-up comedian/philosopher, personal computer advocate, mixed media performer, and author of more than 30 books and nearly 400 research papers, articles, and interviews.

(*The Annotated Bibliography of Timothy Leary, 1946-1984, published in 1988, contains over 1200 entries.)

There are extensive archival materials from his childhood and early schooling (1920-39), his years at West Point, the U.S. Army and various graduate schools where he earned higher degrees (1940-50), his early career as an outstanding clinical psychologist (1950-58), his Harvard years where he headed a team that conducted the first major studies of psychedelic drugs (1960-1963), the emergence of the Œ60s counterculture where his fame grew as did his notoriety (1964-69), his 7 years of combined incarceration and exile, which included a famous prison escape (1970-1976), and his last twenty years in Los Angeles (to his death in May, 1996) where he continued to write, lecture and perform.  In spite of a life of travel, with frequent moves and numerous arrests (40 on four continents), Dr. Leary (with the help of his archivists) managed to keep together practically all of his papers.

He had two archivists during his prison years and exile, at which point the FBI seized his archives and, in effect, served as his new archivists, until they returned them to him; in his last years he had a team of young techie archivists organizing his papers and entering selections on his innovative website which created a personal and enduring presence on the internet(

MANUSCRIPTS:  Manuscripts of most of Dr. Leary’s books are present in one form or another.  For the earlier books there are typescripts with holograph corrections and revisions, and in a few cases, autograph manuscripts of portions of his books.  There are also a few galley proofs with handwritten corrections.  Manuscripts from the mid-1980s onward are present as computer print-outs, many are also annotated by hand.  Also present are numerous files of manuscript notes, ideas, outlines and notebooks.  Some correspondence and contracts with publishers are also included

It should be noted that there are some manuscripts of unpublished works, including a few from the psychedelic period, unpublished essays on a variety of subjects, a biography of Larry Flynt, an unproduced movie script, fiction, poetry, etc. representative of Dr. Leary’s wide-ranging literary interests.

MEMORABILIA:  Family memorabilia including printed materials, photographs both early and late, college diplomas, dissertations written for his degrees (Master of Science; Ph.D. in Psychology)

CORRESPONDENCE: The archive contains thousands of letters, including those written to Dr. Leary from colleagues, friends, and notable personalities associated with his projects.  Also included are carbon copies of Leary’s own letters to them.  There is an extensive file of letters to and from his mother and other members of his immediate family, including several of his wives and children.  There are also hundreds of fan letters to Leary, revealing his popularity and the prevailing interest in his writings and ideas.

PROFESSIONAL PAPERS include early publications in psychology, including tests and reports associated with his research as Director of Research of the Kaiser Foundation in Oakland, numerous mimeographed lectures, journal articles and offprints from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s.  There are extensive reports from the Harvard psilocybin and LSD projects by notables such as Huxley, Ginsberg, Koestler, Charles Olson, Peter Orlovsky, Huston Smith, and B. H. Friedman among others, which Leary headed at the Center for Personality Research, and latter at his private research center in Millbrook, NY.

Also present are records from the organizations Leary formed after his dismissal from Harvard:  IFIF (International Federation of Internal Freedom)in Zihautanejo, Mexico; Castalia Foundation in Millbrook, NY, and the League for Spiritual Discovery in New York City, including files of members, correspondence, financial papers, mimeograph productions, etc.

From his prison years there is extensive correspondence, legal papers, communications with his lawyers, prison writings, letters of support, petitions, etc. from the various Leary defense funds.  His complex legal history can be examined from a virtually complete collection of legal briefs pertaining to his numerous cases, appeals and trials between 1966 and 1974.

From his exile period in Algeria and Switzerland, there are notebooks, statements, letters and manuscript material.

From his Los Angeles period, there are computer-generated texts, correspondence (including numerous letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times), material relating to the Biosphere project, space colonies, intelligence increase, life extension, cryogenics, and the music and movie industries (he performed in a dozen feature films and music video productions), as well as more fan mail, boxes of ephemera and counterculture publications, and 15-20 boxes of audio- and videotapes.

PRESS CLIPPINGS:  approximately six boxes of news clippings pertaining to Dr. Leary’s activities during the Œ60s and Œ70s, including two important scrapbooks from the ’60s prepared by a clipping service.  There are further press cuttings from the ’80s and ’90s in the appropriate boxes.

MANUSCRIPT MATERIAL BY OTHERS:  Several manuscripts and photocopies by colleagues and friends given to Dr. Leary.  See attached list.  Also, about 40 boxes of personal books both by Leary and by others, some inscribed to Leary from the authors, some of which bear his annotations.

CONDITION & ORGANIZATION:  Overall condition is good.  Some boxes are filled rather haphazardly, as the contents were gone through over the years by his attorneys, members of the FBI, and by Dr. Leary and his staff.  Some attention to reorganization will be necessary down the road.

SUMMARY:  This is a remarkably complete archive containing documents from every area of Dr. Leary’s 50-year career.  From an appraiser’s and bookseller’s point of view, there are hundreds of individual pieces, which would realize significant sums in today’s market (Leary material is traded very actively on Internet used book sites and on eBay; the prices of rare and unique material associated with him has soared in recent years.).

On the whole, the Leary Archive offers an unparalleled perspective on the history of the American counterculture and the psychedelic movement, through the activities of one of its most visible, articulate and controversial figures.  The wealth of material amassed in the archive not only reveals Dr. Leary’s profound influence on the culture, but also the strong social and political reaction to his ideas which resulted in six years in prison and exile, and, following his prison escape in 1970, his being described by President Nixon as ³the most dangerous man in America.²

An examination of his archive reveals that Dr. Leary’s intellect and influence went much further than proselytizing for psychedelic drugs, as popular opinion holds.  He advocated freedom of thought, and above all else, believed that how we choose to use our consciousness is a fundamental freedom.  Much of his writing deals with the social and political implications of maintaining that freedom, and as such he stands firmly in the tradition of Emerson, Thoreau and Mark Twain, as well as those scientific innovators who were attacked and imprisoned for their ideas.

The Leary Archive is an unparalleled resource for future scholars and students of Timothy Leary’s personal and public life.