Some say printed newspapers are going away. Some blame our digital revolution for changing the way San Franciscans get their news. On September 9, 1966, an alternative to the established selection of City newspapers was released. And although it lasted for only twelve issues, it is still being sold in digital form on Amazon. This icon was born in the Haight, at the Psychedelic Shop, as the San Francisco Oracle.
Before the Summer of Love in 1967, Ron Thelin, an Army Veteran, and his younger brother Jay, opened the shop at 1535 Haight Street on January 3, 1966. It was a gathering place for advocates of peace, love and experimenting with mind-expanding substances. A poet named Allen Cohen wanted to spread love and hope among all of mankind. Eight months after the shop opened, Cohen, with help from the Thelin brothers, founded and edited the first issue of the Oracle containing poetry, spirituality and multicultural information. Founding art director, Michael Bowen, created the underground newspaper’s “psychedelic” look.
Here is a rare video clip of the Thelin brothers from 1966, talking about their vision for the new world:
The Oracle started with a modest printing of 3000 copies. At the peak of circulation, 125,000 copies were printed. With the 1960s emphasis on sharing things, including the newspapers, it is estimated that the readership could have reached 500,000. The last edition of the newspaper was published in February of 1968. In 1990, a hardcover 385 page book called The San Francisco Oracle (Facsimilie Edition) was published. By 2005, the book was turned into a CD “digital recreation” that is still available on Amazon.
Editor Cohen, who died in 2004, may not have been able to imagine how far our digital revolution would take his vision. Check out this report on the “culture” of Haight Street from a budding video journalist: