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Beatniks In New York City: Fascinating Photos That Capture Lifestyle And Culture Of Beatniks In 1950s and 1960s

Beat Movement was a social and literary movement begun in the late 1940s that coalesced around the writings of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and many others. The movement was started in bohemian artist communities of San Francisco’s North Beach, Los Angeles’ Venice West, and New York City’s Greenwich Village. Its followers are called ‘beatniks’, and they embraced the bohemian lifestyle, sexual liberation, free-spirited expressionism and vocabulary borrowed from jazz musicians. They also advocated drugs, personal release, purification and sometimes the disciplines of Zen Buddhism.

Beat generation poets sought to transform poetry into an expression of genuine lived experience, and they to sough liberate poetry from academic preciosity. By the early 1960s, the movement gradually began to disappear though its ideology and free-spirited expressionism later evolved into hippie culture.

The following historical photographs show the lifestyle and culture of Beatniks in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City.

#1 Beat movement writers Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac, who maintained lifelong friendships with one another, New York, 1957

Beat movement writers Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac, who maintained lifelong friendships with one another, New York, 1957

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#2 One man recites poetry while accompanied by a flutist, on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village, 1957

One man recites poetry while accompanied by a flutist, on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village, 1957

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#3 The Walter Bows Band plays a party at an artist’s loft in 1959.

The Walter Bows Band plays a party at an artist's loft in 1959.

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#4 Four friends share a bed in a Greenwich Village apartment after a long night out in 1956.

Four friends share a bed in a Greenwich Village apartment after a long night out in 1956.

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#5 Cafe Rienzi, opened by painter David Grossblatt, was one of the first coffee shops in New York. Located on MacDougal Street, 1957 It was described by The New York Times as the center of intellectual life in the Village during the Beat Generation.

Cafe Rienzi, opened by painter David Grossblatt, was one of the first coffee shops in New York. Located on MacDougal Street, 1957 It was described by The New York Times as the center of intellectual life in the Village during the Beat Generation.

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#6 In the world of the beatnik, Dick Woods walks up the steps of the Gaslight Coffee Shop in New York’s Greenwich Village, 1959

In the world of the beatnik, Dick Woods walks up the steps of the Gaslight Coffee Shop in New York's Greenwich Village, 1959

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#7 Dressed in black, female attendees at a ‘Rent-a-Beatnik’ party smoke at the top of a staircase in a townhouse in Sniffen Court, New York, 1960

Dressed in black, female attendees at a 'Rent-a-Beatnik' party smoke at the top of a staircase in a townhouse in Sniffen Court, New York, 1960

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#8 Television journalist Danny Meenan interviewing Beatnik members, New York, 1960

Television journalist Danny Meenan interviewing Beatnik members, New York, 1960

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#9 Beatniks preparing for a demonstration in New York Around 1962

Beatniks preparing for a demonstration in New York Around 1962

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#10 Writer Kerouac, holds court at the Seven Arts Cafe in Greenwich Village in 1959. He novel On The Road explored America from the lens of a new generation that embraced drugs, sexual liberation, and jazz.

Writer Kerouac, holds court at the Seven Arts Cafe in Greenwich Village in 1959. He novel On The Road explored America from the lens of a new generation that embraced drugs, sexual liberation, and jazz.

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#11 Gregory Corso in New York, 1959

Gregory Corso in New York, 1959

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#12 Mimi Margaux, who described herself as a “dancer, actress, model and follower of ‘la Vie Boheme,'” enjoys the view from the balcony in an East Village hangout in 1959.

Mimi Margaux, who described herself as a "dancer, actress, model and follower of 'la Vie Boheme,'" enjoys the view from the balcony in an East Village hangout in 1959.

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#13 Beatniks Enjoying the Music, 1959

Beatniks Enjoying the Music, 1959

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#14 A jazz bands plays from the top of a liquor cabinet at the Half Note nightclub, a regular hangout for the New York Beats, in 1959.

A jazz bands plays from the top of a liquor cabinet at the Half Note nightclub, a regular hangout for the New York Beats, in 1959.

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#15 A candid moment from the N’ Bull coffee shop in 1959.

A candid moment from the N' Bull coffee shop in 1959.

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#16 A woman sits in contemplation while enjoying an espresso at Gaslight Cafe in 1959.

A woman sits in contemplation while enjoying an espresso at Gaslight Cafe in 1959.

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#17 Jack Kerouac reads for an audience at the Seven Arts Cafe in 1959.

Jack Kerouac reads for an audience at the Seven Arts Cafe in 1959.

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#18 Poet and trumpeter Ted Joans at a costume party in Greenwich Village in 1960.

Poet and trumpeter Ted Joans at a costume party in Greenwich Village in 1960.

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#19 Ted Joans reads poetry at the Bizarre coffee shop in 1959.

Ted Joans reads poetry at the Bizarre coffee shop in 1959.

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#20 Jack Kerouac talks to a friend at a Beat party.

Jack Kerouac talks to a friend at a Beat party.

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#21 A few late stragglers at a Beat party who have enjoyed some libations.

A few late stragglers at a Beat party who have enjoyed some libations.

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#22 A woman and man dance to the accompaniment of a drummer beating on congas at a party in Greenwich Village in 1956.

A woman and man dance to the accompaniment of a drummer beating on congas at a party in Greenwich Village in 1956.

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#23 Beats enjoying a party, 1959.

Beats enjoying a party, 1959.

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#24 A couple share a soda at the Cock N’ Bull on Bleecker Street in 1959.

A couple share a soda at the Cock N' Bull on Bleecker Street in 1959.

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#25 A man plays guitar at dusk in Washington Square Park in 1959.

A man plays guitar at dusk in Washington Square Park in 1959.

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#26 Hugh Nanton Romney sings at McSorley’s saloon in 1959. Later, Romney would adopt the name “Wavy Gravy” and become a lifelong peace activist.

Hugh Nanton Romney sings at McSorley's saloon in 1959. Later, Romney would adopt the name "Wavy Gravy" and become a lifelong peace activist.

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#27 Beatniks protest in front of New York’s City Hall in 1960 in response to closures of coffee shops.

Beatniks protest in front of New York's City Hall in 1960 in response to closures of coffee shops.

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#28 Contestants for the “Miss Beatnik” competition pose for a photograph in 1959.

Contestants for the "Miss Beatnik" competition pose for a photograph in 1959.

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#29 The winner of “Miss Beatnik,” identified only as “Angel,” is surrounded by the judges of the contest.

The winner of "Miss Beatnik," identified only as "Angel," is surrounded by the judges of the contest.

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#30 Hal Chase and Jack Kerouac at the Morningside Heights, NYC

Hal Chase and Jack Kerouac at the Morningside Heights, NYC

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#31 American A&P supermarket chain heir and art collector Huntington Hartford with Lord Valentine Thynne Jennifer Osborne, and Lord Christopher Thynne, 1950s

American A&P supermarket chain heir and art collector Huntington Hartford  with  Lord Valentine Thynne Jennifer Osborne, and Lord Christopher Thynne, 1950s

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#32 Army veteran, plays “Brownie Bass” in New York City, 1950s

Army veteran, plays "Brownie Bass" in New York City, 1950s

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#33 Beatnik artist, Alice Nee with poet Gregory Corsoand American dancer and choreographer Sally Gross, New York, New York, 1959

Beatnik artist, Alice Nee with poet Gregory Corsoand American dancer and choreographer Sally Gross,  New York, New York, 1959

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#34 Beatniks inside a Greenwich Village Coffee Shop, 1959

Beatniks inside a Greenwich Village Coffee Shop, 1959

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#35 A beatnik woman stands in front of the entrance to the Gaslight Cafe, a center of beatnik poet life, in Greenwich Village, 1959

A beatnik woman stands in front of the entrance to the Gaslight Cafe, a center of beatnik poet life, in Greenwich Village, 1959

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#36 A jazz band plays at a ‘Rent a Beatnik’ party staged by Holiday magazine, New York, 1959

A jazz band plays at a 'Rent a Beatnik' party staged by Holiday magazine, New York, 1959

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#37 Miss Beatnik Poses in the Gaslight coffee house, 1959

Miss Beatnik Poses in the Gaslight coffee house, 1959

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#38 Beatnik Playing Guitar in Cafe, 1959

Beatnik Playing Guitar in Cafe, 1959

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#39 Inside the Beatnik street level coffee shop, the Beatniks make their own entertainment, 1959

Inside the Beatnik street level coffee shop, the Beatniks make their own entertainment, 1959

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#40 Beatniks at the Cock N’ Bull on Bleecker Street, 1959

Beatniks at the Cock N' Bull on Bleecker Street, 1959

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#41 Beatniks gather at a Greenwich Village coffeehouse in November 1959.

Beatniks gather at a Greenwich Village coffeehouse in November 1959.

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#42 Beatniks at the Cock N’ Bull lighting cigarettes off each other, 1959

Beatniks at the Cock N' Bull lighting cigarettes off each other, 1959

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#43 Ted Joans, Beat Generation poet, painter, and musician, in a Voodoo trance, lying shirtless on a wooden floor, 1960

Ted Joans, Beat Generation poet, painter, and musician, in a Voodoo trance, lying shirtless on a wooden floor, 1960

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#44 Ted Joans speaks with eccentrically dressed guests at a ‘Rent-a-Beatnik’ party, 1960

Ted Joans speaks with eccentrically dressed guests at a 'Rent-a-Beatnik' party, 1960

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#45 A spray-painted sign outside Greenwich Village’s Cafe Wha, 1960

A spray-painted sign outside Greenwich Village's Cafe Wha, 1960

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#46 Beatnick Convention Poster, 1960

Beatnick Convention Poster, 1960

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#47 Police officers arrest beatniks demonstrators in Washington Square Park during a march, April 9, 1961.

Police officers arrest beatniks demonstrators in Washington Square Park during a march, April 9, 1961.

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#48 Festive residents of Greenwich Village make their way to night court to act as character witnesses for some accused rioters, 1961

Festive residents of Greenwich Village make their way to night court to act as character witnesses for some accused rioters, 1961

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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