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Photos, Oral Histories, Ephemera, and more from     

DC Public Library Special Collections     

 

About this collection

The Washington Free Press Collection contains issues of the underground newspaper the Washington Free Press published from 1967 to 1969.

 

The WFP was a radical leftist independent newspaper that began publication in Washington, DC in 1966. An early member of the Underground Press Syndicate, it was best known for its homemade aesthetic and psychedelic illustrations and coverage of the counterculture, poverty, recreational drugs, student activism, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and police brutality. An entire issue of the paper was devoted to the October 21, 1967 anti-war demonstration later known as the Pentagon riot.

 

The WFP was founded in 1966 as an inter-university newspaper to cover the civil rights and anti-war movements. The paper ceased publication in the summer of 1966 after the first four issues and was resurrected in the spring of 1967 as an “underground” paper published by an editorial collective out of a communal townhouse. The first issue of the reconstituted WFP was published March 26, 1967. The WFP was Part of the Liberation News Service, which for a time operated out of the same house, and served as a wire service between underground papers across the country. The last issue of the Washington Free Press appeared mid-December 1969. Several former WFP staff members went on to found the underground newspaper the Quicksilver Times in mid-1969.

 

The Washington Free Press offices were repeatedly searched by local law enforcement and the FBI. Several of the paper's distributors and the paper itself were charged with possession and distribution of obscenity. Most notably, store owner Marshall Woodruff was charged with possession of obscene material over the publication of an R. Crumb cartoon in the WFP. All convictions related to WFP obscenity were eventually reversed, though several exonerations came after the paper's demise.

 

The issues presented here are from the personal collections of Washington Free Press co-founder Art Grosman and columnist Pete Novick. With the help of friends, the donors digitized the issues and gave digital copies to DC Public Library for publication, along with originals. We believe this to be a full run of the paper as it was reconstituted in 1967, beginning with Volume 2, Issue 1. Please contact us if you have any additional issues that would complete our collection. 

 

This collection contains some nudity, violent imagery, offensive language, and frank depictions of sex and drug use.

 

The Washington Free Press was published by a collective until it ceased publication in 1969 and its intellectual property is not known to have transferred to any other entity. 

 

Sources:

  • Brumfield, Dave M.  Independent press in D.C. and Virginia: an underground history. 2015.
  • Dean, Eddie. Washingtonian. August 6, 2017. http://web.archive.org/web/20170813053332/https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/08/06/americas-oldest-living-drug-advice-columnist-tells-all-washington-free-press/
 
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