Morningstar Ranch Legal Ephemera [Louis Gottlieb, Diggers, Commune]

Morningstar Ranch Legal Ephemera [Louis Gottlieb, Diggers, Commune]

Newspaper clipping, San Francisco Chronicle, Friday August 7, 1970. 5 ½ x 6 in. stapled to official court document “Memorandum of Points and Authorities”, with a holograph note from Louis Gottlieb, defendant, to Alvah of the Living Theatre. 8 ½ x 14 in. 7pp. Filed July 2, 1970. Very good. Item #5527

Rare court documents with holograph notation in the hand of Louis Gottlieb relating to the protracted legal battle to save the commune at Morningstar Ranch.

Also known as the Digger Farm, Morningstar Ranch was an intentional community started by Gottlieb in 1966 in Sonoma County, California, and frequented by Haight-Ashbury hippies, Diggers, and itinerants. The ranch provided produce for free food programs through the Diggers in San Francisco, as well as a place for anyone to live communally. With the founding concept that land belonged to everyone and no one, the commune became a haven for those looking to escape the city, though usually not permanently. The Farm was decidedly more transient, open, and anarchic than most of its contemporaries in the back-to-the-land movement.

These court documents and clipping highlights Gottlieb’s claim that he had the legal right to deed the land to God, a claim that he contested in court for over a year after receiving 31 citations violating county ordinances and allowing hippies to live on his ranch. This drawn-out legal battle ended with an injunction from Sonoma County forbidding anyone except Gottlieb’s family from living on the property. The county proceeded to bulldoze several structures on the farm, and Gottlieb spent a week in jail, paying hefty fines for contempt. Though effectively shuttered by the state in 1971, the ranch was an exceptionally influential early commune, made only more so through press coverage of their battle with the authorities.

Rare documents elucidating the legal struggles of one of the most influential early communes of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. This collection also highlights the connection between the West Coast Digger community and the New York avant garde, including the Living Theatre.

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