city lights bookstore

from allen ginsberg, jack kerouac, the beats posted in literature


city lights bookstore
261 columbus avenue
san francisco, california 94133

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posted by pete_nice #

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Founded as an all-paperback bookstore by Peter D. Martin in 1952, the name City Lights is an homage to the Charlie Chaplin film of the same name. Martin also used the name for a magazine he was publishing in San Francisco at the same time.

In 1953, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was walking by the storefront and noticed Martin hanging up a sign. Ferlinghetti told Martin he had written for his magazine, and that he had always wanted to own a bookstore. They both invested $500 and became partners in the store.

In 1955, Ferlinghetti heard Allen Ginsberg reciting Howl at the Six Gallery and offered to publish it. The poem was published in 1956, and the resulting obscenity trial was not entirely unexpected given the prevailing attitude towards drug use and homosexuality at the time.

The presiding judge at the obscenity trial declared that Howl was not obscene and that a book with “the slightest redeeming social importance” was guaranteed First Amendment protection.

photo: Chelsea Hicks
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