As shown in the recent documentary “Magic Trip,” “tie dye” was invented in 1964 on the trip taken by the Merry Pranksters across America, and the actual moment of innocent creation was filmed by the crew of what would become known as the first hippies–although at the time there was no word for what they were except the names they gave themselves. Driving through the Arizona desert, the bus was searching for “The Cool Place” when Neil Cassady, the driver of the bus, veered off the road toward a small pond and got the bus stuck in the muddy sand.
Because they would be stuck for a while, waiting for their messenger to ride a motorbike into town for assistance, Kesey wanted to take LSD. The acid was mixed into a jar of orange juice and passed around for everyone to take a drink. The movie cameras that had been brought along to document the trip were set up in various spots around the river as the Pranksters started to wade into the pond.
Sometime into the trip, Kesey decided he wanted to see what it would be like to pour bright colored model paint into a small arm of the pond. The varicolored paints floated and marbleized. The pranksters put Zonker’s white t-shirt in the water under the paint and lifted it up, “and invented tie dye.”
The narration of the pond trip includes a presentation of the setting not done justice to in the short clip. To watch the video, which unlike any other document gives a real live-action quasi-experience to the times of the first hippies–and for the first time, because the hundreds of hours of tape collected on the trip was out-of-sync with the recorded audio and could not be edited until the advent of recent editing technology.
For those curious about the history of tie die before the 60s–it dates back to 8th century Japan and was even popularized in America in the 1920s–click here.
By Joseph Reight
Images: Magic Trip
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