San Francisco Diggers

Historical Essay

by Eric Noble


Digger Poster from 1968

Image: Digger Archive

The San Francisco Diggers became one of the legendary groups in the Haight-Ashbury during the years 1966 to 1968. Shrouded in a mystique of anonymity, they took their name from the original English Diggers of the 1640s. The San Francisco Diggers combined street theater, anarcho direct action, and art happenings in their social agenda. Their most famous activities revolved around Free Food (every day in the Panhandle), and the Free Store (where everything was free for the taking). They produced a series of events that mark the evolution of the hippie phenomenon from a homegrown face-to-face community to the mass-media circus that splashed its face across the world's front pages and TV screens.

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In front of their truck, named "The Albigensian Ambulance Service" is Judy Goldhaft (left) holding Ocean Berg, Destiny Gould holding Solange, and Peter Berg (right), c. 1966.

Photo: © Chuck Gould, all rights reserved.

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Judy Goldhaft, artist and dancer and original Digger.

Photo: © Chuck Gould, all rights reserved.

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The Diggers were at the forefront of the so-called "back to the land" movement, and created a number of communal farms and ranches throughout Northern California.

Photo: © Chuck Gould, all rights reserved.

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Chuck Gould, Digger photographer!

Photo: © Chuck Gould, all rights reserved.

The Diggers broadcast these events, as well as their editorial comments of the day, through broadsides and leaflets distributed on Haight Street. The following pages are a collection of materials that represent the "digger movement" as it developed in the mid-to-late sixties and early seventies (and even continues to today).

Shown here is the "1% Free" poster that was first seen in wall sized posters and became the Digger trademark for the last cycle of street events in the spring of 1968.

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Peter Berg, interviewed by Chris Carlsson and David Martinez, August 2009.

Prof. Dominick Cavallo's analysis of The Diggers

More on the Diggers' concept of 'free'

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