Coffeehouses were an important part of the counterculture movement in the 1950’s.
Today coffeehouses are a major part of mainstream American culture. Millions of people flock to them every morning for a cup of coffee or an espresso beverage before starting the rigorous work day. And for many people the coffee shop is their remote office or off-site meeting location. But coffeehouses have become a place for kids, teens and adults alike with something available for everyone. In the 1950’s coffeehouses became a haven of culture and discussion for intellectuals, artists and musicians, and the beat generation.
A Turkish historian of the Ottoman Empire wrote about the opening of the first coffeehouse in Instanbul in 1555. Even during their infancy they were known for being a place of political and social discussion. Coffeehouses in the United States sprung up out of the Italian immigrant culture in large cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. In the 1950’s they were favored as places for conversation, poetry readings, Jazz and folk music. During the decade of prosperity and rigid social code, coffeehouses were a place for “misfits” and those in the counterculture, like the beatniks, to meet, write and discuss their views. Teens were also drawn to coffeehouses, which caused parents and authorities to react with strict warnings against associating with the “undesirable” patrons.
Coffeehouse culture continued to grow throughout the 1960’s and maintained their strong association with folk music and political action. In Denver in the early 60’s the Green Spider was a popular coffeehouse with musicians and artists, and even famous beat generation writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg when they spent time in the city.