Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff

03/18/2022     Books & Autographs


NEW YORK, NY -- In 1970, the gloves came off in Aspen. But first, a bit of background: Hunter S. Thompson returned from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago disgusted by the violent suppression of political protests by law enforcement and the observable disconnect between corrupt government officials and the people. At home in Aspen, Colorado, Thompson was also appalled to witness hippies and intellectuals subjected to absurd arrests and abuses of power. In 1969, at Thompson's suggestion, "hippie lawyer" Joe Edwards ran for mayor of Aspen. Thompson covered the election for Rolling Stone, writing himself into the story in a pivotal gonzo article titled The Battle of Aspen by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Candidate for Sheriff). Despite Edwards’ defeat, Hunter S. Thompson also decided to act, pulling aside the cloak of journalism and inserting himself into the political sphere.

Thompson said: "It's a dangerous situation when the enforcement arm is totally out of communication with the reality. It's time we either bridge that chasm with some kind of realistic law enforcement, or else I don't think it's going to be bridged in this country. We're going to have a revolution." Thompson's campaign was radical, organized, controversial and legendary. His platform had six points: 1) Rip up the streets and replace them with sod; 2) Change the name of Aspen to Fat City to deter "greedheads, land-rapers and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen'; 3) Punish dishonest dope dealers; 4) Only allow residents to hunt and fish in the area to create a game preserve and to stop the "blood-thirsty geeks keep swarming in here each autumn to shoot everything they see"; 5) The sheriff and deputies are to be unarmed; and 6) "It will be the policy of the Sheriff's office savagely to harass all those engaged in any form of land-rape."

Thompson further vowed to fire the conservative officials that held a majority in local government. He shaved his head bald to be distinct from his "long-hair" adversaries. When a major dynamite theft happened in the area, a threat was received that Aspen's City Hall would be blown up only if Thompson won the election. To counter the Freak Power movement, the Republican and Democrat candidates for sheriff agreed not to run against one another, rendering victory an uphill battle for Thompson. On election night, his Owl Farm compound was turned into a campaign headquarters protected by armed guards. Thompson took the news of his defeat in stride and offered (with an American flag draped around his neck): "Unfortunately, I proved what I set out to prove ... that the American Dream really is f_cked."

The original silkscreened posters created by Thomas W. Benton for Thompson's campaign are rare and iconic. We trace few original examples of any of the posters and no example of Patriots Arise at auction. Patriots Arise is particularly desirable for its play of the cyclops creature, a bleary-eyed mascot for the campaign, in full extension over the colors of the American flag. The poster is an iconic emblem of the counterculture and the high water mark of the Freak Power movement.

Rare Books Autographs & Maps
Timed Auction Closes Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at 10am

Lot 133
Patriots Arise.
Silkscreened poster. 26 x 20 inches.
Estimate: $5,000-7,000