Five College Archives and Manuscript
                        Collections
Home >> Special Collections & University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library >> James Baker Free Spirit Press Collection
UMass Amherst seal
James Baker Free Spirit Press Collection, 1969-2005 (Bulk: 1969-1974)
3 boxes (1.25 linear feet)
Collection number: MS 834

Abstract:
James Baker was a member of the Brotherhood of the Spirit commune (later the Renaissance Community) in the early 1970s, and a key contributor to the Free Spirit Press, the commune's publishing operation. Part promotion, information, and entertainment, the Free Spirit Press magazine ran for four issues in the winter and spring 1972-1973.

The Baker collection consists of the surviving materials from the production of Free Spirit Press concentrated heavily in the period between winter 1972 and summer 1974. Accumulated mostly while preparing a brochure for the commune, the manuscript material contains copies of the commune's by-laws and membership rolls, comments from community members on how they wished to be represented, and a story board for the brochure and series of quotes from community members to be included. The second half of the collection contains hundreds of images, mostly 35mm negatives, taken of or by the commune and its residents. The images depict the production and distribution of Free Spirit Press and the commune band (Spirit in Flesh, later called Rapunzel), but they also include several rolls of film taken by commune members of major rock and roll acts of the era, including the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Santana, Chuck Berry, Hot Tuna, and Fleetwood Mac.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Autobiography, by James Baker
Taj Mahal, in concert at Northfield, Mass., ca.1973

Taj Mahal, in concert at Northfield, Mass., ca.1973

My father, Lawrence (Larry), the youngest of two boys, was raised in Kensington, Conn., and graduated from Mount Hermon School in Gill, Mass., then Wesleyan U in Middleton, Conn. He had served in the Army Air Corp during World War II. By the early 60's, he had become divisional sales manager of a multinational corporation. Mom, Harriet (Happy), was born in Boston and raised in small towns between there and Worcester. She was a graduate of Northfield Seminary located in Northfield, Mass., and Bryant College, at the time located in Providence, R.I. Mom worked as a homemaker, then in insurance and as town librarian. I grew up in Berlin, Conn., the oldest of 3 boys. I graduated from Bryant College in 1969.

After college, I joined VISTA and served as one of two VISTA's in The Pruitt Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis, Mo. After VISTA, I moved back to Connecticut and worked briefly as an auditor for a small hotel chain. My girlfriend (Anne who I'd met in VISTA) worked as a nurse. While trying to figure out what to do with our lives, via two fellow college alums, we stumbled onto The Brotherhood of The Spirit commune in Warwick, Mass. At the time, we, along with multitudes of other "Baby Boomers," were looking for some kind of deeper meaning and purpose than the usual options we had experienced. During two visits, we met many of the commune members and the founder Michael Metelica and learned the commune was established on a combination of Judeo-Christian and Eastern "mystical" ideas that included the belief in reincarnation. At the time there were about 200 members most of whom seemed amazingly energized and focused on their collective possibilities, on personal growth and on making a significant contribution to the world.

When we joined in 1971, the group was located in Warwick, and was in the process of completing an approximately 100 ft. long by 40 foot wide, four story, dormitory. This was an impressive structure that included electricity, a central heating system, many private rooms, a central meeting hall and a silk screening studio located on the top floor. Another building housed a recording and practice studio for a rock band (Spirit In Flesh) which had just signed a major recording contract. Another building was a preexisting large home with several attached additions that included a large kitchen and dining hall, bathrooms, living quarters and an office. The members seemed not only dedicated to getting good things done but were grounded, self-aware and skilled as well. The people and all this creativity along with the spirituality grabbed our imaginations. After a prospective membership of several weeks and working on various crews, garden, logging, farm, etc., I got the idea to start a magazine focused on communal living and the ideology we were pursuing.

With the enthusiastic blessing of Michael the founder and with absolutely no experience, I began this new venture. I started by visiting an underground newspaper (I have forgotten its name) published in Amherst, Mass. The staff generously introduced me to light tables and showed me how lay outs were done. I contacted a few printers and learned more. From there, I started talking up the idea amongst other commune members and writing and gathering articles and art for the first issue. Another member (Jerry Hayden) volunteered to create an advertising sales team to pre-sell advertising and our magazine was launched. Since FSP, I have worked as a self-employed contractor, president of a non-profit media service, founder/president of a business telecommunications consulting company, and as a real estate investor. I am divorced, have a son, and live in south eastern New Hampshire with my significant other of 10 years, Annie C.

History of the Free Spirit Press, by James Baker

I was a member of the Brotherhood of the Spirit Commune from the summer of 1971 until the fall 1975. The commune, founded in 1968, was a collective of mostly young people from myriad backgrounds and experience who came there seeking some deeper meaning and clearer purpose to their lives. In my own attempt at that, from 1971-1973, I served as the editor and publisher of The Free Spirit Press Magazine. The magazine was founded by me and Jerry Hayden. I, along with artist Mark Fahrner, created the first two issues. Mark did most of the art and I wrote and edited the articles and laid out the magazine. Additional work was contributed by commune members Bill Grabin, Donna Oehmig, Donna Jagareski, Jackie Metelica, Randy Kleinrock and Chris Garland.

While I put together the first issue, Jerry organized the sales team that brought in the $250 we used as the down payment to publish it. Jerry left the commune shortly thereafter but in the 4th issue he re-appeared to interview a Vietnam veteran tank commander. That interview eventually resulted in one of our best articles.

The first issue of the FSP was 10,000 copies. The magazine was printed black and white on newsprint by Old Colony Press located in Auburn, Mass. The early articles were primarily oriented to the spiritual, self-help, and music. Dale Sluter organized the first issue sales team which included Alan and Jane Harris, Melvin Weiner, Mike McCarty, Jon Haber, Larry Raffel, and others.

The second issue printing was 20,000 copies in three-color, also printed by Old Colony. It included more of the above plus some politics and two super hero comic strips, one created by Afan Sitagly-Manor and the other by Steve Heimoff. The advertisers were primarily Pioneer Valley retailers ranging from Brattleboro, Vt., to Amherst and Northampton, Mass.

Both issues were distributed around New England from an old, blue painted, school bus. Donna Oehmig and Alan Harris painted a long brightly colored rainbow, roof to wheels, on both sides along with the magazine name. Commune members looking to spend the day in Boston, Amherst, Brattleboro, Worcester, Springfield, etc., signed on to travel and sell the magazine on streets, college campuses and shopping malls throughout the area. These were primarily day trips leaving early in the morning and returning late into the night. These trips included Mike Scanlon who quickly became our distribution manager responsible for organizing and managing the trips and keeping the bus running with the help of Toby Keyes who ran the commune garage.

The third issue was an ambitious undertaking, 30,000 issues. Julie Howard and Darlene Cobleigh moved to New York City and sold national advertising. They closed several deals. Also, an ad was created and sold to Frye Boots a Massachusetts based company with a national distribution. The Frye Boot ad was created by commune members Steve Heimoff and Marty Liebman with Bonnie Goldstein as the model. It appeared in the third issue of the magazine. When we turned it into a large poster, it became Frye's first national ad which they displayed in retail outlets across the country. The magazine body was produced on 20lb. newsprint and offset printed by the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper. The issue cover was process color on heavy stock. The cover was printed by Vermont Printing of Brattleboro, Vt. The Brattleboro Reformer shipped the printed body to VP who then bound each cover and magazine body. The staff of the magazine was growing too. Bill Grabin helped with business, Dan and Jenny Brown who continued to work as distributors also contributed their talents as artists. Marty Leibman who had opened Lumiere Studios worked as photographer. Sue Spica became our accountant and office manager. Bruce Geisler and Anne Baker (VISTA girlfriend who became my spouse) became associate editors. Mitch Seiser became our music editor. Bruce and Mitch also hit the road traveling the entire East Coast, from Maine to Georgia setting up contracts for newsstand distribution thru a wide network of established regional magazine and newspaper distributers.

We also continued the distribution from the school bus. This team, calling themselves Anaconda Distributors, as responsible as any for the success of the magazine, was comprised of Mike Scanlon, Bill Grabin, Steve Wilhelm, Charlie Ribokas, Gordan Adams, Dan and Jenny Brown, Richard Safft, David DeGraffenreid, Irene White, Peter Harris, Carol Evans, myself (sometimes) and others who traveled up and down the East coast, occasionally, for up to two weeks at a time. At night, they would stay in homes of people they met along the way. Meals were whatever could be scraped together either from supplies on the bus or thru the generosity of their hosts. Road expenses like lunch, gas and tolls, tires, etc. were paid from the proceeds of their magazine sales. Wherever we had a major distributor some of the crew would cold call a local radio station and grab some live air time to tell our story and promote the magazine. College stations were especially receptive.

In Massachusetts, Anne, Bruce, and I did television appearances in the Boston and Springfield markets. This expansion phase all occurred in 1972 and '73. Unfortunately, with the fourth issue we greatly over-estimated the number of sales we could expect from newsstands. Of the 50,000 copies printed, in total we sold about 35,000 copies combined, probably less than 5000 of those were newsstand sales. It was also a time of escalating political/bureaucratic battles going on within the commune. The founder and his key people were looking to take control of all creative endeavors. Several businesses went under, FSP being one of them.

Looking back, that period has long been one of the greatest of my life. I still feel blessed to have had the shared experience of working with all those incredibly talented and positive people many of whom I am still friends with to this day. I hope you enjoy this collection of photos.

Scope and contents of the collection

The records for the Free Spirit Press that Jim Baker preserved offer a remarkable glimpse into a brief and intensely creative period of time in the history of the Brotherhood of the Spirit Commune and Renaissance Community. Generated mostly in preparation of the commune's publications, the manuscript material contains copies of the commune's by-laws and membership rolls, comments from community members on how they wished to be represented, and a story board for the brochure and series of quotes from community members to be included. The second half of the collection contains hundreds of images, mostly 35mm negatives, taken of or by the commune and its residents. The images depict the production and distribution of Free Spirit Press magazine, as well as the commune band (Spirit in Flesh, later called Rapunzel), but they also include several rolls of film taken by commune members of major rock and roll acts of the era, including the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Santana, Chuck Berry, Hot Tuna, and Fleetwood Mac.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: James Baker Free Spirit Press Collection (MS 834). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.

History of the Collection

Acquired from James Baker, Aug. 2014 (2014-102).

Processing Information

Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, Oct. 2014.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
Language
English
Related Materials

SCUA holds several other collections for intentional communities, including four that pertain to the Brotherhood of the Spirit and Renaissance Communities:


Series Descriptions
1969-2005


Most of the manuscript material in the Baker collection stems from an effort to produce a promotional brochure for the community in about 1973. The original draft of the brochure as conceived by community member Steve Wilhelm included a broadly cinematic discussion of life with the Brotherhood, and the Free Spirit Press crew sought out the opinions of other community members on what they would like to see in the brochure and how they should represent themselves. The accompanying copies of the community's by-laws and goals may be related to the project. Also included in this series are some interesting newsclippings from local and, to a lesser degree, national media covering the Brotherhood of the Spirit and communal living.

1969-1975


The photographs consist primarily of negatives of images used in Free Spirit Press publicity and publications, a few portraits and candid images of commune membes, and several rolls taken for hire by members of the community. From documenting the production and distribution of Free Spirit Press magazine to advertisements prepared for Frye Boots and other advertisers, the

Of special note are the numerous images of rock concerts in the months between December 1972 and March 1973, depicting top-drawer acts such as the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Hot Tuna, and Santana.

Contents List
Series 1. Manuscript and printed material
1969-2005


And yet there are people everywhere. . . [essay for the brochure]
1974

Box 1:1
Box label: Free Spirit Press negatives
ca.1975

Box 3:4
Free Spirit Press poster
1973

Box 1:2
Free Spirit Press: press card
ca.1973

Box 1:3
Metelica, Michael: Excerpts from Michael's meetings
ca.1974

Box 1:4
Miscellaneous ephemera and correspondence
ca.1973/1974

Box 1:5
Musicians (copy of sketch in ink and pencil, by Emily)
2005

Box 3:1
My essay on the Warwick experience
ca.1975

Box 1:6
Newsclippings: Babbitt, Elwood
1974/1978

Box 1:7
Newsclippings: Brotherhood of the Spirit
1969/1986

Box 1:8
Newsclippings: Metelica, Michael
1971/1977

Box 1:9
Newsclippings: Spirit in Flesh
1971/1973

Box 1:10
Newsclippings: True magazine ("Communes: togetherness Sixties style")
1969

Box 1:11
Communications team
ca.1974

Box 1:12
Rapunzel : poster for concert at Unity Park, Turners Falls, Mass.
1975

Box 3:3
Renaissance Community brochure (draft)
1973

Box 1:13
Renaissance Community brochure (draft): "A multi-faceted, international, creative movement"
ca.1973

Box 1:14
Renaissance Community brochure: comments from community members
ca.1973

Box 1:15
Renaissance Community brochure: comments from community members
ca.1973

Box 1:16
Renaissance Community brochure: proposal by Steve Wilhelm
ca.1973

Box 1:17
Renaissance Community By-laws
ca.1973

Box 1:18
Renaissance Community Goals
ca.1973

Box 1:19
Renaissance Community: interview excerpts
ca.1973

Box 1:20
Renaissance Community: interview questions
ca.1973

Box 1:21
Renaissance Community: membership list
ca.1973

Box 1:22
Series 2. Photographs
1969-1975


Atlanta, Ga.: Ellen Levine teaching deaf children
1972 Dec. 10

Box 2:1
Brotherhood Dodge advertisements
1973 Jan.

Box 2:2
Brow in studio, University of Maryland
1973 Jan.

Box 2:3
Cobley, Ron
1972 Nov. 1

Box 2:4
Concerts: Berry, Chuck, at Springfield, Mass.
1972 Dec. 12

Box 2:5
Concerts: Grateful Dead, at Springfield, Mass., Civic Center
1973 Mar. 28

Box 2:6
Concerts: Hollywood Speedway Rock Festival (Jo Jo Gunne, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop)
1972 Dec. 27

Box 2:7
Concerts: Hot Tuna
ca.1973

Box 2:8
Concerts: Jethro Tull
ca.1973

Box 2:9
Concerts: Mahal, Taj, in Northfield, Mass.
1973

Box 2:10
Concerts: Rapunzel
ca.1974

Box 2:11
Concerts: Santana, in Springfield, Mass.
1973 Feb. 29

Box 2:12
Concerts: Taylor, Livingston and Fleetwood Mac
ca.1973

Box 2:13
Fire, block in Greenfield, Mass.
1972 Dec. 27

Box 2:14
Free Spirit Press
ca.1973

Box 2:15
Free Spirit Press at Vermont printers
1973 Mar. 26

Box 2:16
Free Spirit Press office
ca.1973

Box 2:17
Free Spirit Press promotions and advertising
1973 Jan.-Feb.

Box 2:18
Frye Boots advertising
ca.1973

Box 2:19
Jim and Ann's wedding -- Spirit in Flesh
ca.1973

Box 2:20
John F. Kennedy airport
1972 Dec. 13

Box 2:21
Koss headphones advertisement
1972 Dec. 2

Box 2:22
Leather Shed (Amherst, Mass.): craft photo essay
1972

Box 2:23
Miscellaneous photographs
ca.1973

Box 2:24
New York City: Channel 5 gig, Central Park
1973 Jan.

Box 2:25
Open Door (WGBY, Channel 57, Springfield, Mass.)
1973 Apr. 3

Box 2:26
Open Door (WGBY, Channel 57, Springfield, Mass.): snapshots of video
ca.1973 Apr. 3

Box 2:27
Open Door (WGBY, Channel 57, Springfield, Mass.): camera crew
ca.1973 Apr. 3

Box 3:2
Poets Seat Tower, Greenfield, Mass.: architect's drawings by Paolo Soleri
1972 Oct. 25

Box 2:28
Portraits
ca.1973

Box 2:29
Renaissance Community: snapshots (color)
1973

Box 2:30
Renaissance Community: snapshots (color)
1973

Box 2:31
Southern trip
1972 Dec.

Box 2:32
Springfield, Mass.: paper trip
1972 Sept. 11

Box 2:33
UMass Amherst: by Bruce Geisler
1972 Nov. 3

Box 2:34
Unidentified contact sheets
ca.1973

Box 2:35
Unidentified negatives
ca.1973

Box 2:36
Warwick Woods (Mitch and Bruce)
1972 Dec. 19

Box 2:37
Weir, Bob: interview
1973 Mar. 28

Box 2:38

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Berry, Chuck--Photographs
  • Brotherhood of the Spirit Community--Photographs
  • Communal living--Massachusetts
  • Fleetwood Mac (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Grateful Dead (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Hot Tuna (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Jethro Tull (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Metelica, Michael
  • Rapunzel (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Renaissance Community--Photographs
  • Rock music--1971-1980--Photographs
  • Santana (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Spirit in Flesh (Musical group)--Photographs
  • Taj Mahal (Musician)--Photographs

Contributors
  • Free Spirit Press
  • Geisler, Bruce

Genre terms
  • Photographs


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
Home | Help | About | Search