Smoking bananas and fake news

Sue Elphinstone, Collection Development Manager in the Library, investigates early fake news articles from the 1960s underground press. This information and more is available in the new Independent Voices database.


"Fake News Figure", 2017. Cropped from a
Library of Congress illustration from the
magazine Puck, by Stuart Rankin.
(CC BY-NC 2.0)
Underground newspapers are a rich source of information, and fake news is nothing new. “One of the most entertaining rumors to which underground papers contributed was 'The Great Banana Hoax of 1967'", as described by historian John McMillan (McMillian, John Campbell. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, Oxford University Press, 2011.)

In the Spring of 1967, publishers of underground papers printed a recipe for smoking banana peels.
The belief was that smoking it produced a similar experience to that of smoking marijuana. The recipe involved freezing the peels, blending them into a pulp, baking the residue at 200 degrees, and then smoking it in a cigarette or pipe.

We know about this because the Berkeley Barb is one of the many underground newspapers newly available online through Independent Voices - read the banana hoax article (The Berkeley Barb, March 17, 1967, pg 3) or the blog that this information is contained in.

"Andy Warhol's Bananas", 2014.
Photograph by Mark Seton. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.

Independent Voices is still a work in progress, but currently represents the largest digital collection of alternative press periodicals, with over 1,000 titles and 750,000 pages. It is made available as part of an innovative library crowdfunding model. Content is hosted on the Reveal Digital platform. The University of York has pledged and in the UK half of the amount pledged will go towards the digitisation of UK alternative press content for future inclusion in Independent Voices. Full access to Independent Voices is available exclusively to funding libraries until December 2018. The collection will then become entirely open access from January 2019.

Users may register for an account that will allow them to save links to images and save searches. The link to sign up for an account may be found at the top of the Independent Voices home page. Further information about Independent Voices is also available via your academic liaison librarian.

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