The Joan Anderson Letter: Gerd Stern and Mike McQuate

The finding of ‘The Joan Anderson Letter’ written by Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac in December, 1950 is a critically important event in the history of The Beat Generation. It has been called ‘The Holy Grail’ of The Beat Generation because it was this letter that caused Kerouac to radically shift his style of writing and 4 months later in April, 1951 is when he blasted out the ‘scroll’ version of his best selling novel On the Road.

On December 1, 2014 The Beat Museum hosted a press conference along with Profiles in History to announce the letter would go to auction on December 17, 2014. Before that auction could occur legal action by the estates of both Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady halted the auction.

Gerd Stern has been the man who, for over fifty years, was blamed for losing the letter. Mike McQuate is the man who was with Jean Spinosa (the woman in whose father’s house the letter was found) when they discovered the letter in 2012. At first neither Spinosa nor McQuate knew what the letter was but Mike’s knowledge of Ginsberg, Cassady & Kerouac caused them to take a closer look at the document that otherwise might have been tossed back in a box and never seen again.

Because Gerd Stern travelled to California from his home in New Jersey to visit family over this Holiday Season we deemed Saturday, December 27, 2014 as a fantastic opportunity to have both Gerd & Mike in to discuss the letter from their unique perspectives. Gerd hoped to meet Jean Spinosa at this event and she was invited, along with the Cassady family, but they all understandably declined the invitation, we’re assuming due to the pending litigation.

We at The Beat Museum wish everyone involved in this very unique & public moment regarding the letter well and we hope everyone who wants to read this important document will one day have the opportunity to do so.

Our thanks to MisterWA for this video production preserving this important discussion for posterity.

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