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  • Cassady's Joan Anderson letter comes to auction in December
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • AndersonCassady'sJoanletter

Cassady's Joan Anderson letter comes to auction in December

The letter that inspired Jack Kerouac's On the Road, a Neal Cassady missive known as the Joan Anderson letter, is to be sold at auction for the first time on December 17 at Profiles in History.

Neal Cassady
Neal Cassady could have been a renowned literary figure had the letter been published



The 19-page rambling letter by the enigmatic Neal Cassady - the inspiration behind one of On the Road's main characters - describes a trip to his hometown in Denver. On reading the letter, Jack Kerouac scrapped his draft copy of On the Road, deciding to imitate its sprawling stream of consciousness style.

On the Road is the defining novel of the Beat generation, and inspired countless numbers of disaffected American youths to travel the country.

A famous piece of literary history, it was thought to have been lost, with Kerouac telling the Paris Review that poet and fellow Beat generation writer Allen Ginsberg had dropped it while visiting a friend who lived on a houseboat.

However, the letter somehow found its way to the archives of the now-defunct Golden Goose Press, whose entire archive features in the sale. A music label owner, who shared an office with publisher Richard Wirtz Emerson, rescued the items before they were thrown in the trash.  

"My father didn't know who Allen Ginsberg was, he didn't know Cassady, he wasn't part of the Beat scene, but he loved poetry," said Los Angeles performance artist Jean Spinosa, who found the letter as she was cleaning out her late father's house two years ago.

"He didn't understand how anyone would want to throw someone's words out."

Neal Cassady achieved some fame as the hero of Kerouac's novel, as well as during his stint driving for Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, which was detailed in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

However, many speculate that he could have become a renowned figure on San Francisco's thriving literary scene had the letter ever been published. It is believed that Ginsberg tried to make this happen by sending the letter to Golden Goose.

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  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • AndersonCassady'sJoanletter