Peace, Love, and a Bird Named Woodstock

above: poster for the current Peace Love and Woodstock exhibit


Ever since the early ’50s beginnings of “Peanuts,” creator Charles Schulz feathered his beloved comic strip with anonymous birds that popped in with mischievous, chirping whimsy. Yet it was two decades until a winged “Peanuts” creature finally got a name, becoming a fully nested character.


above: Peanuts June 22, 1970

On June 22, 1970, Schulz officially christened Snoopy’s little yellow friend Woodstock, naming him for the massive counterculture music festival that was staged 50 years ago this [month] on the farm in Bethel, New York.

Schulz was not particularly a fan of rock music — his record collection leaned toward classical and country-western — yet Life magazine’s coverage of the event caught his eye. The Minnesota-born cartoonist lived in the Bay Area, which had been the locus of the “Summer of Love” a couple of years before, but the tumultuous decade was mostly reflected only glancingly in the strip, through the mostly warm and fuzzy filter of situational humor.

Yet something about that word, amid the generational rise of a new youth culture, rather fascinated Schulz.

Therese Bottomly explores the possibilities in Charles Schulz christening Woodstock.


above: Peanuts April 4, 1967; the official debut of Woodstock


For the “Peace Love and Woodstock” exhibit, the Schulz Museum borrowed some historic festival memorabilia from New York’s Museum at Bethel Woods, including the original art for the “Aquarian Exposition” poster that features a white bird perched on a guitar neck. For his “3 Days of Peace & Music” paper cut-out artwork, Arnold Skolnick had been influenced by a Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.