Podcast | Meet Ernest Darling, the proto-hippie of 1907

The Portland-born 'Nature Man' was a regular kid until an illness inspired him to shed his clothes and take to the woods. Fame followed.

Archival photo of a man posing in a tropical setting

Ernest Darling in tropical garb, 1907. (The Huntington Library)

On the desk of Crosscut's resident historian Knute Berger sits a black-and-white photograph of a man with a kind of contemporary look. He is standing, bearded, in what looks like a tropical setting. And he’s wearing a mesh crop top. 

This is Ernest Darling, and the photo, surprisingly, was taken in 1908. "He looks like someone I went to college with at the Evergreen State College in 1972," says Berger. 

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Darling did go to college, at Stanford, but dropped out and became a wanderer in a loincloth, living off the land, inspiring numerous newspaper articles and even striking up a friendship with adventurer and author Jack London. 

In a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, Berger tells the story of Darling and his rise to fame as an early-20th-century curiosity. 

But there is more to the story. For this episode of the Mossback podcast, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss Darling's origins, his various sojourns and the difficulties the proto-hippie faced as he challenged the conventions of his time.

Before listening, we suggest you watch the Mossback's Northwest episode about movies made in Seattle here.


About the Hosts

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.