This article was written by Phineas Upham
Burning Man started as an act of “radical self-expression” according to its creator, Larry Harvey. He was with some friends at a bonfire solstice celebration in San Francisco, when the group decided to burn a 9-foot tall man made of wood. They also built a smaller wooden dog to go along with the man.
The figure grew a little bit each year, reaching 15 feet in 1987 and 40 feet by 1980.
The attendees of these early gatherings named the wooden structure simply “The Man,” which is a name still carried into each festival. To avoid people confusing the festival with the film “The Wicker Man,” Harvey called his creation “The Burning Man.”
Meanwhile, a separate festival was developing in the desert north of Reno. This festival was to take place at Black Rock Desert. During that same time, the beach burners were having troubles with the law. They lacked the permits necessary to continue burning the man.
The man of 1990 was built in a vacant lot. It was disassembled after the beach festival and returned to the lot, where Harvey and others reassembled it after hearing about the Black Rock Desert gathering.
A group went out into the desert in 1991, equipped with a permit from the Bureau of Land Management, with two simple rules: “Don’t interfere with anyone else’s immediate experience,” and “no guns allowed in central camp.”
The festival still continues, and is famous for being the onus of many tech companies. The founders of Google met Eric Schmidt at Burning Man.
About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his LinedIn page.