May 16 – October 27, 2017

The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,”  the first exhibit in the Roberta Rubin Writers Room, displayed the iconic scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote the modern classic On The Road. Kerouac reportedly typed the scroll in three weeks, after years of planning and early drafts. This unusual production is representative of the Beat Generation’s hallmark rejection of societal norms. 

The "On the Road" Scroll, half-closed
Kerouac's "On the Road" scroll on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago
Kerouac's "On the Road" scroll on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago
The Jack Kerouac exhibit in the American Writers Museum's Writers Room
A bearded man unrolls the "On the Road" Scroll at the American Writers Museum

On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s novel about two friends crisscrossing the U.S. in search of adventure, was first published in 1957.
Its impact was immediate and profound. Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Gilbert Millstein called it “an authentic work
of art” and viewed its publication as “a historic occasion.” Bob Dylan, who first read On the Road in 1959, observed, “It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s.”

The now-classic book began as a sprawling manuscript scroll. Before the scroll, On the Road was a story Kerouac himself lived in a three-year journey across America and Mexico. Take an up-close look at Kerouac’s original scroll in a digital display at the Museum, and learn the stories behind the writing of this iconic novel.

This manuscript and accompanying digital file were loaned from the collection of James S. Irsay.

We would also like to thank the Estate of Anthony G. Sampatacacus and the Estate of Jan Kerouac.