Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center

Friday, January 22, 2016

Digital Transgender Archive Is Now Live

We at the Hormel Center received word today that The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) has just launched its website!

The purpose of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world.


Please visit the site and explore the materials that are already online. The DTA has a number of items available via the Internet Archive, which will be incorporated into the site in the coming months. 

Note that this is a preliminary launch and the DTA is just beginning to grow its collections. Please check back often to see what's new! Feel free to contact them with any comments, suggestions, or feedback. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Stafford and Jordy (Photographer: Chloe Atkins)
The Hormel Center is thrilled to be one of the 9 institutions represented in the DTA from the outset. Finding aids for several of our collections with trans content are posted on the DTA. One of those is the Chloe Atkins Photographs Collection (GLC 38)

Drag Kings: BJ
(Photographer: Chloe Atkins)
Chloe's images feature individuals who explore different facets of gender expression. The Atkins Photographs Collection (GLC 38) is available during Photo Collection hours through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trannyshack's David Bowie Tributes

David Bowie Tribute, June 2008























Bowie Night flyer, June 2002
Since his death on Sunday, there have been many loving tributes to the life and music of David Bowie (1947-2016). His performances were unforgettable. And his fluid approach to gender made him an icon in the LGBT community.

The club Trannyshack, founded by Steven Grygelko a.k.a. Heklina, was staged every Tuesday at midnight at the Stud, a South of Market gay bar in San Francisco. It ran from 1996-2008 and had occasional tribute nights that celebrated the music of a single performer such as Madonna, Annie Lennox, Blondie and Cher.

Club Gossip vs. Trannyshack! September 2006
Naturally David Bowie was in that number. In fact, between 2002 and 2008, there are four flyers featuring Bowie--more than any other musician! (Don't worry. Madonna, Cher, and Annie Lennox ran a close second.)

We've included the four Bowie flyers as our own tribute. Two of the events were birthday celebrations for club founder Heklina. Who wouldn't want to be part of the Bowie lip-synch war? And I just wish I'd been there for the "Trannyshack! Interpretation of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars."

Trannyshack! Interpretation of Ziggy Stardust
& the Spiders from Mars, July 2007

You can find these flyers/posters (and many more) in the Trannyshack Collection (GLC 58) which is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. So go ahead. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues away by visiting the archives.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Patricia Highsmith's Yuletide Carol

The recent release of the movie Carol has been heralded by a few articles about its author, Patricia Highsmith, and the book upon which it is based. With its five Golden Globe nominations, Carol has now garnered even more attention for this lesbian love story set in the 1950s.

Many of us recognize Highsmith's name in connection with her suspense novels Strangers on a Train (1950) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), both of which were made into feature films. However her name is less well known for Carol. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that the book was originally published as The Price of Salt (1952) and under the pseudonym Claire Morgan.

The library has several editions of the book published between 1952-2015 and under various combinations of author and title. It turns out that the 1984 edition was printed by Naiad Press. When I looked in the Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30), I found letters between Grier, Highsmith and her literary agents that begin in 1965 and, with some long gaps, continue into the 1990s. As a whole, the correspondence sheds light on Highsmith, the book, and its influence on many readers from 1952 on.

Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30)
In the 1950s, pseudonyms were not uncommon for authors of LGBT works. Naiad Press publisher Barbara Grier used several pen names, such as Gene Damon, when she wrote reviews and articles for The Ladder, the official publication of the Daughters of Bilitis. So it's not surprising that Highsmith and her agents preferred to keep her own name connected with the suspense genre and Morgan with the lesbian genre. It was not until 1990, 38 years later, that Highsmith agreed to publish the book under her own name.

One thoughtful addition to the 1984 Naiad Press edition is an afterword by Claire Morgan. The afterword provides an introduction to what the 1940s and '50s was like for homosexuals. It also examines why The Price of Salt, with its positive ending, was so important to its readers.

Claire Morgan's Afterword to The Price of Salt/Carol, October 1983.
Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30)


As I read through the files, I knew I would find material about the reprinting of the book. What I had not expected to find was a letter from Grier to Highsmith written in 1965!

Barbara Grier to Patricia Highsmith, November 5, 1965
Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30)
It is admittedly a fan letter but it also demonstrates Grier's characteristic frankness: will there be another Claire Morgan novel and "if not, why not?" I also love Grier's assertion that an original hardcover of The Price of Salt sells for $25. Especially in light of the fact that the Bantam paperback sold for 25 cents! Priceless!

Highsmith's reply is elegant, informative and moving.

Patricia Highsmith to Barbara Grier, November 15, 1965
Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30)
I was intrigued to learn that there was a Hollywood option that was dropped by 1965. You might be interested to know that The Price of Salt (1953), like Strangers on a Train (1951), was reprinted by Bantam as a pulp novel. Strangers on a Train was made into a movie in 1951. By contrast The Price of Salt, with its hope-filled love story between two women, was made into a movie in 2015. While this may be proof that good things come to those who wait...um...63 years. It might be more accurate to say that the film studios have finally seen the true value of The Price of Salt / Carol.

The Bantam edition of The Price of Salt and the correspondence files in the Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection (GLC 30) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. Other editions of The Price of Salt can be requested at the paging desk on the 3rd floor or in the Fiction section on the 1st floor, Main Library.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Uncovering Carol Doda Ephemera

The death of Carol Doda last week left me with a sneaking suspicion that I had seen a few treasures in the Hormel Center's archives about her. Due to her fame as a straight topless entertainer at the Condor Club, it may seem surprising (as it was to me!) that there would be anything at all about her in the LGBT collections. But this is an example of how archives promote unexpected and revealing connections.

The Rise and Fall of the World poster, January 1972
Kreemah Ritz Papers (GLC 79)























To address my curiosity, I checked the Online Archive of California under San Francisco Public Library and searched for "Doda." I found three collections with Doda material: the Kreemah Ritz Papers (GLC 79), the Peter Mintun Cockettes Collection (GLC 78), and the San Francisco Biography Collection in the San Francisco History Center.

My first stop was the Ritz Papers where I discovered a poster for Arthur Meyer's film The Rise and Fall of the World (as Seen From a Sexual Position). Miss Carol Doda was the star and the poster advertised the film's "world sneak premiere" and live stage show in January 1972. The event took place at the Palace Theatre, the home of many Cockettes productions. And the poster by Todd Trexler exhibits the same characteristic style which one can see in his artwork for other Nocturnal Dream Shows productions.

A connection to the Cockettes seems likely.

Carol Doda rehearsal, January 1972
Peter Mintun Cockettes Collection (GLC 78)

I next checked the Peter Mintun Cockettes Collection and found a real treat...a photo labeled "Carol Doda rehearsal, 1/1972." Based on the date, it seems safe to assume that this was a rehearsal for the live show. Though uncredited, the photo was probably taken by Mintun who was a regular piano accompanist for the Cockettes at that time.

Hmm...another Cockettes connection...but nothing, ahem, explicit.

Press release, San Francisco Biography Collection
San Francisco History Center

My last stop was to look through the file on Doda in the San Francisco History Center's San Francisco Biography Collection. The file includes newspaper clippings and other ephemera--including a press release for the film's world premiere in June 1972! It's described as "an erotic satire that parodies the styles of Fellini, Busby Berkeley and Woody Allen." I'm intrigued. It was filmed in and around San Francisco. And the press release notes that the film features cameo roles by the Cockettes. Now the connection between Carol Doda and these Hormel Center archival collections is fully revealed.

San Francisco Examiner clippings
San Francisco History Center

Of course, the unasked and unanswered question for me was: how was the film received? So I checked the San Francisco Examiner newspaper clippings morgue and found a few reviews. The film was not award-winning and was very gently critiqued by Stanley Eichelbaum and Jeanne Miller. Regardless of what one thinks of the film, its star Carol Doda left a lasting impression on San Francisco history and was a cameo player in its LGBT history, too.

San Francisco Examiner clippings
San Francisco History Center
It was an easy task to find these items but it required a little detective work to piece together the whole story. Archival collections often contain a few critical parts of the larger picture. It's the job of the curious researcher to uncover additional facts and connections to complete the rough sketch.

The Kreemah Ritz Papers (GLC 79), the Peter Mintun Cockettes Collection (GLC 78), and the San Francisco Biography Collection are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

T-Shirts Put the Text in Textile

Workers Conference Against Briggs/Proposition 6, [1978]

Admit it.

You have a drawer full of T-shirts at home.

Maybe even more than one!

Don't sweat it.

You are not alone.

I have a few drawers of T-shirts and I can't bear to part with some because of their sentimental value. A few are as unsullied as the day I got them. While most are well loved, threadbare, and stained--but clean!

So why am I writing about T-shirts?

Gay Freedom Day, 1978
Well, it might surprise you to know that the Hormel Center archives contain more than just paper, photographs, and audio-visual recordings. We have clothing here, too. Most of it in the form of T-shirts!

Though often dismissed as less important than their paper counterparts, T-shirts document particular moments in time through a combination of text, graphic design, and fabric. They are the wearable version of banners, leaflets, broadsides, and posters.

Lesbians & Gays of African Descent for Democratic Action, undated

Rubys, undated
I've selected a handful of shirts from the Nancy Tucker T-Shirt Collection (GLC 25). Usually these were produced to celebrate an event or organization. Gay pride parades, film festivals, walk-a-thons, bars and dance clubs, rallies, marches, and political actions are a few of the subjects that T-shirts memorialize. You'll notice a few of the annual Pride parades, the bar Rubys, Pets Are Wonderful Support, LGADDA, Living Sober, and a rally against the Briggs Initiative.

PAWS, Pets Are Wonderful Support, San Francisco, undated

Living Sober, San Francisco, 1986
The Nancy Tucker T-shirt Collection is not the only collection with T-shirts. The Barbara Grier-Naiad Press Collection also has a large number of shirts for Naiad press books, lesbian bookstores, and events. Several smaller collections contain T-shirts as well. These pieces of memorabilia usually get worn to threads and then turned into rags for house cleaning. Fortunately, some folks have saved their T-shirts and given them to the library.

Gay Freedom Day, San Francisco, 1980

San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade & Celebration, 1994

Film historian Jenni Olson brought a great website to my attention. Wearing Gay History has a fantastic database with images of T-shirts and additional information on creators, dates, etc. I have had a wonderful time exploring the images there. It contains photos of shirts from several different libraries and archives.

Freedom '92 [San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day, 1992]
What's fun about shirts, and any other sort of memorabilia, is that they are produced for a specific event. Those memories bubble to the surface when we wear, hold or see these items again. It is a way to reminisce that engages our visual and tactile senses. And it's proof that a historical document can be written on fabric just as easily as on paper. I invite you to take a moment today to look through your T-shirt drawer. And remember.

The Nancy Tucker T-Shirt Collection (GLC 25) is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teach Your Children Well

Texas--Action Alerts (GLC 104 Box 8), [1994]
It's Banned Books Week. And I have a short story about censorship to share. It's tucked inside the folders of the Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records (GLC 104). So it might have escaped your notice.

In 1994 Holt, Rinehart and Winston published the school texbook Holt Health. The Texas Board of Education (BOE) considered it for adoption statewide. After examining the book, the Texas BOE submitted "corrections" to Holt for the book's references to homosexuality, the use of condoms, some anatomical drawings, etc. The BOE felt that the book advocated homosexuality, the use of condoms, etc. They did not agree that such references were simply factual information provided to educate youth. Holt refused to make the changes, refused to censor the book. As a result, Holt, Rinehart and Winston lost a great deal of revenue from the $7.5 million Texas textbook market.


Texas--Action Alerts (GLC 104 Box 8)
Naturally, there is more to this story than the final act. When I looked through the Texas files in the collection, I found clippings, letters and reports that throw additional light on the context of this story. There's a 1991 article about the Texas BOE that emphasizes the importance of accurate information in textbooks. It reminds us that textbooks and curricula lay the groundwork for the next generation. Then there's Robert Birle's letter in early 1992 that describes GLAAD's presentation to the Texas BOE, textbook publishers, and others. The letter captures the excitement of the moment. Taken all together, it is interesting, eye-opening, and well-documented activism.


This story demonstrates the positive effect that can be realized with diligence and hard work. It is just one example of the advocacy that was the hallmark of GLAAD's Project 21 and the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project.

Robert Birle letter to Jessea Greenman, January 16, 1992

The Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records (GLC 104) document the activity of the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project, and its predecessor GLAAD's Project 21. P.E.R.S.O.N. stands for Public Education Regarding Sexual Orientation Nationally. Both projects worked to ensure that the public schools in the United States would present fair, unbiased and accurate information regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and about the nature and diversity of sexual orientation. Jessea Greenman was a principal team member of both projects.

P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Manual, page 1
The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records contain correspondence, reports, newspaper and magazine clippings, and information collected on textbook policies throughout the United States. In addition there are books, training manuals, and audio-visual materials on the subject of GLBT issues. The collection is strongest in its coverage of California, Texas, and the Mid-America Region.

The GLAAD Project 21 series appears to be a combination of Jessea Greenman's and Robert Birle's files. The most voluminous material documents the success of the lobbying and activism for health textbook reform in the State of Texas. In addition, there is research material on numerous subjects that directly relate to the GLBT community and youth. These subjects include AIDS and HIV, the Boy Scouts of America, gender issues, family life, sex education, hate violence, religion and religious opposition, students, and suicide. As I looked through the subject files, I was reminded of the furor caused by Bert and Ernie's cohabitation. It shows that nothing was too small to clip when it concerned youth and their awareness of LGBT issues.

There are additional materials on organizations, such as GLAAD and PFLAG, with a focus on youth and/or GLBT issues, and on the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's volunteers and organizational manual.  The Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

The James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center is excited to welcome Lillian Faderman to the Main Library on Wednesday, September 30th at 6pm for a talk about her new book, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle.

Lillian Faderman is a historian, educator and award-winning author.  Notable titles in her oeuvre include Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America and To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America--A History.   

In The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, Faderman documents the struggle for gay acceptance and equality in the United States, beginning with the time when all gay people where considered criminals, to the years of bold activism when gay people fought against oppression, and leading up to the recent court victories for gay rights.  Now is the perfect time to learn your gay history and celebrate the gay revolution!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Frederick Rolfe Collection

In December 2014, Barbara (Mrs. Rocco) Verrilli donated a small collection of letters, a book, and some manuscript pages written by English author Frederick Rolfe. Also known as Baron Corvo, Rolfe was a gay writer, artist, and photographer.

His name was initially unfamiliar to us. However, a quick catalog search revealed a number of books written about him and many works written by him. We were intrigued.

Rolfe was born in London on July 22, 1860. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1886 and felt himself called to the priesthood. Though he was never ordained a priest, the desire persisted throughout his life.

From 1895 to 1899 Rolfe lived in Holywell in North Wales, where he painted a number of processional banners for the church. He died in Venice, Italy on October 25, 1913. His life provided the basis for The Quest for Corvo (1934) by A. J. A. Symons.

The letters in the Rocco Verrilli Collection of Frederick Rolfe Correspondence and Manuscripts (GLC 97) address the publication and reception of his work, his financial difficulties, Catholics and Catholicism, photography, and the Order of Sanctissima Sophia. There are also a few letters from James Walsh to Rolfe biographer A. J. A. Symons.

Letter from Frederick William Rolfe, Hotel Victoria, Holywell
to the Rev. W. E. Scott-Hall, Staverton Fields, Oxford, Dec[ember] 28, 1898

Frederick Rolfe spent most of his life as a freelance writer and relied on benefactors for support. As we can see in the letter above, Rolfe declines an invitation from Scott-Hall to spend a week with him in Wales, due in part to Rolfe's impoverished state. He discusses his desire for literary fame and his feeling towards Catholicism. "I have no quarrel with the Catholic faith. It is that only which has kept me from slitting my gizzard in sheer despair of solitude." 

Tarcissus cover.
Other materials in the collection include a pamphlet-sized book Tarcissus: The Boy Martyr of Rome (Saffron Walden, Essex, 1880) and a few manuscripts. One manuscript is an autobiographical piece that details Rolfe's literary output and his often-contentious relationships with publishers and co-authors. In it Rolfe refers to Owen Thomas, Barnard and Taylor, the Reverend Robert Hugh Benson, C. H. C. Pirie-Gordon, and their efforts, or lack thereof, on Rolfe's behalf. Rolfe also gives a brief account of his life in Venice (1908-1910) and the writing of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole.

Autobiographical manuscript, page 1, [circa 1910]

In a number of his stories and novels Rolfe himself is the thinly-disguised protagonist. His better known works include: Stories Toto Told Me (1898), later republished as In His Own Image (1901); Hadrian the Seventh (1904); and The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (written 1910-1913, published 1934). His other works include the Chronicles of the House of Borgia (1901), and two books in collaboration with Harry Pirie-Gordon. The library has some editions of Rolfe's books: The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole: a Romance of Modern VeniceHadrian the Seventh; and Stories Toto Told Me, among others.

Based on the letters in the collection and his biographers, Frederick Rolfe seems to be quite a colorful character. For the curious, check out The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography by A. J. A. Symons; Corvo: Saint or Madman? by Donald Weeks; A bibliography of Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo by Cecil Woolf; and Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo: a Biography by Miriam J. Benkovitz.

And for those who would like to peruse some of his original letters and manuscripts, the Rocco Verrilli Collection of Frederick Rolfe Correspondence and Manuscripts (GLC 97) is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.