March 2018 - September 2018

Pioneering Periodicals (1940s-1950s)

GLBT Historical Society

The Periodicals Collection of the GLBT Historical Society focuses primarily on Northern California. Because few of the LGBTQ titles published before 1970 are available in other research institutions, we also preserve national and international LGBTQ periodicals from that era. Our collection continues growing with the addition of both historic and new publications. 

Shawger's Illiterary Digest; No. 22 (March 1945); Page 1, Unknown, 1945-03, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society
Restrictions and Prejudice
Until well after World War II, legal restrictions and social prejudice posed insurmountable barriers to periodicals advocating on behalf of LGBTQ people in the United States. The first such publication, Friendship and Freedom, makes this clear: Produced in Chicago in 1924–1925, the newsletter was banned by police and postal authorities after just two issues. No copies are known to exist.
Shawger's Illiterary Digest; No. 22 (March 1945); Page 1, Unknown, 1945-03, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

Shawger's Illiterary Digest
No. 22 (March 1945)
City & editor unknown

An unknown gay GI created this gossipy newsletter, which he apparently sent privately to other gay servicmemembers he met during WW II.

Shawger's Illiterary Digest; No. 22 (March 1945); Page 2, Unknown, 1945-03, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

Shawger's Illiterary Digest
No. 22 (Mar 1945)
City & editor unknown

Vice Versa; Vol. 1, No. 9 (Feb 1948): Cover, Lisa Ben, 1948-02, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society
Building a Network
Despite this hostile environment, LGBTQ Americans continued looking for ways to communicate beyond direct personal interactions. Glimmers of these efforts appear in three periodicals displayed here: Shawger’s Illiterary Digest (1945–1946) and Vice Versa (1947–1948) circulated privately in a tiny number of copies, while The Hobby Directory (1948) reached wider networks, but with its queer content coyly coded.
Vice Versa; Vol. 1, No. 9 (Feb 1948): Page 1, Lisa Ben, 1948-02, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

Vice Versa
Vol. 1, No. 9 (Feb 1948)
Los Angeles

Lisa Ben (pseudonym of Edythe Eyde, 1921–2015) produced in just 12 copies per issue to share with her circle of friends in the lesbian bars of LA

Hobby Directory; No 5 (June 1948); Cover, 1948-06, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

The Hobby Directory
No. 5 (June 1948)
South Orange, N.J.

Hobby Directory; No 5 (June 1948); Pages 6 & 7, 1948-06, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

Published by F. Willard Ewing (1896–1984), The Hobby Directory provided information for enthusiasts of men’s hobbies such as woodworking—but also included classified ads, many of them coded personals from gay men indicating “contacts desired.”

ONE; Vol. 3, No. 4 (April 1955), One Inc., 1955-04, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society
Organizing Against Persecution
By the 1950s, homophile associations were forming around the United States to organize against the persecution of gay men and lesbian women. The groups viewed periodicals as a key means of attracting members and communicating their message to a wider public. Despite the risks, the three leading organizations—the Mattachine Society, ONE Inc. and the Daughters of Bilitis—launched their own journals. The fear of censorship was real: The postmaster general of Los Angeles seized the October 1954 issue of ONE magazine, declaring the quite tame publication to be "obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy." One Inc. fought back in the courts. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court in One Inc. v Olesen overturned the finding by the Post Office.
ONE; Vol. 3, No. 4 (April 1955), One Inc., 1955-04, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

ONE
Vol. 3, No. 4 (April 1955)
Los Angeles: One Inc.

The Ladder; Vol. 2, No. 5 (Feb 1958), Daughters of Bilitis, 1958-02, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society
Establishing the Right to Communicate
Released just 60 years ago in 1958, the ruling established the right to send pro-LGBTQ periodicals through the mail, thus enabling the creation of national organizing networks and laying the groundwork for commercial LGBTQ magazines and newspapers. Subsequent court rulings in the 1960s opened the door to publication and distribution of homoerotic periodicals. As mass media and print culture evolved from the 1960s into the 1970s, LGBTQ periodicals increased in variety, visibility and readership: more personal ads and product ads appeared, as did more physique and porn magazines, and more advocacy and news periodicals. At the height of the era of print as a means of mass communication, LGBTQ periodicals grew to reach readers throughout the United States and beyond.
The Ladder; Vol. 2, No. 5 (Feb 1958), Daughters of Bilitis, 1958-02, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

The Ladder
Vol. 2, No. 5 (February 1958)
San Francisco: Daughters of Bilitis

The monthly journal of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in the United States, the review was published from 1956 until 1972. It was the third nationally distributed magazine produced by what was then known as the homophile movement.

Mattachine Review; No 2 (Mar-Apr 1955), Mattachine Society, 1955, From the collection of: GLBT Historical Society

Mattachine Review
No. 2 (March-April 1955)
Los Angeles: Mattachine Society

The monthly journal of the Mattachine Society, the first enduring homosexual organization in the United States, the review was published in San Francisco from 1955 until 1967. It was the second nationally distributed magazine produced by what was then known as the homophile movement.

Credits: Story

Curated by Joanna Black, Director of Archives & Special Collections, and Jeremy Prince, Director of Exhibitions & Museum Operations.

On view at the GLBT Historical Society Museum, March-September 2018.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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