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Finding aid to the Harvey Milk Letters to Joe Campbell, 1961-[1971]
GLC 20  
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related materials
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement note

  • Title: Harvey Milk Letters to Joe Campbell,
    Date (inclusive): 1961-[1971]
    Collection Identifier: GLC 20
    Creator: Milk, Harvey
    Physical Description: 61.0 folders
    Contributing Institution: James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: This collection contains 59 letters and cards from Harvey Milk to Joe Campbell; most were written after their romantic relationship ended.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The library holds copyright for letters written by Harvey Milk. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Harvey Milk Letters to Joe Campbell (GLC 20), Gay and Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    The collection was donated to the San Francisco Public Library in two accessions. Joe Campbell donated 29 letters in 1993; Callie Angell, of the Andy Warhol Film Project, donated an additional 32 letters and transcripts in 2006.

    Related materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19), the Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection (GLC 35) and the Randy Shilts Papers--The Mayor of Castro Street series (GLC 43), Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Biographical note

    Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician and gay rights activist, was born in Woodmere, New York on May 22, 1930. Joe Campbell was born on November 4, 1936. Milk and Campbell met at Riis Park Beach, Queens, New York in July 1956 and their relationship lasted into 1962. Much later Milk later moved to San Francisco, entered politics, and was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in 1978.
    In the 1960s Campbell was a member of the Andy Warhol crowd and was dubbed the "Sugar Plum Fairy" by Dorothy Dean, a friend from that set. Campbell appeared in the Warhol film My Hustler (1965) as the character Sugar Plum Fairy, and Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side (1972) contains a reference to Campbell by that moniker as well.
    Later Joe Campbell had a significant relationship with Oliver "Bill" Sipple, a former Marine. Sipple came into the public eye in 1975 for thwarting an assassination attempt on the life of Gerald Ford. Joe Campbell died on October 2, 2005.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection contains 59 letters and cards from Milk to Joe Campbell; most were written after their relationship ended and contain a "-san" suffix to both of their names. In many of the earlier letters, Milk tells how much he still cares for Campbell and how hurt Milk is that Campbell does not return his feelings. The letters from San Juan, Puerto Rico and Miami detail Milk's unsuccessful attempts to find work. The later letters contain advice for Campbell and his lover Oliver "Bill" Sipple, Milk's day-to-day activities with Jack Galen McKinley, reviews of opera and other musical events, and remarks on police harassment of gays and gay bars. About 10 are greeting cards for birthdays or Valentine's Day.
    The collection also contains the transcript of one letter from Dorothy Dean to Joe Campbell, and one folder of letters which are edited transcripts of portions of the Milk letters.

    Arrangement note

    The letters are arranged in chronological order. Square brackets indicate dates supplied by the archivist; some dates are approximations, others are drawn from postmarks or the contents of the letter. Undated letters and cards are filed at the end.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Campbell, Joe -- Correspondence
    Milk, Harvey -- Correspondence
    Gay men--United States--Biography