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Finding aid to the Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection, 1930-1995 GLC 35
GLC 35  
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related materials
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1930-1995
    Date (bulk): 1973-1985
    Collection Identifier: GLC 35
    Creator: Milk, Harvey
    Physical Description: 28 cubic feet
    Contributing Institution: James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4400
    Abstract: Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Scott Smith was his partner and friend. The collection documents the personal and political life of Harvey Milk, and the personal life of Scott Smith. Milk's political papers include issue files from the Board of Supervisors, as well as speeches and campaign literature. The photographs document Milk's and Smith's activities in the gay community.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours.

    Publication Rights

    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 copyright holder.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection (GLC 35), LGBTQIA Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    The Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection was donated to The San Francisco Public Library by Elva Smith in 1996. In August 2019, Maurice Belote donated an audiorecording of Milk's "political will." In February 2020, the folder "Harvey Milk Service Record [United States Navy]" was added (Box 2, Folder 59). It contains records released under the Freedom of Information Act by Navy Personnel Command. These records include enlistment documents, orders, reports, and documents related to Milk's "other than honorable" discharge from the United States Navy in 1955. In October 2021, the "Harvey B. Milk" mortuary record from Halsted & Co. was donated by SFGenealogy.

    Related materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also: Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch Correspondence (GLC 19); Harvey Milk-Joseph Campbell Correspondence (GLC 20); Randy Shilts Papers (GLC 43)--Mayor of Castro Street series; Mike Weiss Double Play Collection (SFH 34); and, Daniel Nicoletta Photographs Collection (GLC 36). The San Francisco History Center's Biography Ephemera files contain folders on Harvey Milk, George Moscone, and Dan White.

    Biographical note

    Harvey Bernard Milk was born on May 22,1930, in Woodmere, New York. His parents were Minerva Karns and William Milk. His older brother was Robert Milk. Harvey graduated from the New York State Teachers College at Albany in 1951. He was in the U.S. Navy until 1955. He then worked briefly in New York on Wall Street and eventually became involved with the Tom O'Horgan shows Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. He moved out to San Francisco in the early 1970s.
    Harvey's political aspirations began with his unsuccessful campaigns for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1973 and 1975. Mayor George Moscone appointed Milk to the city's Board of Permit Appeals in 1976 though he had to resign from that position in the same year when he announced his candidacy for the California State Assembly. He lost the Assembly race as well. He was elected to the Board of Supervisors in November 1977. On January 9, 1978, Milk was sworn into office.
    While in office, he cosponsored a gay rights ordinance, and was interested in the creation of a gay community center. His Supervisor issue files cover a wide variety of topics from the Briggs Initiative (Proposition 6) and divestment from South Africa to San Francisco parking facilities and the much-publicized Dog Litter law. Milk's life was cut short when Dan White assassinated him on November 27, 1978.
    There are several biographical works about Milk. Most notable is The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. The documentary The Times of Harvey Milk by Robert Epstein and Richard Schmeichen is also an excellent resource. Double Play by Mike Weiss recounts the killings of Milk and Moscone and includes transcripts of police documents. All of these books and videotapes are available in the San Francisco Public Library. The archival research for Double Play is also available at the San Francisco History Center of the San Francisco Public Library.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection is a mixture of the personal papers of Harvey Milk and Scott Smith, the political papers of Harvey Milk, and the collection of the Harvey Milk Archives and Harvey Milk Estate. As Smith was the head of the Milk Archives and also Milk's executor, the latter materials have been organized into one series. The political papers and photographs series are the best documented portions of the collection. The political papers include drafts of speeches and writings, as well as the flyers and other ephemera which a campaign produces. There is unfortunately not much on Milk's early life though there are a few documents on his mother. With the exception of the photographs, the bulk of the collection documents Milk's life on the West Coast.


    The collection is arranged into six series: Series 1. Harvey Milk's personal papers; Series 2. Harvey Milk's political papers; Series 3. Scott Smith's personal papers; Series 4. Materials relating to the Harvey Milk Archives and his estate; Series 5. Photographic materials; and Series 6. Clippings and ephemera. Most series are arranged alphabetically by folder title, and materials are filed chronologically within each folder; the photographic series is organized by slide program when possible, and by folder title in all other cases.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Milk, Harvey--Archives.
    Smith, Scott (Joseph Scott)--Archives.
    Gay liberation movement--California--San Francisco.
    Gay politicians--California--San Francisco.
    Gays--Political activity--California--San Francisco.
    Nineteen seventies.
    Politicians--California--San Francisco.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Politics and government--20th century
    Speeches, addresses, etc., American.