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Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch 1956-1962
GLC 19  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred citation note
  • Provenance note
  • Related collections
  • Biographical note
  • Historical note
  • Scope and contents note
  • Arrangement note

  • Title: Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch
    Date (inclusive): 1956-1962
    Collection Identifier: GLC 19
    Creator: Milk, Harvey
    Physical Description: 31.0 folders
    Contributing Institution: James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: The letters document Harvey Milk's activities in Miami, Dallas, and New York and his relationships with Joe Campbell and John Harvey. Milk was the first openly gay candidate elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Susan Davis Alch was a friend he met in San Diego, Calif.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research.

    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 owner of the physical items.

    Preferred citation note

    Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19), Gay and Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Provenance note

    The Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch were donated by the Library Foundation of San Francisco on February 19, 1997.

    Related collections

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection (GLC 35) and the Harvey Milk Letters to Joe Campbell (GLC 20), Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Biographical note

    Milk was the first openly gay candidate elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Susan Davis Alch was a friend he met in San Diego, Calif.

    Historical note

    After completing his stint in the Navy, Harvey Milk spent the fall and winter of 1955 in Los Angeles. Mike Sather, a mutual friend, introduced Milk to Susan Davis during that time. It is also during this period that Milk met and fell in love with John Harvey, a friend of Sue's. In spring 1956, Milk moved to Miami with John Harvey and Don [Donna?]. Once there, Milk and Harvey parted company. In a few letters, Milk notes that he had a "blind" love for Harvey which was not returned. Although Milk intended to settle in Miami, he returned to New York in May because of family problems.
    In spite of his desire to spend the summer in New York and then return to Miami, Milk remained in New York City after meeting Joe Campbell in June or July 1956. In September? 1957, they moved to Dallas and Milk's letters describe how unhappy they were there. They moved back to New York in February 1958, after taking a trip through New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Shortly after their return, Campbell's mother died in March or April 1958. In December, Milk describes Campbell's job as a page and handyman at Xavier Cugat's Club, Casa Cugat.
    During September 1957-May 1958, Sue Davis attended the University of Illinois at Champaign. She then worked for Abbott Universal Ltd. in Chicago from June to November, and began her television career with Louis C. Fox in December 1958. Davis spent Labor Day weekend [1958?] in Miami where she saw John Harvey, Donna and Art.
    By March 1960, Davis had moved to Beverly Hills, California where she worked for Eglash, Lincoln & Litwin. In June, Milk asked her to send mail to his father's address since "all mail gets opened in the mail room downstairs"; he was working at the Great American Insurance Company at this time. In a letter postmarked June [2 or 21], Milk says that Davis and Harvey's surprise phone call "made my mind & heart go back four years to a little home in L.A & a 'god' whom I was very much in love with."
    By July 1960, Milk and Campbell were beginning to grow apart. Apparently in response to Davis's question of whether or not Milk would consider a relationship with John Harvey, Milk replied that he was not ready to give up on Joe, and that he might not still have the same feelings for John. In this letter Milk also noted that New York's gay bars were having a rough time, that many had closed, but that New York's gays were still finding places to meet. He also asks about Davis's intention to finish her education in Los Angeles.
    In his letter of August 1, 1960, Milk notes the recent death of Sue's father and mentions the death of Joe's mother in 1958. Of death he writes that since his mother "has been on borrowed time for 2-1/2 years, we [the Milk family] realize it can come any day--but...we walk happy and full of life for the present."
    Davis worked for the film industry until early 1961. That February, Milk wrote that he made a snowman for Campbell, who was then in the "plants" business (that is, importing plants from Florida). Milk also described the creation of attractions for the 1964 World's Fair in New York.
    Upon learning of Davis's marriage to George Alch in June? 1961, Milk once again gave marriage advice. Ironically, he and Campbell broke up in July 1961 after five years of "marriage." Milk then considered moving to Miami, and "even thought of marrying one the 'strange girls' I know--we would have compainship [sic], a front & each would not be in the way of the other" (September 14, 1961). By April 1962, Joe Campbell had moved into his own apartment.

    Scope and contents note

    The collection contains correspondence, and a few photographs which Milk sent to Susan Davis Alch during the years 1956-1962. Milk's warmth and affection for Davis are evident in all of the letters. He looks back fondly on the time he spent with Davis and their group of friends which included John Harvey. These letters were unknown to Randy Shilts, Milk's biographer. Neither Susan Alch nor John Harvey is mentioned in The Mayor of Castro Street: the life and times of Harvey Milk (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982).

    Arrangement note

    The material has been arranged into two series: Series 1. Letters; and Series 2. Photographs.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Alch, Susan Davis -- Correspondence
    Campbell, Joe
    Harvey, John
    Milk, Harvey -- Correspondence
    Gay men--United States--Correspondence