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Guide to the Walter "Butterfly" Blumoff Papers and Photographs
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Processing Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Walter "Butterfly" Blumoff Papers and Photographs
    Dates: 1954-1991
    Bulk Dates: 1968-1989
    Collection number: 1991-22
    Creator: Blumoff, Walter "Butterfly"
    Collection Size: 8 Cubic Feet 7 boxes
    Repository: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
    San Francisco, California 94105
    Physical location: Stored at the Archives of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society in San Francisco, California.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials are shared by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, Mildred Blumhoff and Robin White.

    Preferred Citation

    Walter "Butterfly" Blumoff Papers and Photographs, 1991-22, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated to the GLBT Historical Society in September 1991 by Robin White.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Walter Blumoff was born in 1941 in New York City, and was adopted by Mildred and Barnett Blumoff. In 1986, when he was 45, he undertook a search for his birth mother, and found out that she was his adopted mother's sister, Vera Foeppel.
    Blumoff graduated from high school in Niagra Falls, NY in 1959, and attended Purdue University for three years, but did not graduate. He had thyroid cancer when he was 21, and he was chronically sick throughout his life, with hearing problems, migraines, and bouts of depression. From 1960-1968 he lived and worked in upstate New York and New Jersey as an electronic technician, a career he continued throughout his life. In 1968, at age 27, he moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he began taking photographs as a hobby.
    In 1971 Blumoff moved to Los Angeles, where he lived until 1978. From 1972-1976 he was a freelance photographer for The Advocate, covering L.A.-area political and cultural events. From 1972-1973 he was the Director of Military Affairs at the Gay Community Services Center of L.A., a position which included counseling homosexual military recruits on how to obtain honorable or general discharges. He was a member of the California Committee for Sexual Law Reform in 1973, representing the GCSC of L.A. In 1974 he was Director of the Gay Rights Project of the ACLU of L.A.
    In 1978 he moved to Monterey, CA (about 3 hours south of S.F.), and in 1980, at age 39, he moved to the Santa Cruz area, where he lived the rest of his life. Around 1980 he became active in Radical Faerie circles and attended Radical Faerie Spiritual Gatherings throughout the 1980's, taking many photographs at their gatherings. He was also involved with NOMENUS, a faerie land trust group, from 1984-1990. It was at this time he took on the name "Butterfly".
    Butterfly was primarily attracted to young men and teenage boys, and photographed many of these throughout the 1970's and 1980's, including tricks, lovers and boys he happened upon at beaches and other locations. His closest companions were a group of friends he met in the early 1970's in L.A.: Leo, Pat and John. Pat (Patrick L. McVie) was a young teenage runaway Butterfly met at the Gay Community Services Center (GCSC), who lived with him for awhile. Pat died of AIDS in the 1980s. Leo and John were Butterfly's age, and were also attracted to young men and teenage boys. One young man he was involved with in the early 1970's, James C., was convicted in 1981 of molesting and murdering an 11-year-old boy.
    Around 1988 Butterfly learned he was HIV+, and he progressed to AIDS in 1989. He participated in the STEPS program ("empowerment for people with AIDS"), and was a speaker for Project First Hand in Santa Cruz, a PWA speakers bureau. He died in Santa Cruz in April 1991, at age 50.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection consists of correspondence, organizational files and working notes, directories, photographs, slides, negatives, home movies, and memorabilia. Most materials relate to Blumoff's activities with the Gay Community Services Center in L.A. in the early 1970's, his involvement with the Radical Faerie Movement throughout the 1980's, and his attraction to and involvement with young men and teenage boys. The bulk of the material is from the early 1970's to the late 1980's, though some earlier photographs and memorabilia are also included. The collection is arranged in six series: Biographical Material, Correspondence, Activities and Interests, Photographs, Slides, and Movies and Audio Recordings.
    The first series, Biographical Material, consists of scattered journal-type notes, memorabilia, and materials from his adoption search.
    Correspondence includes letters to and from his family, friends, and lovers, from 1972 to 1991. Included are letters to and from his young lovers, and extensive correspondence between Butterfly and James C. (after his conviction for child molestation and murder), and another man present at the time of the murder. Letters from living persons are restricted.
    The third series, Activities and Interests, includes organizational files, printed material, and working notes from a variety of Blumoff's activities. These include scattered materials from his gay rights work in the early 1970's, most notably his work as a draft counselor at the Gay Community Services Center in L.A. A second sub-series relates to Butterfly's sexual life. Of note here are printouts of sexually explicit Gay Bulletin Board Service logs, and his ad copy for personal ads. A third sub-series concerns his Radical Faerie activities. This includes materials from conferences and gatherings throughout the 1980's, NOMENUS minutes from 1984-1990 (NOMENUS is a faerie land trust group), and Faerie Directories from 1979-1990. Access to the directories is restricted. The final sub-series consists of material relating to Butterfly's AIDS diagnosis. Included are printed materials and his notes from his participation in the STEPS program ("empowerment for people with AIDS"), and his work with Project First Hand, a PWA speakers bureau.
    Photographs include black and white (and some color) prints, contact prints (8 1/2x10 and 16x20), and negatives from 122 rolls of film, primarily from L.A. in the early 1970's. There are also some earlier and later photos. Roughly one-third of the photos and negatives are of political actions, one-third are of cultural events, and one-third of family, friends, lovers, tricks, and people in the community. Photos, contact prints, and negatives are sorted by subject. The negatives are sorted by broad subject groupings (Political Actions, Cultural Events, etc.) and are numbered sequentially within each subject. 8 1/2 x 10 contact sheets corresponding to the negatives have been assigned matching subject/location numbers. Not all negatives have contact sheets. There are also contact sheets for which no negatives could be found; these are filed separately under the same subject headings and labeled "unsorted".
    The fifth series, Slides, contains 78 mylar pages holding color slides ( approximately 1,500 slides), covering the early 1970's to the late 1980's. About one-fourth of the slides are of early 1970's L.A. gay political activities, cultural events, or people; about one-fourth are of Radical Faerie gatherings throughout the 1980's; and approximately half are of Butterfly's friends, lovers, tricks, and anonymous boys taken from the early 1970's through late 1980's. Many of these portraits are of young men and teenage boys. There are also many nude portraits, some showing explicit sexual activity. All slides and photographs of explicit sexual activity appear to be of adult males. There are negatives for many of the slides; these are filed following the slide pages and labeled to show which slides they correspond to. The slides are cataloged and indexed by subject, date, and location using dBase III+. Detailed instructions on how to access the slides are in the "Computer Manual for Using dBase III+ to access GLBTHS databases."
    The sixth series, Home Movies and Audio Recordings, includes seven reels of short Super 8mm movies from the early 1970's, and four tape cassettes made by Butterfly when he had AIDS. The movies include gay visibility actions and the 1972 Christopher Street West parade in L.A., a young man arrested for hustling, a homemade adult porn movie, and two reels of teenage boys seen on the street, the beach, or in the park. The tape cassettes were done as part of his work with the STEP program ("empowerment for PWA").


    The collection is divided into 6 series:
    • Series 1: Biographical Material
    • Series 2: Correspondence
    • Series 3: Activities and Interests
    • Series 4: Photographs
    • Series 5: Slides
    • Series 6: Home Movies and Audio Recordings

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Gay men
    Gay activists
    Radical Faeries (New Age movement)

    Processing Information

    22 cartons were donated in 1991. After processing, approximately eight cartons of material were retained by GLBTHS. Periodicals were added to the archives collection if needed, or discarded if duplicates. An organizational file for the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center from the early 1970's was sent to Jim Kepner at the IGLA Archives in Los Angeles. The rest was returned to Robin White.
    The majority of the collection consisted of slides, photographs, and negatives. Approximately twenty percent of the slides were kept. Not kept were images of landscapes and still-lifes. Slides of events, people, and other subjects were selectively kept, with only the better images of each subject retained in order to avoid unnecessary duplication. Approximately half of the photographs were kept. All negatives for photographs, and for those slides that have negatives, were retained. Slides, negatives, and photographs not kept were returned to Robin White. Lists of all images and other materials not retained, along with their disposition, remains in the GLBTHS Archives control file.