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Guide to the William P. Gaddis, Jr. Papers, 1939-1981
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Separated Material
  • Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: William P. Gaddis, Jr. Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1939-1981
    Accession number: 2002-32
    Creator: Gaddis, William P. (1920-)
    Extent: 6 Boxes
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Abstract: This collection documents the underground gay life of William P. Gaddis, Jr. during his military service in the United States Navy at the time of World War II and contains letters from his travels in the late 1950s, as a civilian, to major cities around the world seeking to connect with gay life across the globe. The correspondence begins in 1939 with letters received from a gay lover stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It contains significant holdings relating to the lives of gays and lesbians during this time, recorded as personal correspondence in diary-like form. Much of the writing describes underground gay life in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1939 onward, as Mr. Gaddis was born in Berkeley and was stationed in this area during part of his naval career. The collection also contains a small number of photographs from this time, a larger number of negatives, a flyer produced in 1970 by the Society for Individual Rights as a warning to gay men about plainclothes police arrests at gunpoint at various San Francisco locations, and phonograph records with underground/coded gay content dating back as far as 1939.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], William P. Gaddis Papers, 2002-32, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated to the GLBT Historical Society by William P. Gaddis, Jr. in 2002.


    William P. Gaddis was born in Berkeley, California, in 1920. His father had a career in the United States Navy and, because of his father's career, Gaddis spent part of his childhood living in China. Gaddis joined the U.S. Navy himself around the beginning of World War II. Gaddis spent most of his life, when he was not traveling or stationed elsewhere in the U.S. Navy, living in his family home in Berkeley. Gaddis, according to the friend who was instrumental in convincing him to donate these papers, rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy before he was discharged from the military because he was homosexual. This discharge occurred in late 1943 or early 1944. After his time in the military he went on to become an electrician by trade and he traveled extensively around the globe from 1956-1958, writing letters to friends about the gay life in the various locations he visited.
    In 2003, William P. Gaddis, Jr. is 83-years-old, living in an apartment in an assisted living facility in Santa Rosa, California. Biographical information is sketchy for him because he is living in a facility where no one knows that he is gay and he is reluctant to offer additional information about himself, out of fear that friends or his relatives in the area might inadvertently discover his sexual orientation.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection contains correspondence of William P. Gaddis, Jr. which begins in 1939 and includes vivid descriptions of underground gay life in the United States Navy (mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area). Gaddis often wrote in the format of an underground gay newsletter, distributing carbon copies to his friends. Gaddis rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy before he was discharged from the military because he was homosexual. This occurred in late 1943 or early 1944. The collection includes letters written by Gaddis as he traveled around the world from 1956-1958 recording his experiences with underground gay life in cities throughout Europe and the Middle East. Gaddis reviewed these letters in 1961and placed them in the order in which they are organized here. There are photographs and negatives of himself and his friends as well as magazines of historic interest, some with gay content. There are newspaper clippings, an Army ROTC manual from1959, playbills, and programs. The latest date on the materials is 1981.


    The collection is divided into four series:
    • Correspondence
    • Book, magazine & newspaper clippings, playbills, and programs
    • Photographs and negatives
    • Magazines

    Separated Material

    Items removed from the collection totaled about one and a half cartons. Books were placed in the GLBTHS Rare Book Collection and phonograph records were placed in the GLBTHS Phonograph Record Collection. Items removed were the following:
    • City of Night by John Rechy (First Edition, 1963)
    • Strange Loves: The Human Aspects of Sexual Deviation by Dr. Eustace Chesser (1971)
    • Sexual Life in Ancient Greece by Hans Licht (1935)
    • The Homosexual in America by Daniel Webster Cory (First Edition, 1951)
    • Encyclopaedia Sexualis, edited by Victor Robinson, M.D. (Containing an entry on homosexuality written by Magnus Hirschfeld)
    • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (First Edition, 1933)
    • Sex Variants I and II by George W. Henry, M.D. (First Edition, 1941)
    • Encyclopedia of Sexual Knowledge, edited by Norman Haire, Ch. M., M.B. (1937)
    • The Modern Treatment of Syphilis by Joseph Earle Moore, M.D. (1943)
    • Sexual Life in Ancient India, vols. I and II, by Johann Jakob Meyer (1930)
    • The Male Hustler by Johnny Shearer (paperback, 1966)
    Life 1964 and 1971.
    Phonograph Records:
    • 1939: Spivy, Seven Gay Sophisticated Songs
    • n.d.: Spivy An Evening with Spivy (Not licensed for radio play.)
    • 1960s: Belle Barth, My next story is a little risqué (Censored. Not for air play/for adults only.)
    • n.d.: The Queen is in the Closet

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