Guide to the William P. Gaddis, Jr. Papers, 1939-1981

Processed by Lynne Barnes
© 2003
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Guide to theWilliam P. Gaddis, Jr. Papers, 1939-1981

Accession number: 2002-32

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

San Francisco, California
Processed by:
Lynne Barnes
Date Completed:
June, 2003
© 2003 The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. All rights reserved.

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Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.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

Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Title: GLBTHS Oral History Collection
Title: Phillis Kaplan Abry Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1995-08
Title: Anonymous WWII Photographs,
Identifier/Call Number: 2000-03
Title: Bob Basker Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1999-55
Title: World War II Project Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1995-16
Title: Pat Bond Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1992-05
Title: JoAnn Castillo Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1996-31
Title: Burt Gerrits Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1994-26
Title: Leonard Matlovich Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1988-01
Title: Restitution Project Records,
Identifier/Call Number: 2000-49
Title: Ted Rolfs Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 1997-01
Title: San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project,
Identifier/Call Number: 1988-05
Title: Claude Schwob Papers,
Identifier/Call Number: 2003-12


Series 1: Correspondence, 1939-1958

Physical Description: 1 Box, 5 Folders

Scope and Content Note

This series includes correspondence of William P. Gaddis, Jr. It contains letters from James M. Seale stationed on the U.S.S. Helm in Pearl Harbor, HI, to Bill Gaddis, 1939-1941; letters written by Bill Gaddis to Johnny Holmes from Napa, California, 1942; a forty-nine page, diary-like 'magnum opus' letter chronicling in vivid detail aspects of gay underground life of the era; letters to Harry Hefter written from Napa by Bill Gaddis, 1942; letters to various friends, 1942; letters written by Bill Gaddis primarily from the South Pacific to various friends 1942-1943; miscellaneous writing by Bill Gaddis, 1941-1942; letters and postcards describing gay life in European and Middle Eastern cities, 1956-1958; a letter from Bill Gaddis' father dated September 18, 1943, mentioning Bill's predicament, urging him to fight the case, stating your mother knows nothing of your trouble and I believe in your innocence.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Gay men
World War, 1939-1945
Box-folder 1/1

Letters from James M. Seale stationed at Pearl Harbor, HI , 1939-1941

Box-folder 1/2

Postcards, telegrams, and letters to Gaddis, 1942

Box-folder 1/3

Letters to Johnny Holmes and 49-page, magnum opus,1942

Box-folder 1/4

Letters to Harry Hefter, 1942

Box-folder 1/5

Letters to various friends, 1942

Box-folder 1/6

Letters from South Pacific, 1942-1943

Box-folder 1/7

Writing and letters, 1941-1942

Box-folder 2/1

Letters from European and Middle Eastern cities, 1956

Box-folder 2/2

Letters from European cities, 1956-1957

Box-folder 2/3

Letters about sexual exploits in Europe, 1957

Box-folder 2/4

The Gladyce Report and letters from Europe 1957-1958

Box-folder 2/5

Letter from father, 1942


Series 2: Book, Magazine & Newspaper Clippings, Playbills, and Programs, 1959-1981

Physical Description: 8 Folders

Scope and Content Note

This series contains one book, newspaper clippings, playbills, and programs. It includes American Military History 1607-1958, a Department of the Army ROTC Manual (1959); Gays in Business from San Francisco Magazine,1980, Newsweek clipping on Apollo 14 1971; various playbills from theater productions in San Francisco, primarily from the 1970s, including Vincent Price as Oscar Wilde in Diversions and Delights, and a production of The Boys in the Band from December 1969; clippings on homosexuality; Lucius Beebe obituary; a typewritten flyer printed by the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) warning those seeking sex in the public sector of felony arrests by plainclothesmen at gunpoint at various locations in San Francisco; and a Gay Rodeo program.
Box-folder 2/6

Department of the Army ROTC Manual, 1959

Box-folder 3/1

Magazine clipping, 1969

Box-folder 3/2

Playbills, 1969

Box-folder 3/3

SIR program and SIR flyer, 1966, 1971

Box-folder 3/4

Newspaper articles clippings, 1972

Box-folder 3/5

Lucius Beebe obituary, 1969

Box-folder 3/6

Flyers, 1970, 1973

Box-folder 3/7

Gay Rodeo program, 1981


Series 3: Photographs and Negatives, 1950-1958

Physical Description: 4 Folders

Scope and Content Note

This series includes four photographs and many negatives. Also included in this series is a guide containing detailed descriptions of photographs that were not donated to the GLBTHS. A sampling of the canisters that originally held the 35mm negatives is located in Box 2, Folder 6.
Box-folder 3/8

Photographs, 1957-1958

Box-folder 3/9

Photograph Guide, 1957-1958

Box-folder 3/10

Contains 370 negatives, primarily portraits, 1950s

Box-folder 3/11

Negative strips (35 mm), 1950-1953


Series 4: Magazines, 1939-1970

Physical Description: 1 Box, 3 Folders

Scope and Content Note

These magazines document Gaddis' interest in space travel and highlight some elements of the U.S. culture as it existed during his lifetime. This series includes: Life 1949-1969; Look 1949-1969; Holiday 1948 and 1954; Esquire 1969; Collector's Edition: Man on the Moon, July 20, 1969, A.D.; Newsweek 1968 and 1970; and Time 1939- 1969, including The Homosexual in America issue.
Box-folder 3/12

Time, 1939-1945

Box-folder 3/13

Time, 1969

Box-folder 3/14

Newsweek and Man on the Moon Collector's Edition, 1968-1970

Box-folder 4/1

Esquire, 1969

Box-folder 4/2

Look, 1949-1969

Box-folder 4/3

Life, 1949-1950

Box-folder 4/4

Life, 1962-1969

Box-folder 4/5

Holiday, 1948, 1954