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Mattachine Society Project Collection
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Collection Overview
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Minutes, bylaws, correspondence, manuscripts, newsletters, financial records, legal papers, transcripts, pamphlets, flyers, clippings, sound recordings, and other papers relating to the Mattachine Society, brought together by the Mattachine Society Project from materials donated to ONE Institute (now ONE International Gay & Lesbian Archives) by Harold Call; from other collections held by ONE; and from collections in Jim Kepner's International Gay & Lesbian Archives. Founded in Los Angeles in 1951 by actor and activist Harry Hay--who originally structured it as a secret society, or "fraternal order"--the Mattachine Society was reorganized and incorporated in California in 1954, and established "area councils" and chapters around the United States. Its activities included group discussions, research, annual conventions and the periodical, Mattachine Review. Financial and organizational conflicts, however, led to the dissolution of the national organization in 1961. Although several chapters-- including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C.--continued as independent organizations, most of these had ceased operations by the mid-1970s. Materials in the collection date from the earliest days of the organization to the creation of the Mattachine Society Project in 1990.
The Mattachine Society traces its roots to Los Angeles in the late 1940s, when Harry Hay--a married man and actor who also taught music at the University of Southern California--began formulating his idea for a homophile organization, which he initially named the "International Bachelors Fraternal Orders for Peace and Social Dignity." Beginning in 1951, groups of homosexual men and women began meeting secretly at various locations throughout Los Angeles to discuss issues relevant to the homosexual community. At Hay's suggestion, this organization took the name "Mattachine Foundation"--after traveling performers in medieval Europe who staged satires wearing masks--because contemporary American homosexuals were also forced to hide behind masks. Hay had been active in the Communist Party, and many of the Foundation's founders, including Rudi Gernreich, Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland, shared Hay's leftist politics. The Foundation, or "fraternal order," was organized along the lines of the secretive, cell-like structure of the Communist Party, which also needed to protect the identities of its members. Hay also took from Marxism the idea that for homosexuals to end their oppression they must develop a group consciousness as an oppressed class.
15.5 Linear Feet 12 archive boxes, 3 archive cartons, 1 archive shoebox, 1 flat file, 12 sound tape reels
Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.