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Guide to the Charles Thorpe Papers
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles Thorpe Papers
    Accession number: 87-2
    Creator: Thorpe, Charles
    Extent: 1 box
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Shelf location: Housed at the GLBT Historical Society
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Provenance Notes

    The Charles Thorpe Papers are a small portion of a group of materials passed on to GLBTHS by Florence Mitchell, Head of the Harvey Milk/Eureka Valley Branch of the San Francisco Public Library in early 1987. These materials were previously held at the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.
    Sometime in the early 1970s a collection of documents relating to gay and lesbian issues was collected and donated to the Leonard Library by SFSU Sociology professor Lois Flynn. Thorpe had been an SFSU student and was an organizer of the first gay student group on campus; his CHF notebook and other documents from that period had been turned over to Flynn at some point. The material placed by Flynn was the initial core of a gay and lesbian collection held by the Leonard Library that grew erratically through the 1970s. By the early 1980s no new material was being collected, and the collection became moribund. In 1987, the Library decided to donate the collection, and the four wooden file cabinets it resided in, to the Harvey Milk/Eureka Valley Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Upon its delivery, Branch Librarian Flo Mitchell and GLBTHS Archivist Bill Walker went through the collection, pulling documents and ephemera that were deemed historical and irreplaceable or rare. These items, which included the Thorpe notebooks and related papers, were turned over to GLBTHS in May of 1987.
    Much of the materials donated to GLBTHS consisted of runs of periodicals, loose clippings, and ephemera. Among other items were two red loose leaf notebooks that had been compiled by Charles Thorpe at some point in the early 1970s. These contained documents pertaining to the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF) as well as a variety of flyers and essays related to gay liberation. For preservation purposes, these notebooks were disassembled; their contents and the original notebook covers were placed in archival folders. A complete listing of the original contents of both notebooks, kept in the GLBTHS control file, may be examined upon request by contacting the GLBTHS Archivist.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Charles Thorpe Papers, 87-2, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Scope and Content

    Committee for Homosexual Freedom

    The bulk of this collection documents the birth, growth, and activities of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF), probably the first "gay liberation" group in Northern California, originating in the spring of 1969 by Leo Laurence and Gale Whittington. Laurence was the current editor of Vector, the official publication of the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) the largest gay group in San Francisco during the late 1960s. In late March of 1969, Laurence had his young friend Whittington pose as a model for a Vector article on the new fashion styles of young gay men. The photographer hired to shoot the session also took one or more informal photos, including one with Leo hugging the shirtless Whittington. Without their knowledge, a copy of this photograph was acquired by the Berkeley Barb, where it was used to illustrate an interview of Laurence on the increasing militancy among some gay men. The bold headline over the photo was "Don't Hide It" with a smaller "Homo Revolt" to the side. A copy of this paper found its way into the hands of Whittington's boss at the States Line Steamship Company, who fired him from his clerical position on the spot.
    Devastated, Whittington went straight to Laurence with the news. The two commiserated and talked well into the evening. Laurence, determined to fight this gross injustice, suggested the two form a new group which could call for action against States Line. Over coffee at the restaurant that would later become Church Street Station, The two agreed on this plan, dubbing the new group the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF). The next day they made a couple of picket signs and a leaflet that explained the situation, urging others to join the protest. Midday they made their way to the States Line offices in the 300 block of California, where they began picketing and handing out flyers to the astonished people passing by. A few joined them in their protest; encouraged by this support, they quickly developed a plan to picket the company every day during the lunch hour when hordes of stockbrokers, bankers and office workers filled the street. More people joined each day, and CHF began holding meetings to discuss the States Line action as well as other issues that came up. Over the next few months, CHF engaged in numerous actions. Although Whittington never got his job back, the group got a lot of publicity, and in another gay related firing at Tower Records, CHF did manage to get the employee rehired. Later in the year CHF was joined by another fledgling group, the Berkeley Gay Liberation Front (GLF), in continuing actions and street theater.

    Gay Liberation Materials

    Charles Thorpe, a young student at San Francisco State, was one of the early members of CHF. He actively collected materials from CHF, GLF, and other early gay liberation groups around the country. The newsletters, leaflets, articles, and other documents in the Thorpe Papers are the result of this collecting. They document a great deal about the first year of gay liberation in the Bay Area, and indirectly reveal the rapid development of gay liberation throughout the country. Other documents include information from conferences Thorpe attended, letters and proposals for gay-related courses at both SFSC and UC Berkeley, and political statements from various groups and individuals.


    Several dozen clipped news articles from various sources are also present, including numerous gay- related stories from the Berkeley Barb and the Berkeley Tribe, circa 1969-1972, were retained. Due to their rapid oxidation, the original clippings were photocopied and discarded. Articles accompanied by photographs were retained for visual uses.

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