Preferred citation note
Scope and contents note
Title: Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch
Date (inclusive): 1956-1962
Collection Identifier: GLC 19
James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
The letters document Harvey Milk's activities in Miami, Dallas, and New York and his relationships with Joe Campbell and John
Harvey. Milk was the first openly gay candidate elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Susan Davis Alch was a
friend he met in San Diego, Calif.
The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in
The collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
Preferred citation note
Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19), Gay and Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.
The Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch were donated by the Library Foundation of San Francisco on February 19, 1997.
Researchers are encouraged to see also the Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection (GLC 35) and the Harvey Milk Letters
to Joe Campbell (GLC 20), Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Milk was the first openly gay candidate elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Susan Davis Alch was a friend he
met in San Diego, Calif.
After completing his stint in the Navy, Harvey Milk spent the fall and winter of 1955 in Los Angeles. Mike Sather, a mutual
friend, introduced Milk to Susan Davis during that time. It is also during this period that Milk met and fell in love with
John Harvey, a friend of Sue's. In spring 1956, Milk moved to Miami with John Harvey and Don [Donna?]. Once there, Milk and
Harvey parted company. In a few letters, Milk notes that he had a "blind" love for Harvey which was not returned. Although
Milk intended to settle in Miami, he returned to New York in May because of family problems.
In spite of his desire to spend the summer in New York and then return to Miami, Milk remained in New York City after meeting
Joe Campbell in June or July 1956. In September? 1957, they moved to Dallas and Milk's letters describe how unhappy they were
there. They moved back to New York in February 1958, after taking a trip through New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Shortly after
their return, Campbell's mother died in March or April 1958. In December, Milk describes Campbell's job as a page and handyman
at Xavier Cugat's Club, Casa Cugat.
During September 1957-May 1958, Sue Davis attended the University of Illinois at Champaign. She then worked for Abbott Universal
Ltd. in Chicago from June to November, and began her television career with Louis C. Fox in December 1958. Davis spent Labor
Day weekend [1958?] in Miami where she saw John Harvey, Donna and Art.
By March 1960, Davis had moved to Beverly Hills, California where she worked for Eglash, Lincoln & Litwin. In June, Milk asked
her to send mail to his father's address since "all mail gets opened in the mail room downstairs"; he was working at the Great
American Insurance Company at this time. In a letter postmarked June [2 or 21], Milk says that Davis and Harvey's surprise
phone call "made my mind & heart go back four years to a little home in L.A & a 'god' whom I was very much in love with."
By July 1960, Milk and Campbell were beginning to grow apart. Apparently in response to Davis's question of whether or not
Milk would consider a relationship with John Harvey, Milk replied that he was not ready to give up on Joe, and that he might
not still have the same feelings for John. In this letter Milk also noted that New York's gay bars were having a rough time,
that many had closed, but that New York's gays were still finding places to meet. He also asks about Davis's intention to
finish her education in Los Angeles.
In his letter of August 1, 1960, Milk notes the recent death of Sue's father and mentions the death of Joe's mother in 1958.
Of death he writes that since his mother "has been on borrowed time for 2-1/2 years, we [the Milk family] realize it can come
any day--but...we walk happy and full of life for the present."
Davis worked for the film industry until early 1961. That February, Milk wrote that he made a snowman for Campbell, who was
then in the "plants" business (that is, importing plants from Florida). Milk also described the creation of attractions for
the 1964 World's Fair in New York.
Upon learning of Davis's marriage to George Alch in June? 1961, Milk once again gave marriage advice. Ironically, he and Campbell
broke up in July 1961 after five years of "marriage." Milk then considered moving to Miami, and "even thought of marrying
one the 'strange girls' I know--we would have compainship [sic], a front & each would not be in the way of the other" (September
14, 1961). By April 1962, Joe Campbell had moved into his own apartment.
Scope and contents note
The collection contains correspondence, and a few photographs which Milk sent to Susan Davis Alch during the years 1956-1962.
Milk's warmth and affection for Davis are evident in all of the letters. He looks back fondly on the time he spent with Davis
and their group of friends which included John Harvey. These letters were unknown to Randy Shilts, Milk's biographer. Neither
Susan Alch nor John Harvey is mentioned in
The Mayor of Castro Street: the life and times of Harvey Milk (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982).
The material has been arranged into two series: Series 1. Letters; and Series 2. Photographs.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Alch, Susan Davis -- Correspondence
Milk, Harvey -- Correspondence
Gay men--United States--Correspondence