Scope and Content of Collection
Language of Material:
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
Title: Mattachine Society Project collection
Identifier/Call Number: Coll2008-016
15.5 Linear Feet
12 archive boxes, 3 archive cartons, 1 archive shoebox, 1 flat file, 12 sound tape reels
Date (inclusive): 1927-2000
Date (bulk): bulk
Abstract: 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.
Physical Description: 10 archive boxes + 9 archive cartons.
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.
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
Mattachine Society Project Collection, Coll2008-016, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
The collection consists of materials donated to ONE Institute (now ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives) by Harold Call and
his estate between 1987 and 2005, and materials from other collections held by ONE and from collections in Jim Kepner's International
Gay & Lesbian Archives (which merged with ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in 1994).
Formerly in boxes 103-125; 103-143; 103-196; 103-199; 103-200; 103-201; 103-202; 103-205; 103-207; 103-208; 103-209; 103-224;
103-297; 103-313 and 103-330. Collection processed by Loni Shibuyama, August 28, 2008.
In June 2013, open-reel audiotapes were assigned call numbers (ARR####), replacing the box/item numbers that were assigned
to the audiotapes when this collection was originally processed. These items were formerly housed in Box 13 and Box 14 of
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Accrual processed by Kyle Morgan, 2015.
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.
Between 1951 and early 1953, membership in the Mattachine Foundation expanded rapidly in Southern California and the San Francisco
Bay area. However, in March 1953 a journalist, who had received a Foundation mailing, published an article suggesting that
the Foundation, with its secretive leadership, might be a Communist front organization. The reaction of the Foundation's membership
exposed a growing schism between Hay and his leftist allies, who wished to continue with the secretive "fraternal order" focused
on developing self-understanding and social consciousness; and those, led by Ken Burns and Harold Call, who sought a more
"public" organization focused on assimilating the homosexual community into mainstream society.
In two conventions in April and May 1953--in a climate of suspicions about financial improprieties, personal misrepresentations,
communist infiltration and the aims of the organization--the membership elected a new slate of leaders, replacing Hay and
his followers with Call and his party. The new leaders in turn officially dissolved the Mattachine Foundation with its secretive
structure and recognized the establishment of the Mattachine Society with a national, "open" structure. Officially incorporated
in California in March 1954, the reorganized Mattachine Society had its headquarters in San Francisco, with "area councils"
and chapters throughout the United States. During its most active period in the late 1950s, the Society's activities included
group discussions, social and psychological research in relation to sexuality, research in legal cases and legislation regarding
sexual equality, annual conventions and the publication of the
Mattachine Review and various newsletters.
In the face of financial troubles, languishing membership, and dissatisfaction among local chapters, the Board of Directors
decided to dissolve the Society's national structure in 1961. The national chapters subsequently reorganized into independent
organizations. The former San Francisco Area Council continued under Call's leadership, and by 1960 it had become less a membership
group and more of an education and social service organization, which all but ceased operation in 1967. The Mattachine Society
of Washington, D.C., became the most active and committed to political change of the former chapters. Its leader, Franklin
Kameny, challenged the discriminatory policies of the U.S. Civil Service and was instrumental in the campaign to change the
American Psychological Association definition of homosexuality as an illness. The Mattachine Society of New York played an
activist role in the gay liberation movement of the 1970s. The Philadelphia chapter evolved into the Janus Society. By the
end of the 1960s, most of the Mattachine organizations had ended their operations, while only a few--including Chicago, Florida,
and New York--continued to operate until the 1980s.
Sources: Mattachine Society Project Collection, Coll2008-016, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Sears, James T.
Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Mattachine Society Project Collection contains minutes, bylaws, reports, manuscripts, correspondence, newsletters, financial
records, legal papers, transcripts, pamphlets, flyers, clippings, sound recordings and other material relating to the Mattachine
Society, Inc., and its predecessor, the Mattachine Foundation. Materials in this collection represent Mattachine activities
throughout the United States and date from the founding of the organization in 1951 to the creation of the Mattachine Society
Project in 1990. The bulk of the materials relate to activities of the organization in Los Angeles and San Francisco from
1953 to approximately 1968.
The collection is divided into ten series:
1. Mattachine Project History Series, comprising materials documenting the Mattachine Society Project at ONE Institute (now
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives), which created this collection by combining Mattachine records taken from collections
held by ONE Institute, as well as from collections in Jim Kepner's International Gay & Lesbian Archives and materials donated
by Harold Call and his estate from 1987 to 2000.
2. Mattachine Foundation Series, containing administrative records and other materials documenting the activities of the Mattachine
Foundation, as originally conceived, from 1951 to 1953. The series also contains a number of writings by Harry Hay.
3. Administration (Mattachine Society, Inc.), comprising minutes, correspondence, committee files, financial records, personnel
and membership information from Mattachine Society, Inc., the restructured national organization incorporated in the state
of California in 1954. This series includes the bylaws and constitution, the Articles of Incorporation and meeting minutes
of the Board of Directors.
4. Area Councils and Chapters Series, comprising files from the various Mattachine chapters in California and throughout the
United States, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C.
5. Conventions Series, containing materials from the Society's annual conventions, including the founding Constitutional Conventions
6. General Correspondence Series, comprising correspondence from the members and the general public.
Mattachine Review Series, comprising administrative records and issues of
Mattachine Review, the official newsletter of the Society from 1954 to 1966.
8. Newsletters Series, consisting of newsletters published by various Mattachine chapters.
9. Subject Files and Resources Series, consisting of a variety of research materials used by the editors of the
Mattachine Review and other Mattachine Society personnel.
10. Sound Recordings Series, comprising 12 reels of 1/4 inch reel-to-reel audiotape, documenting Mattachine events as well
as television and radio programs relating to homosexuality.
Between 1987 and 2005, ONE Institute and its successors received from Harold Call and his estate a series of donations that
included Mattachine Society records and Call's personal papers. In 1990, these materials were combined with Mattachine Society
materials taken from other collections held by ONE Institute, as well as from collections in Jim Kepner's International Gay
& Lesbian Archives to create the "Mattachine Society Project." In May 2008, this collection was divided: the Mattachine Society
materials forming the Mattachine Society Project Collection (this collection), and Call's personal, family and business papers
forming the Harold L. Call Papers (Coll2008-010).
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Gay liberation movement
Gays -- California -- History
Gay activists -- United States -- California
Gay and lesbian rights
Homosexuality -- History -- United States
Homosexuality -- History -- California
Gays -- Services for
Gays -- Civil rights
Call, Hal (Harold Leland)