Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Mattachine Society Project collection
Bulk Dates: 1953-1970
Collection number: Coll2008-016
Collection Size: 10 archive boxes + 9 archive
cartons. 14.6 linear feet.
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
Los Angeles, California 90007
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.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access
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).
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.
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the
National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
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
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
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 in 1953.
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
9. Subject Files and Resources Series, consisting of a variety of
research materials used by the editors of the
Mattachine Review and other Mattachine
10. Sound Recordings Series, comprising 20 reels of 1/4 inch
reel-to-reel audiotape, documenting Mattachine events as well as television and
radio programs relating to homosexuality.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Call, Hal (Harold L.),
Gay and lesbian rights
Gay liberation movement
Hay, Harry, 1912-2002
Mattachine Society, Inc.
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