Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts

February 11, 2020

A 200 Year Old Diary Which Rewrites Gay History

A diary written by a Yorkshire farmer more than 200 years ago is being hailed as providing remarkable evidence of tolerance towards homosexuality in Britain much earlier than previously imagined.
Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson's diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a "natural" human tendency.
The diary challenges preconceptions about what "ordinary people" thought about homosexuality - showing there was a debate about whether someone really should be discriminated against for their sexuality.
"In this exciting new discovery, we see a Yorkshire farmer arguing that homosexuality is innate and something that shouldn't be punished by death," says Oxford researcher Eamonn O'Keeffe.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThe diaries were handwritten by Tomlinson in the farmhouse where he lived and worked
The historian had been examining Tomlinson's handwritten diaries, which have been stored in Wakefield Library since the 1950s.
The thousands of pages of the private journals have never been transcribed and previously used by researchers interested in Tomlinson's eye-witness accounts of elections in Yorkshire and the Luddites smashing up machinery.
But O'Keeffe came across what seemed, for the era of George III, to be a rather startling set of arguments about same-sex relationships.
Tomlinson had been prompted by what had been a big sex scandal of the day - in which a well-respected naval surgeon had been found to be engaging in homosexual acts.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionHistorian Eamonn O'Keeffe says the diaries provide a rare insight into the views of "ordinary people" in the early 1800s
A court-martial had ordered him to be hanged - but Tomlinson seemed unconvinced by the decision, questioning whether what the papers called an "unnatural act" was really that unnatural.
Tomlinson argued, from a religious perspective, that punishing someone for how they were created was equivalent to saying that there was something wrong with the Creator.
"It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a nature or such a defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death," he wrote on January 14, 1810.
If there was an "inclination and propensity" for someone to be homosexual from an early age, he wrote, "it must then be considered as natural, otherwise as a defect in nature - and if natural, or a defect in nature; it seems cruel to punish that defect with death".
Tomlinson's diary
The diarist makes reference to being informed by others that homosexuality is apparent from an early age - suggesting that Tomlinson and his social circle had been talking about this case and discussing something that was not unknown to them.
Around this time, and also in West Yorkshire, a local landowner, Anne Lister, was writing a coded diary about her lesbian relationships - with her story told in the television series, Gentleman Jack.
But knowing what "ordinary people" really thought about such behavior is always difficult - not least because the loudest surviving voices are usually wealthy and powerful.
What has excited academics is the chance to eavesdrop on an everyday farmer thinking aloud in his diary.
Satirical drawing of an electionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTomlinson was appalled by the levels of corruption during elections
"What's striking is that he's an ordinary guy, he's not a member of the bohemian circles or an intellectual," says O'Keeffe, a doctoral student in Oxford's history faculty.
An acceptance of homosexuality might have been expressed privately in aristocratic or philosophically radical circles - but this was being discussed by a rural worker.
"It shows opinions of people in the past were not as monolithic as we might think," says O'Keeffe, who is originally from Canada.
"Even though this was a time of persecution and intolerance towards same-sex relationships, here's an ordinary person who is swimming against the current and sees what he reads in the paper and questions those assumptions."
Claire Pickering, library manager in Wakefield, says she imagines the single-minded Tomlinson speaking the words with a Yorkshire accent.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThere are three volumes of Tomlinson's diaries at Wakefield Library
He was a man with a "hungry mind", she says, someone who listened to a lot of people's opinions before forming his own conclusions.
The diary, presumably compiled after a hard day's work, was his way of being a writer and commentator when otherwise "that wasn't his station in life", she says.
O'Keeffe says it shows ideas were "percolating through British society much earlier and more widely than we'd expect" - with the diary working through the debates that Tomlinson might have been having with his neighbors.
But these were still far from modern liberal views - and O'Keeffe says they can be extremely "jarring" arguments.
If someone was homosexual by choice, rather than by nature, Tomlinson was ready to consider that they should still be punished - proposing castration as a more moderate option than the death penalty.
Doghouse aerial
Image captionTomlinson's former home was still there in the 1930s (bottom left), but has since disappeared beneath housing and a golf course
O'Keeffe says discovering evidence of these kinds of the debate has both "enriched and complicated" what we know about public opinion in this pre-Victorian era.
The diary is raising international interest.
Prof Fara Dabhoiwala, from Princeton University in the US, an expert in the history of attitudes towards sexuality, describes it as "vivid proof" that "historical attitudes to same-sex behavior could be more sympathetic than is usually presumed".
Instead of seeing homosexuality as a "horrible perversion", Prof Dabholwala says the record showed a farmer in 1810 could see it as a "natural, divinely ordained human quality".
Rictor Norton, an expert in gay history, said there had been earlier arguments defending homosexuality as natural - but these were more likely to be from philosophers than farmers.
"It is extraordinary to find an ordinary, casual observer in 1810 seriously considering the possibility that sexuality is innate and making arguments for decriminalization," says Dr. Norton.

Who was the writer of this diary?

Matthew Tomlinson was a widower, in his 40s when he wrote his journal in 1810 - a man of a "middling" class, not a poor laborer but not rich enough to own his own land.
"I try and imagine how he would have looked," says library manager Ms. Pickering. 
There are no pictures of Tomlinson, who is thought to have lived between about 1770 and 1850.
"Very dour," she suggests. And a "bit of a hypochondriac".
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThere are thousands of pages of handwritten journals - but some volumes appear to have been lost
"I imagine if you stopped him at his gate for a chat he'd talk about his gout more than anything else.
"I'd love to have a conversation with him about what Wakefield was like at the time," she says.
No-one knows how these private diaries, covering 1806 to 1839, ended up in Wakefield Library, but they were there by the 1950s and are presumed to be part of an earlier acquisition of old books and local documents. 
There are three surviving volumes and at least another eight are missing.
But they show vivid detail about life in Wakefield in the early 19th Century. During elections, Tomlinson was appalled by the corruption, the rum drinkers having to be carried home in wheelbarrows and the "hired ruffians".
And at Queen Victoria's coronation, he was skeptical about expensive ceremonies and celebrations, calling them all "humbug".
This was not a closed world. His social circle seemed to be avid readers of books and newspapers, following reports of revolutions abroad and riots and insurrections at home.
They saw elephants marching through Wakefield in a circus parade and military bands who had competed to hire the most talented black musicians.
We know where he lived - Doghouse Farm in Lupset, because he carefully wrote it on the front of his journals.
The farm, at the edge of the landowner's estate, is now under a housing estate and a golf course. All that survives are his diaries

January 3, 2020

19th Century Book According to Hopkins Research Helped Lay Foundation For LGBT Rights

It’s an unassuming little book, bound in olive green leather and stamped with gilt. Seven inches tall and less than 5 inches wide, it’s small enough to be concealed in a coat pocket.
Who would have thought that an 1883 essay with the dry-as-dust title “A Problem in Greek Ethics" could create such a stir?
A curator at Johns Hopkins University recently stumbled across an extremely rare copy of the 19th-century essay by John Addington Symonds that helped lay the foundation for the modern gay rights movement — a copy that for more than 130 years was thought to be lost.
It is now on view at the university, along with some letters, photographs and copies of books from Symonds’ library. The discovery establishes Hopkins as a national center of Symonds scholarship, a professor said. And it helps resurrect the reputation of a gay rights pioneer whose work inspired the writer Oscar Wilde’s famous defense against charges of “gross indecency.”

“Symonds is unjustly neglected today,” said Shane Butler, director of the university’s Classics Research Lab. "He was very famous in his own lifetime. Both he and Oscar Wilde were household names.
“But even if Symonds was forgotten after he died, his [unsigned] essay wasn’t. Pirated copies were passed hand to hand and read throughout the 20th century. The essay has been enormously influential in the struggle for gay rights.”

Photo of John Addington Symonds in "Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds," an exhibit at the Eisenhower Library of Symonds' letters and books.
Photo of John Addington Symonds in "Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds," an exhibit at the Eisenhower Library of Symonds' letters and books. (Baltimore Sun)

The book is the centerpiece of the exhibit, “Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds,” on view through March 13 at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, 3400 N. Charles St. Once the exhibit closes, “A Problem in Greek Ethics” will be available in the library’s reading room.
“There’s something sacred about a book like this,” Butler said, “especially for queer students and gay faculty like myself. Just knowing that it’s there and being able to hold it and turn its pages is incredibly moving.”
The essay’s title is misleading because the “problem” that Symonds describes isn’t intrinsic to Greek ethics. Instead, the author argues that the Victorians had a flawed understanding of the ancient world they professed to revere.
“The book’s premise is that British Victorians based their whole culture on the world of ancient Greece,” said Ryan Warwick, a doctoral student in classics who worked on the exhibit. “But in 19th-century England, homosexuality was illegal — while in ancient Greece, homosexuality was widely accepted and practiced and considered to be the root of their cultural greatness.”
It appears Symonds knew how inflammatory his ideas were. He had his essay printed privately and limited the run to just 10 copies.
“He was afraid it would fall into the wrong hands,” said Gabrielle Dean, curator of rare books and manuscripts for Hopkins’ Sheridan Libraries.
Just five copies — all in the collections of libraries in the U.S. and the U.K. — were thought to have survived.

Gabrielle Dean, a curator for rare books and manuscripts at Johns Hopkins University, holds the lost sixth copy of a "A Problem in Greek Ethics" by John Addington Symonds.
Gabrielle Dean, a curator for rare books and manuscripts at Johns Hopkins University, holds the lost sixth copy of an "A Problem in Greek Ethics" by John Addington Symonds. (Baltimore Sun)

Dean discovered the sixth copy while helping students, in a course she taught with Butler, prepare an exhibit about books that were central to Symonds’ intellectual development.
”I was trying to verify the authenticity of Symonds’ handwriting by comparing the example we had to samples of his handwriting in other books,” Dean said.
”I Googled ‘John Addington Symonds‘ handwriting’ and one of the hits was a brand-new listing for ‘A Problem in Greek Ethics’ from a rare book dealer.”
Dean presumes that the sixth copy had been privately owned before it went on the market in the fall. Once she and Butler got over their disbelief at their stroke of luck, they quickly obtained approval from library officials to purchase the book. (They would not disclose the price.)
”I was blown away when Gabrielle showed me the listing,” Butler said. “I assumed there had to be some sort of mistake. The odds of coming across something so incredibly rare are practically zero.”
Butler has been interested in Symonds since he was an undergraduate at Duke University in the early 1990s and found a reprint of “A Problem in Greek Ethics” in a used bookstore in North Carolina.
“I was a young gay man who was just out of the closet and I was a classics major,” he said. “Here was a book about how homosexuality was celebrated in ancient Greece and Rome. I had to have it.”
The more Butler learned about Symonds, the more fascinated he became. 
Symonds was one of those larger-than-life personalities common to Victorian England. He was on a first-name basis with the leading thinkers of his day, from the explorer Sir Richard Burton to the poet Walt Whitman. (Symonds pointedly inquired about Whitman’s sexual practices, earning a rebuke from the author of “Leaves of Grass." Whitman replied that his correspondent’s inferences “are disavowed by me & seem damnable.”)
For his part, Symonds seems to have known since puberty that he was sexually attracted to men. But like other closeted gay men of that era, he married a woman and fathered four daughters. Diagnosed with tuberculosis in his 20s, Symonds later moved his family to Switzerland in the belief that the bracing mountain air would improve his health.
His memoirs describe three significant same-sex relationships: a youthful romance with a choir boy, a long and intense sexual friendship with a former student, and finally, his liaison with the gondolier Angelo Fusato, whom he met on a trip to Venice.
So smitten was Symonds with Fusato that he arranged to hire the gondolier as a household employee — a pretext so transparent that even today, Warwick marvels at its outrageousness.
“Why do you need a gondolier on your staff,” Warwick asked, “when you’re living in the mountains of Switzerland?”
The two men lived together for the rest of Symonds’ life. Though he observed appearances for his family’s sake, his sexual orientation seems to have been an open secret.
Dean said that the author Robert Louis Stevenson used his friend Symonds as a partial model for the protagonist in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" — a novel about a man forced to ”hyde” his true nature by leading a double life. 

Symonds was not flattered by being compared to a murderer. Dean said that after Symonds read the book, he sent Stevenson the following note:
”I would have liked Dr. Jekyll to go in for analysis,” Symonds wrote. “That would have been a much better ending, don’t you think?”
But Symonds’ ideas seem to have had the most significant impact on Wilde, with whom he exchanged a few letters.
“Previous generations have been captivated by Oscar Wilde the eloquent,” Warwick said. “Symonds was more of a bibliophile, a plodding scholar. But he’s doing all the work and tracking down all the citations that allow Oscar Wilde to make his famous speeches.
“Wilde made this big legalistic argument that he shouldn’t be on trial for sodomy because homosexuality has been a noble pursuit since antiquity. All of that is in ’The Problem With Greek Ethics,’ though rewritten and reprocessed by Wilde.”
Butler is glad that the lost sixth copy is once again publicly available, given its relevance to today’s LGBTQ community.
”Symonds went through long periods of despair and shame and self-doubt,” he said. “But he always came back to the certainty that there was nothing wrong with him — there was something wrong with the world.
“It takes courage for LGBTQ kids to believe that today. To have believed that in 1883 was extraordinary.”

Mary Carole McCauley is an arts reporter specializing in theater, books and visual arts. A native Chicagoan, Mary joined the Sun in 2000. Her writing has been honored with a National Headliner Award and five awards from the Society for Features Journalism.

September 20, 2019

They Call It Clandestine Gay Culture, I Call it The Piers by The Hudson


Alvin Baltrop’s photograph of sunbathers at the abandoned West Side piers in Manhattan. During the 1970s and ’80s, the piers drew an ever-shifting population of homeless people, teenage runaways, artists and sexual adventurers.CreditCreditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
Holland Cotter
By Holland Cotter
Published Sept. 19, 2019
Updated Sept. 20, 2019, 12:07 a.m. ET


New York City is a gateway for fresh art talent but it’s also an archive of art careers past. Some are visible, in the “active” file. Most are buried deep. A few surfaces only after artists have departed, as is the case with the American photographer Alvin Baltrop, who was unknown to the mainstream art world when he died in 2004 at 55, and who now has a bright, tough monument of a retrospective at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The show, “The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop,” is also a monument to New York itself during the 1970s and ’80s, when Mr. Baltrop did his major work. During those decades, the city was physically falling apart. At the same time, it radiated creative energy. Among other things, in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, it was home base for a new gay consciousness.

Disintegration and rebellion dovetailed in a line of derelict shipping piers that stretched the Hudson River between Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Isolated from the rest of the city after the collapse of the southernmost section of the elevated West Side Highway, the piers became a preserve for gay sex and communion, and the primary subject of Mr. Baltrop’s surviving photographs. These include architectural studies of the piers, but also shots of their semi-residential population of homeless people, teenage runaways, sexual adventurers, criminals and artists, a company that Mr. Baltrop, in effect, joined. 

At a glance, he might have seemed an outsider to the adjacent West Village world. Bronx-born, working-class, African-American, bisexual, he came to the scene directly from a three-year stint as a Navy medic. The earliest pictures in the show, which has been organized by Antonio Sergio Bessa, director of curatorial and education programs at the Bronx Museum, were taken aboard the destroyer William K. Pratt, where he was stationed at the height of the Vietnam War.


ImageA Baltrop photograph (1969-1972) taken during his stint as a Navy medic during the Vietnam War.
A Baltrop photograph (1969-1972) taken during his stint as a Navy medic during the Vietnam War.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz

Mr. Baltrop’s photographs of his fellow sailors show images of domestic life at sea (1969-1972).

Mr. Baltrop’s photographs of his fellow sailors show images of domestic life at sea (1969-
1972).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
Some shots are of the ship itself as a functioning war machine, which, although it never actually went to Southeast Asia during Mr. Baltrop’s time, kept its crew busy with on-deck drills. Far more interesting and experimental are images of domestic life at sea: sailors sunbathing; napping on deck, and rubbing shoulders in tight living quarters. And most daring, are dramatically posed and lighted studies of nude male bodies: torsos, buttocks, genitals. In these images, the mood is erotic without being furtive. These are clearly collaborations with willing models.

After discharge from the service, Mr. Baltrop returned to New York City, where he lived on the Lower East Side with a woman named Alice and made a living as a taxi driver. By this point, just a few years after Stonewall, the piers had become the main stage for an openly expressed gay sexuality, and they drew Mr. Baltrop in. Initially, he used his flexible hours as a cabby to visit and photograph them. Then, to gain more time, he quit driving, bought a van and, supporting himself as a freelance mover, camped there for days and nights on end.

There’s no question that he considered his photographs — particularly of Pier 52, then located at the end of Gansevoort Street, just beyond where the Whitney Museum of American Art now stands — a long-term project, a mix of historical documentation, insider anthropology, and autobiography. Life on the piers, with its definable demographics and culture of confinement, was not so different from that on board a ship, and Mr. Baltrop viewed it both from afar and up close. The more than 200 pictures in the Bronx show are very much about pulling back for the broad view, then zeroing in.


A section of the crumbling West Side piers, (1975-1986), silver gelatin print.
A section of the crumbling West Side piers, (1975-1986), silver gelatin print.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
Mr. Baltrop’s photo of a man walking amid the ruins, (1975-1986) silver gelatin print.
Mr. Baltrop’s photo of a man walking amid the ruins, (1975-1986) silver gelatin print.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz


Mr. Baltrop viewed life on the piers both from afar and up close. Here, an image of a man lying down on a ledge (1975-1986).
Mr. Baltrop viewed life on the piers both from afar and up close. Here, an image of a man lying down on a ledge (1975-1986).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
He was careful to give the piers a context. He shot the waterfront neighborhood with its bars (The Ramrod, Badlands, the Stud), its transient hotels, and its commercial truck parking lots (which also served as nocturnal trysting places). And he photographed, at varying distances, the abandoned shipping depots and warehouse sheds on the piers themselves.

As a group, these images are invaluable contributions to American urban visual history, but also to art history. A lot of new art was happening on the piers. In 1975, the New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark sliced a huge crescent-shaped, light-flooded hole in a west-facing wall on Pier 52 and titled it “Day’s End”; a painter named Tava (Gustav von Will) was doing murals, as were younger contemporaries like Mike Bidlo and David Wojnarowicz. Mr. Baltrop recorded some of this work, though it seemed incidental to his true interest. What really gripped him was the grandeur and danger of structural ruin and the people who occupied it.

Look closely at his panoramic views of pier exteriors and you’ll see, in many, the presence of tiny figures, clothed or nude, leaning from windows, lounging around, having sex. And the majority of his shots were of populated interiors. In Pier 52, he used a homemade version of a window-cleaner’s harness to suspend himself from the ceiling and survey activities below. At the same time, because he became a regular, unthreatening presence, he was able to photograph on-the-ground action, much of it sexual, from an intimate vantage.

The piers were not benign places, and Mr. Baltrop knew it. Muggings were common. Murders happened. He took chilling pictures of the police fishing bodies from the Hudson. (One locally famous waterfront habitué, the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, of whom Mr. Baltrop made a wonderful portrait, was found dead in the river in 1992.) He spoke, later in his life, of “the frightening, mad, unbelievable, violent, beautiful things that were going on” at the piers. He was aware that his own attraction to them had a pathological element. “It became an addiction,” he said. “It was like a drug. It was a drug.” 

Mr. Baltrop’s portrait of the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, (1975-1986).
Mr. Baltrop’s portrait of the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, (1975-1986).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz

Yet you find little sense of menace in the photographs, most of which are black and white, with a few in color. Raw, cavernous interiors have a church-like luminosity. And, despite repeated images of bare flesh, the work can feel erotic but chaste, the way Thomas Eakins’s paintings of adolescent boys at a swimming hole do. Much has been made of the “classical” poise of explicitly sexual images by Baltrop’s celebrated contemporaries Peter Hujar and Robert Mapplethorpe. But Mr. Baltrop’s a classicist too, just a less self-conscious one.

So why has he been all but ignored until fairly recently? Again, his outsider status as a queer working-class African-American is a big part of the answer. (He had two small shows, one in a bar where he moonlighted as a bouncer, but one gallery owner who saw the pictures referred to him as “a real sewer rat type”; another accused him of stealing work by a white photographer.) Fortunately, toward the end of his life, he met the painter Randal Wilcox, who immediately saw the value of his photography and, after Mr. Baltrop’s death from cancer in 2004, rescued it from what could easily have been obliteration.

In addition to a cache of personal items — identity cards, medical records, cameras — that are in the Bronx show, Mr. Baltrop left behind a handful of beat-up photographic prints and thousands of rolls of film that he couldn’t afford to have processed. In 2008, an Artforum essay by the writer and curator Douglas Crimp (reprinted in the exhibition catalog) put Mr. Baltrop’s name into circulation, and his reputation continues to grow. This fall his work will be included in the rehanging of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. He’s also in Whitney’s collection. (On the site of Pier 52, which served for more than a decade as his studio and sometimes home, a public art project by the artist David Hammons, organized by the Whitney and the Hudson River Park Trust, began construction this week.)

Mr. Baltrop himself might well be hard-pressed today to recognize the part of the city he once recorded. Among the show’s latest images is one of a pier engulfed in flames and smoke. The picture may well date from around 1986, when the “sex piers” began to be demolished by the city, to be replaced by the luxury condos, entertainment centers, and the transplanted uptown museum there today. It’s gratifying to think of Mr. Baltrop, brilliant, persistent, and fully resurrected in the Bronx show, as the true phoenix rising from the ashes.

The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop

Through Feb. 9 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse; 718-681-6000,

August 22, 2019

The 1957 Gay Wedding Photos Buried in The Holly Homophobia Soil

(To be able to show all of the pictures that the BBC showed on their site, I will post them at the bottom of this report. These pictures come from the archives of USC)
The pictures are very moving, they take you to a generation before gay marriage was completely outlawed, some said you will not discriminate just because someone said I was a monster who should not get united with others alike. But the only monsters are always the ones that want to take away the human rights of their fellow man so these photos were buried on homophobia holly ground.       Adam Gonzalez
Decades before gay marriage became legal anywhere in the US, same-sex couples were committing themselves to each other in front of friends and loved ones. Few records of these ceremonies existed - until now, writes Jonathan Berr.
In 1957, a man dropped off a roll of film at a pharmacy in Philadelphia. But the developed photos were never returned to their owners.
The pictures appear to depict a gay wedding, nearly 50 years before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the US and almost 60 years before it became a federally-recognized right.
Now, a trio of gay producers and writers are trying to identify the grooms to learn their story and to find out whether a pharmacy employee balked at providing the snaps because they objected to their subject.
The writers are documenting their efforts in a reality show The Mystery of the 1957 Gay Wedding Photos.
The program, which doesn't yet have a platform to call home, is being produced in conjunction with Endemol Shine Group, whose shows include Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, and Extreme  "It's a passion project for us," says Michael J. Wolfe, a Los Angeles-based writer. "We are turning over every stone, interviewing dozens of people in the Philadelphia area and beyond, and consulting with investigators, historians, and experts across many different fields."
The photos were acquired by a collector a few years ago who had bought them at an online auction. He realized their significance and donated them to ONE Archive at the USC Libraries in Los Angeles and at the Wilcox Archives in Philadelphia.
The couple in the pictures appear to be in their 20s or 30s, so they would be in their 80s or 90s if they were alive today. The grooms and their guests are dressed up in dark suits with flowers in their lapels.
The celebration took place in a modest flat with the blinds drawn. It featured a ceremony officiated by someone who appears to be a member of the clergy. The grooms are shown kissing, cutting their wedding cake and opening presents.
WeddingImage copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC
Mr. Wolfe and his partners, filmmaker PJ Palmer and TV writer/producer Neal Baer, have not identified the mystery couple yet.
They request any tipsters to contact them through their website and Facebook page.
Two grooms kiss at their wedding image copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC
For Palmer, the pictures were especially moving.
"We are recovering amazing, important stories all sorts of them... and more gay history that's been buried," he says.
"There is a very rich history that's been suppressed… I wish as a child [that] I had seen family photos of a marriage like this... I would have felt more normal as a kid. I would have known that I was okay."
Stonewall: A riot that changed millions of lives
'Why our fight for gay rights in Kenya isn't over'
Twenty years of key US gay rights milestones
Couples who fell in love sometimes committed themselves to one another in unions that were not acknowledged by either governments or religions.
The US Supreme Court didn't recognize the right for gay people to marry the person of their choice until 2015, 11 years after Massachusetts did so.
(Men open gifts at a wedding image copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC)
"We don't know how common or uncommon it was for couples to hold ceremonies to marry each other [because] there is so little photographic or film record of how people actually lived," says Eric Marcus, host of the Making Gay History podcast.
"It's important to remember that people found ways to live their lives quietly away from the prying eyes of the straight world."
Of course, that was easier said than done.
 Several years before the wedding took place, President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays from working for the federal government.
In 1952, The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a "sociopathic personality disturbance" in the first edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the listing of known psychiatric disorders.
After considerable lobbying by activists, the APA removed homosexuality from the second edition of the DSM in 1973.
The Stonewall Riots, considered to be the birth of the modern gay rights movement, had happened a few years before that in 1969 - 12 years after the wedding. 
It's not just the passage of time that will hinder the search for the grooms. The filmmakers believe the Aids crisis may also be a factor - about 700,000 Americans have died since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"We are talking about a generation of people who were decimated by Aids," Mr. Wolfe said. "There are a lot of missing people who otherwise would have made a search like this much easier. All of that happened before social media."
If the couple is ever identified, they would certainly add another chapter in the history of gay rights for doing something extraordinary that is now becoming increasingly ordinary.
1.  Two men cut wedding cake
2.  Couples dance at a 1957 wedding
3.  Wedding
4.  Two grooms kiss at their wedding
5.  Men open gifts at a wedding
Two grooms at their wedding6.  A group of wedding guests

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