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1900-1960s

Early 1900s

  • Stanley Rhorer, a native of Mercer County, is reported in a local Lexington paper to have committed suicide in St. Louis, MO. Rhorer had been living in St. Louis as "Mrs. Green" and working as the landlady of a boarding house. His actual sex is discovered upon his death. In reporting on the passing, Stanley's brother says that Stanley left home with a woman and has not been heard from since. The implication from the tone of the article is that Stanley's family either rejected him or did not wish to acknowledge him.

1901

  • The first known autobiography written in America by a self-described homosexual man appeared just over a century ago. The author, who was thirty years old when he published the autobiography in 1901, adopted the pseudonym Claude Hartland. A publisher of medical textbooks in St. Louis, Missouri, printed his book—a slender volume in a green, clothbound edition, which Hartland titled The Story of a Life. The narrative's one-hundred pages detail Hartland's physical symptoms and personal idiosyncrasies as a kind of case history for the benefit of the local medical fraternity, to whom he dedicates the book. Records show that Hartland's memoir actually reached few of those physicians, falling into obscurity for decades until San Francisco's Grey Fox Press reissued it in paperback in 1985, with a foreword by C. A. Tripp. David Bergman, James Gifford, and Jonathan Ned Katz have recently joined Tripp in recovering Hartland's memoir, including it in developing histories of gay and lesbian lives and life writing.

1902

  • Dr. William S. Barker of St. Louis presents a paper to the Medical Society of St. Louis' City Hospital Alumni about two men he identified as W and B, saying W showed an "unatural fondness for B, and the two were inseparable.
  • Ma Rainey reportedly hears her first blues song while in St. Louis. In spite of her marriage to Pa, Rainey made no secrets of her relationships with women.

1904

  • St. Louis hosts the World's Fair and Summer Olympics. LGBT influence on these events are being studied by the Project.
  • The Potters, a group of St. Louis women artists and writers begin to publish a monthly magazine called The Potter's Wheel from 1904-1907. The Potter's Wheel contained a variety of artistic output, including poetry and prose, photographs, calligraphy artwork, needlework and the like. The Potters were all young women in their late teens and early twenties and members included poet Sara Teasdale, artists Caroline Risque and Petronelle Sombart, photographers Grace and Williamina Parrish, and writers Vine Colby, Inez Dutro, Celia Harris, Edna Wahlert and Guida Richey. Their mentor, Lillie Rose Ernst, was a botany teacher at Central High School and later an administrator with the St. Louis Public School System. The Potters went their various way after 1907, some of them to marry, others to pursue careers. Further study is required to detail the sexuality of members, specifically Ernst who is suspected to have been a lesbian.

1905

  • Anheuser-Busch uses a  "modern” interpretation of the Greek myth of Ganymede in an advertisement. It shows Ganymede instead of introducing mead, as the legend goes, to the gods, instead introducing them to Budweiser. The ad was published in Theater Magazine. Further study needed to determine the possible gay strategy employed.

1906

  • International entertainment icon Josephine Baker (noted for her bisexuality) is born in St. Louis.
  • In an essay published in the St Louis Medical Review (vol. 54 #10 pp. 213-215) titled "The Problem of Sexual Variants," Dr T.H. Evans claims there are two causes for the increase in homosexuality. 1) The decreased need for propagation of the species, and 2) changes in the sexual division of labour had an impact on erotic interest.
  • The January 29, 1906 edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch tells the story of a woman bridegroom (Miss Pauline Webster) who married a Missouri girl after "masquerading" as a man for three years.
  • Clara Louise Thompson graduates from Washington University. She would serve as one of the prominent members of the Advisory Council of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and President of Latin at Rockford College, Illinois. She held for three years the fellowship in Latin and Greek at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the only woman who ever won the American Fellowship at the Classical School in Rome. Thompson also was the field secretary of the Missouri Equal Suffrage League. She is known to have had a romatic relationship with Jeanette Howard Foster.

1907

  • On March 10, 1907, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch runs a full page story on "masquerading" in St. Louis with artwork. The November 12, 1907 St. Louis Post-Dispatch prints a story about a woman who lived as a man for more than 60-years.

1908

  • The February 23, 1908 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch features a tabloid story on a man "masquerading" as woman. A November 8, 1908 St. Louis Post Dispatch spread highlights the famous female impersonator Julian Eltinge.
  • In 1908 under the pseudonym Xavier Mayne, Edward Prime Stevenson publishes a sexology study The Intersexes, a defense of homosexuality from a scientific, legal, historical and personal perspective and lists St. Louis as one of America's homosexual capital cities. He also cites the case of St. Louisan "Johann Burger" but Anna Mattersteig was her real name. She was living matrimonially with another young woman, Martha Gammater, who "claimed" to not know her husband, was a woman.

1909

  • Fannie Hurst graduates from Washington University. Hurst hosted a talk show out of New York called Showcase beginning in 1958. Showcase was notable for presenting several of the earliest well-rounded discussions of homosexuality and was one of the few on which homosexual men spoke for themselves rather than being debated by a panel of "experts". Hurst was praised by early homophile group the Mattachine Society which invited Hurst to deliver the keynote address at the Society's 1958 convention. 

1910

  • Renowned sculpturer and lesbian Thelma Wood begins to spend early childhood years in St. Louis.

1911

  • David Kammerer born in St. Louis. Murdered in 1944 by friend Lucien Carr, who said Kammerer made unwanted sexual advances toward him.
  • Actor Vincent Price born in St. Louis. Thought to be bisexual. He did have a gay porn star pool boy - Fred Halsted.
  • The May 29, 1911 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an article on a woman "masquerading as a man."

1914

  • Gay author William Burroughs is born in St. Louis. Known for his book the Naked Lunch and for being part of the "Beat Generation."

1916

  • Mitchell Leisen attends Washington University. He would become a Hollywood actor, producer, director, and costume/set designer. Known to be openly bisexual.

1917

  • Lester Callaway Hunt, Sr. graduates from Saint Louis University Dental School. He was a Democratic politician and dentist from the state of Wyoming. He served as the 19th Governor of Wyoming from January 4, 1943 to January 3, 1949 and as United States Senator from January 3, 1949 until his death on June 19, 1954. The 1953 arrest of his gay son, resulted in political scandal and his ultimate suicide. Allen Drury used Hunt's blackmail and suicide as the basis for his 1959 best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Advise and Consent. In the novel, Senator Fred Van Ackerman from Wyoming uses a homosexual affair to blackmail Utah Senator Brigham Anderson. In 1962, the novel was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and directed by Otto Preminger.

1918

1924

  • Conservative anti-gay activist Phyllis Schlafly born in St. Louis. Ironically, she has a gay son.

1927

1928

  • Lesbian author and therapist Betty Berzon is born in St. Louis.

1931

  • St. Louis blues artist George Hannah records "Freakish Man Blues." Although the bachelor's sexuality is unknown, his lyrics had gay undertones.

1934

  • Little Bohemia bar opens, would serve as an hangout for "eccentrics, artists, intellectuals" and remains popular for more than 25 years in various locations

1936

  • Missouri native Helen Stephens garners two Olympic gold medals in Germany. At the 1936 Olympics it was suggested that Stephens (then a closeted lesbian) and her 100 metres rival Stanisława Walasiewicz of Poland, who had both X0 and XY chromosomes, were in fact male. The Olympic Committee performed a physical check on Stephens and concluded that she was a woman. Stephens had a long career with St. Louis' Defense Mapping Agency.

1938

  • Rupert Allan graduates from Washington University. He become a journalist and publicist for celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe.
  • Dr. Jeanne Hoff is born. A psychiatrist trained at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, she worked with the Harry Benjamin Practice, and later opened her own private practice in transgender care. Dr. Hoff herself went through sexual reassignment surgery in the late 1970's.

1939

  • Dante's Inferno bar appears in St. Louis' City Directory (may be the first known gay bar in St. Louis)

1940s

  • Uncle John's bar opens in St. Louis (date being researched).

1943

  • Dr. John J. Winkler is born in St. Louis.
  • William Inge begins his career as a drama critic at the St. Louis Star-Times. With Tennessee Williams's encouragement, Inge wrote his first play, Farther Off from Heaven (1947), which was staged at Margo Jones' Theatre '47 in Dallas, Texas. While a teacher at Washington University in St. Louis in 1946–1949, he wrote Come Back, Little Sheba. It ran on Broadway for 190 performances in 1950, winning Tony Awards for Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer. He and Williams reportedly had an affair. Inge committed suicide in 1973.

1944

  • The gay camp classic movie Meet Me in St. Louis featuring gay diva Judy Garland premieres.
  • In New York City, Lucien Carr murders David Kammerer, who were friends in St. Louis. Carr said Kammerer made unwanted sexual advances towards him. Carr would plead guilty to manslaughter charges and serve two years in jail.

1945

  • Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie wins the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award.

1949

1951

1952

  • Dante's Inferno bar on Olive Blvd. is sold and reopens as the Crystal Palace, which would later move to Gaslight Square.
  • U.S.A. Confidential is published and notes that "St. Louis has a high homosexual problem. Faggots hang out at Grand and Olive and at Vandeventer and Washington. They meet each other in front of Gus the Frutier - appropriately enough - and pause for refreshments at Dixie Hamburger. They have their drags in the basement of an old college fraternity house near Vandeventer and West Pine, where they kneel before the queen. We were solicited by boys around Henry’s, also Erv’s on Pine, and saw swishing at Uncle John’s and the Entre Nous. On summer nights, the excursion boat Admiral is popular for meeting boys, girls, and in-betweens (Lait and Mortimer, pg. 246, U.S.A. Confidential (N.Y.:Crown, 1952).

1954

  • An effort to revoke the liquor license of Entre Nous (George Riester Jr, owner) fails.

1955

  • Nelson Beare is murdered by Charles William White. Beare picked up White at the gay bar Entre Nous. They went to the Oriole Hotel at 706 Pine Street, where White would rob and stab the married Beare. White would confess to killing Beare, who worked downtown and lived in Kirkwood with his wife and children.
  • Gaslight Square emerges as an internationally known entertainment district. During the area's heyday, gay bars were not allowed to open on the Olive strip, although there were a few lesbian/gay friendly bars (Golden Eagle, Black Horse). As the district's glory faded in the later 1960s, a full-fledged gay bar would finally open - Peyton Place.
  • Christine Jorgenson peforms in St. Louis.

1959

1963

  • Roger Lee McQueen murders George Francis, a gay man.

1965

  • Writer Keith Boykin is born in St. Louis.
  • Ethel Sawyer graduates from Washington University. Conducts academic research in area lesbian bars entitled "A Study of a Public Lesbian Community." The unpublished thesis is widely cited in LGBT academic circles.

1966

  • Smokey's Den bar opens in Springfiled, IL. Many St. Louisans would travel here to see the famous "Smokettes" drag show.

1968

  • The Red Bull bar opens in East St. Louis.
  • From 1968 to 1977, the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis runs a program to convert or revert homosexuals to heterosexuality. This program reported a 71.6% success rate over a six-year treatment period, numbers which Johnson would later say she thought were fabricated by Masters. At the time of their earlier work, homosexuality was classified as a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Associaion, a classification which was repealed in 1973.

1969

  • The Mandrake Society is founded in St. Louis.
  • St. Louis' version of Stonewall occurs Oct. 31/Nov. 1, 1969, when nine men in drag are arrested for violating masquerading laws and bailed out by the community thanks in part to support from the Mandarke Society. Charges would be dismissed.
  • Time magazine's Oct. 31, 1969 "The Homosexual: Newly Visible, Newly Understood" became the first cover story on gay rights to appear in any national magazine. The 10-page article mentioned the Stonewall riots, and gay Halloween events in cities, including St. Louis.
  • Robert Rayford dies in St. Louis. He is considered by many in the medical community to be the first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS in North America. His death baffled doctors, who could not account for Rayford's symptoms. The cause of his death was attributed to HIV/AIDS in 1987.

 

Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2007-2015. All Rights Reserved.