Mattachine Society, Inc. of New York Records

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Collection Data

The records include correspondence of the principal officers including Elver Barker, Robert Burdick, Curtis Dewees, Julian Hodges, Michael Kotis, and Richard Leitsch and collateral papers including minutes, memoranda, reports, scripts, photographs, and printed ephemera. The records reflect the origin and development of the homophile movement in America especially in New York and of the struggle to achive through peaceful means the the social integration of gays and the removal of legal sanctions discriminating against gays in housing, employment and assembly.
Mattachine Society of New York (Creator)
Barker, Elver (Contributor)
Burdick, Robert, 1965- (Contributor)
Dewees, Curtis (Contributor)
Hodges, Julian (Contributor)
Kotis, Michael (Contributor)
Leitsch, Dick (Contributor)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1951 - 1976
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 1911
Associations, institutions, etc -- New York (State) -- New York
Gay activists
Gay liberation movement
Gay liberation movement -- New York (State) -- New York
Gay men
Publishers and publishing -- New York (State) -- New York
United States -- Social life and customs -- 1945-1970
United States -- Social life and customs -- 1971-
Mattachine Society of New York
Biographical/historical: The Mattachine Society, Inc. of New York (MSNY) was founded in New York City in 1955 (incorporated in 1961) as a non-profit organization for educating the public in all aspects of homosexuality, for assisting the individual gay in coping with problems related to his homosexuality, for effecting changes in social attitudes towards gays and for securing the repeal of laws discriminating against gays in housing, employment and assembly. It was one of several affiliates of the Mattachine Society founded in Los Angeles in 1951. The name was derived from the Italian "mattachino" meaning a court jester who dared to tell the truth to the king. During the 1950s other Mattachine societies were established in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and the District of Columbia. The parent organization subsequently shifted its headquarters to San Francisco and by 1961 had ceased existence as a national organization, its affiliates becoming fully independent. During the 1960s its most active period, the MSNY became a leader in promoting the cause of gay rights through education and other peaceful means. It eschewed the more aggressive tactics adopted by the movement following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The riots resulted from a police raid on a gay bar in New York City named "Stonewall Inn" from which emerged a new era of militancy. In pursuing its goal of "serving the needs of all homosexuals" the MSNY maintained a referral and counseling service for gays. Advice was given by phone, by mail and in-person without charge and for those who needed professional assistance referrals were made to physicians, attorneys and psychotherapists who were known for their compassion for and understanding of the problems of gays. The MSNY also sponsored guest speakers and discussion groups on topics related to homosexuality, canvassed political candidates on their views on issues of concern to the gay community, and compiled a survey of employers' attitudes towards gays. It published two periodicals: the Eastern Mattachine Magazine directed towards the general public, and the New York Mattachine Newsletter intended for its membership. Gradually, through its expertise and its skillful use of the mass media the MSNY became accepted as an authoritative source of information on "the homosexual viewpoint". The MSNY lobbied for the revision of federal, state and municipal laws discriminating against gays in housing, employment and assembly, demanded honorable discharges for homosexuals in the armed forces, the decriminalization of consensual sodomy between adults, and the suppression of police harassment and entrapment, and the enactment of a bill of gay rights. Joining with its associates in ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations) it organized large demonstrations for gay rights in Washington, D. C. before the White House, the Pentagon and other federal agencies. With other civic action groups including CORE, NAACP, and the New York Civil Liberties Union it agitated successfully for a civilian complaint review board in New York City to monitor allegations of police misconduct. It also participated in a legal battle to enforce First Amendment rights of gays to assemble peacefully in bars of their own choosing. Wholly dependent upon donations, membership fees and volunteer staff the MSNY was always hampered by lack of funds. During the 1970s it faced a period of increasing financial crisis caused in part by a dwindling of public support for its reformist philosophy which appeared to many to be too timid, passive and "square" after "Stonewall". Leadership in what came to be known as the "gay liberation movement" soon passed to more aggressive organizations such as the Gay Activists Alliance. Facing bankruptcy and torn by internal feuding the MSNY was disbanded in January of 1987. Its most active officers included Robert Amsel, Robert Burdick, Madolin Cervantes, Curtis Dewees, Albert de Dion, Don Goodwin, Julian Hodges, Michael Kotis, Richard Leitsch, and Arthur Maule.
Content: The records (1951-1976) reflect the origin and development of the homophile movement in America, particularly in New York, and of the struggle to achieve through education and other peaceful means the social integration of the homosexual and the removal of legal sanctions discriminating against gays in housing, employment and assembly. The records also document the efforts made to come to the aid of the individual gay who sought information, guidance and advice on matters pertaining to his homosexuality.
Physical Description
Extent: 10 linear feet 14 boxes
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b13681515
MSS Unit ID: 1911
Archives collections id: archives_collections_1911
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): e2423970-7475-0134-c2ac-00505686d14e
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