A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.
A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.

1.

A collection of posters, handbills, buttons and other ephemera from the gay male leather subculture in San Francisco and other major American cities, ranging from the 1960s through to the early 1990s, and encompassing the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDs era, regarded as the 'Golden Age' of leather bars.

The collection provides a vivid document of hypermasculine homoerotic iconography, represented in promotional materials for leather bars, sex hardware merchants and motorcycle clubs, and gathers together a diverse array of items, including more than 35 posters, 80 or so handbills and cards, approximately 150 buttons and pins, over 100 matchbooks, and a vintage leather biker's cap adorned with a colourful assortment of buttons dating from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s.

'Leather' was a term coined for a subgroup of male homosexuals that began to coalesce into distinct communities in the late 1940s. The sexual subculture of leather bars first gained widespread attention after Life magazine published an article in June 1964, entitled 'Homosexuality in America': "On another far-out fringe of the 'gay' world are the so-called S&M bars ('S' for sadism and 'M' for masochism). One of the most dramatic examples is in the warehouse district of San Francisco. Outside the entrance stand a few brightly polished motorcycles, including an occasional lavender model. Inside the bar, the accent is on leather and sadistic symbolism. The walls are covered with murals of masculine-looking men in black leather jackets. A metal collage of motorcycle parts hangs on one wall. .... 'This is the antifeminine side of homosexuality' says Bill Ruquy, part owner of the bar.... Metal is much in evidence in the room: chains on the wall, the collage and bunches of keys hanging from the customers' leather belts. 'That's part of the sadistic business' Ruquy explains. 'We used to wear chains on our shoulders. Now the keys are in.' "

The first leather bar in America was founded by Chuck Renslow in Chicago in 1958. San Francisco's first leather bar, the Why Not?, was established in the Tenderloin district in 1962, followed soon after by The Tool Box, the first in the South of Market (SOMA) area of the city. Febe's and the Ramrod opened on Folsom Street in SOMA in 1966, inspiring many others to open in the same locale, creating a sense of belonging and a safe neighborhood for the gay community.

The gradual (though partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality in individual US states following the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969, and the consequent reduction in police harassment of gay bars, led to their rapid growth (in 1973 San Francisco's Yellow Pages listed 118), including many catering to the leather subculture. Drummer, founded in Los Angeles in 1975 and the most successful leather magazine, listed 16 leather bars in San Francisco in 1977 (most of them in Folsom's 'Miracle Mile'), and many others in New York, Chicago and elsewhere.

By the early 1980s, a combination of redevelopment and rising rents, renewed police raids and the impact of the AIDS epidemic led to a decline in leather bars, bathhouses and sex clubs, with many in San Francisco's SOMA district closing, often to be replaced by straight oriented businesses. In response, a Folsom Street Fair was held in 1984, now a large annual celebration of the BDSM and leather subculture. In May 2018, San Francisco established the LGBTQ & Leather Cultural District in SOMA in recognition of the neighborhood's history as the sexual centre of gay culture in the city.


Selected highlights from the collection (illustrated here) include:

I. POSTERS

- Folsom Street Barracks Hotel - Sauna Baths & Bar, San Francisco, c. 1972. Offset, 24x18". San Francisco, c. 1972. Offset, 24x18". Artwork by Todd Trexler featuring a photograph by Richard Avedon. The Barracks opened in 1972 at 72 Hallam St. (off Folsom) as San Francisco's first leather-oriented bathhouse, catering for people into hardcore BDSM.

- The Slot, San Francisco, c. 1976. Artwork by Bill Tellman. Offset, 22x14". The Slot, one of the earliest leather-oriented bathhouses in San Francisco, opened on Folsom Street in 1976, catering for those into hardcore flagellation.

- The Pleasure Chest - sex hardware, New York City, c. 1976. Artwork by Rex. Offset on coated glossy stock, 17x11". The Pleasure Chest opened in 1972 at 183 West 10th Street, NYC, with branches opening later in several other cities.

- A Taste of Leather, San Francisco, 1978. Artwork by Rex. Offset, printed on coated glossy stock, 17x11". A Taste of Leather, one of the first in-bar leather stores, was established in 1967 by Nick O'Demus above Febe's on Folsom Street.

- Touché, Chicago, c. 1978. Artwork by Cegun. Offset, 22x17". Touché opened as a leather bar at 6412 N. Clark St, Chicago in 1977.

- VIP Club, Reno, Nevada, c. 1978. Artwork by Dirk (Dykstra, aka Lazy Leo and Leo Ravenswood). Offset, 24x22". Dave Kirkcaldy and Rex Allen opened Reno's first gay owned and operated hotel in 1965, and opened a mixed bar for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, drag queens and others a year later. In 1975 it was expanded to include a bathhouse.

- Febe's Eleventh and Folsom Calendar, San Francisco, 1979. 'Leather David' artwork by Mike Caffee. Offset on semi-glossy stock, 22x14". Febe's was the first leather bar on Folsom Street. It opened on July 25th 1966 and was particularly popular with members of gay motorcycle clubs.

- Catacombs - San Francisco, c. 1979. Artwork by Zach. Offset, 17x11". The Catacombs was an SM club in the South of Market area that grew out of the local Fist Fuckers of America and operated between 1975 and 1981. Its location was semi-secret and admission was by referral only. In March 1980, Cynthia Slater and Susan Thoraen rented the Catacombs for the first mixed gender, mixed orientation SM play party. It reopened at another location from 1982 but closed for good in 1984 in response to the antibathhouse campaign.

- Cum For Ride, DAM, New York City, 1980. Artwork by Greg Maskwa. Offset, 17x11". Maskwa painted murals for various bathhouses and bars, including the Brig in San Francisco.

- Looking for Mr. Drummer, c. 1982. Artwork by Ken Wood. Offset, double-sided, 21.5x17". Drummer was founded by John H. Embry and Jeanne Barney in Los Angeles in 1975 and became the most successful American leather magazine. The publication played a major role in promoting gay leather as a lifestyle and masculinity as a gay ideal, and gave birth to the California Motorcycle Club Carnival and the Mr. Drummer contest in San Francisco.

- I Want You At The 247 Bar In Philadelphia, c. 1982. Designed by Colt Studios. Offset on thick card board, 22x14". The 247 leather and denim bar opened at 247 S. 17th St., Philadelphia in 1971.

- International Mr. Leather 1983, The Gold Coast, Chicago, 1982. Artwork by Etienne (Dom Orejudos). Offset, glossy stock, 22x17".

- Watering Hole Saloon, San Francisco, c. 1988. Artist unknown. Offset, 21x17.5". The Watering Hole (formerly known as The Roundup) first opened on Folsom Street in San Francisco as a meeting place for urolagniacs in 1978.

II. HANDBILLS, BUTTONS & PINS, MATCHBOOKS & OTHER EPHEMERA

- Bandana. The Gold Coast, Chicago, c. 1971. Yellow cotton, with logo printed in black. 14.5x14.5". Folded. The modern bandana code, also known as the handkerchief or hanky code, is thought to have come into use among leather men in New York City in late 1970 or early 1971. The Gold Coast, the first specifically gay leather bar in America, opened in 1958.

- Boot Camp First Anniversary invite, San Francisco, September 25th, 1972. Single sheet, folded twice. 5.5x4.25" (folded). The Boot Camp opened as a uniform themed leather bar at 1010 Bryant St. in August 1971, receiving a mention in Herb Caen’s San Francisco Chronicle column. Its manager, Marcus Hernandez (aka Mr. Marcus), was selected as the first gay Emperor of San Francisco in 1972.

- Catalogue for A Taste of Leather (San Francisco, March 1974), together with three supplements (March-May 1974). Sm. 8vo. Stapled, 16pp. (incl. cover). Supplements consist of single sheets, folded once to make 4pp. Illustrated throughout with drawings by Russ of Frisco.

- Double-sided handbill produced by the ONE Center, Los Angeles, printing "Activities of Interest to a Variety of Gays" during the month of May (1974). 11x8.5". Verso prints a list of activities, including ONE parties and meetings. ONE Magazine began publication in Los Angeles in January 1953, followed three years later by the ONE Institute for Homophile Studies.

- Handbill announcing The Cycle Sluts at the California Hall, San Francisco, October 31st (1975). 11x8.5". An early show by The Cycle Sluts, an LA band of ten gender bending leather men who wore female S&M leather gear and performed heavy metal pastiche.

- Business card for the Why Not, the first San Francisco bar to openly target leatherman patrons, 1962. 3.5x2". It was opened by Tony Tavarossi in 1962 at 518 Ellis Street in the Tenderloin, but closed within six months after Tavarossi propositioned a member of the vice squad. Its success inspired a new generation of bars, many of which opened up in the South of Market district. In 1981 Tavarossi became an early fatality of the AIDS epidemic.

- SMads (New York City: February 1976). 8vo. Stapled, 16pp. (incl. cover). Illustrated. SMads was started in 1972 by Marshall Loeb as a nationwide service offering gay male subscribers a chance to place and respond to explicitly SM personal ads.

- Handbill for The New St. Marks Baths, New York City, c. 1979. 5.5x3.5". Artwork by Boris Vallejo. The New St. Marks Baths, in St. Marks Place, was a bathhouse in the East Village from 1979 to 1985. It claimed to be the largest gay bathhouse in the world and was an early target of attention during the early 1980s AIDS epidemic.

- Programme for the First Annual Mr. Castro Pageant, (San Francisco) 1980. 4to. Stapled wrps., unpaginated (20pp.). Illustrated throughout + ads. for local clubs and stores.

- Handbill announcing Valentine's Day Sweetheart Special/Jockey Shorts Dance Contest at The End Up, 401 Sixth St., San Francisco, February 14th/15th, 1981. 8x11". The End Up opened in November 1973, not as a leather bar but a dance bar, though many leather people who liked to dance went there. It became known for its Jockey Short Dance Contest and achieved further recognition after Armistead Maupin featured it in his weekly newspaper column, Tales of the City.

- Double-sided card handbill announcing the first South of Market Leather Daddy Contest at Chaps, 375 11th St., San Francisco, September 14th, 1983. 8.5x5.5".

- Large handbill announcing a Beer Bust organised by the San Andreas Motorcycle Club, Inc. at the SF Eagle, 398 12th St., San Francisco, November 27th, 1983. 14x8.5". The Eagle, now one of the oldest leather bars in San Francisco, opened in the South of Market area in 1981 and became known for hosting barbecues and beer busts to benefit charitable organisations. The San Andreas Motorcycle Club of Southern California was established in 1965 as a gay biker club and held its first Blessing of the Bikes ceremony in the same year.

- Handbill for the Fag Club, 520 Haight St., San Francisco, April 1988. 11x8.5". Mentions DJ Gregory Cruikshank, formerly an early member of Tuxedomoon and, before that, part of The Angels of Light (an offshoot of the Cockettes).

- Handbill announcing Queen of the Universe Beauty Pageant at Esta Noche, San Francisco, July 17th, 1988. 11x8.5". Special guest Lola Lust (Luis Cesar Cabrera) arrived in San Francisco in 1973 and won the title of Mr. Gay San Francisco in 1979, later becoming a regular headliner at Esta Noche.

- A collection of buttons, badges and drink tokens from various leather bars and clubs, San Francisco, c. 1970s/1980s (selection illustrated).

- A large collection of buttons and badges from various biker clubs throughout the USA, c. 1970s/1980s, including the Satyrs, the first gay motorcycle club in the United States (founded in Los Angeles in 1954), the Wheels MC (founded in New York City in 1969), and the CMC Carnival (California Motorcycle Club Carnival). The CMCC, a gay leather BDSM dance, was organised by one of the earliest leather biker clubs, the California Motorcycle Club, and held every November between 1966 and 1986 at various indoor venues in San Francisco (selection illustrated).

- A vintage leatherman's biker cap, adorned with a vivid assortment of motorcycle club badges dating from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s.

- An extensive collection of matchbooks from various leather bars and clubs, most originating from San Francisco, c. 1970s/1980s (selection illustrated).


For further details, including images of more than 120 items (of which only 31 are illustrated here), and an annotated checklist, please inquire.

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