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Harry Hay papers

Identifier: Coll2011-003

Scope and Content

The Harry Hay papers comprise manuscripts, notes, published research sources, correspondence, interviews, clippings, financial and employment records, legal papers, photographs, posters, prints, flyers, memorabilia and other materials documenting Harry Hay's work as an author, organizer, activist, and influential voice within the gay liberation movement. Published and unpublished essays, articles, public addresses, and other writings document Harry Hay's public life; other materials illuminate Hay's family, work, finances, and personal relationships.

The collection is divided into five series: (1) Writing, (2) Correspondence, (3) Personal, (4) Photographs, and (5) Art, ephemera, and other graphic material.

The Writing Series is primarily composed of non-fiction and fictional texts written by Harry Hay. It also includes copies of published material Hay drew upon in research for expository writing.

The Correspondence Series consists primarily of personal correspondence to and from organizations, between individuals, or grouped according to particular topics. It also includes legal correspondence related to Harry Hay's responsibilities as executor of his father's estate, 1938-1942, as well as correspondence about Harry Hay and his employment, 1935-1945.

The Personal Series is comprised of a range of documents and ephemera related to Harry Hay's personal life. It includes material documenting Hay's family and other personal relationships; textual material collected by Hay; journalism and other writing about Harry Hay; and a range of material connected to Harry Hay's finances and employment.

The Photographs Series documents periods, people, and places in Hay's life from boyhood to the year of his death.

The Art, ephemera, and other graphic material Series consists of drawings, prints, posters, paintings, and other graphic or decorative material collected by Harry Hay.


  • circa 1867-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1990



The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Researchers wishing to publish material must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as the physical owner of the material. Note that permission to publish does not constitute copyright clearance. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials from the copyright holder(s).


Henry (Harry) Hay Jr. was born in 1912 in Worthing, England, to American parents; his father, Henry Hay Sr., managed mining interests in South Africa, then in Chile. When an accident in 1916 ended the elder Hay's career, the affuent family moved to Los Angeles, where Harry Hay spent his youth. Hay attended Stanford University for two years, then dropped out in 1932 and sought work as an actor and screenwriter in Depression-era Los Angeles. Hay was drawn to the cooperative ideals and political activism of the communist party at this time, but distanced by its prohibition of homosexuality among members. In 1938 he married friend and party member Anita Platky in an effort to adapt to the social conditions of party membership; the couple moved to New York a year later. When the United States entered the Second World War they returned to Los Angeles, where Hay found work as an industrial engineer (materials manager) in the war-time aircraft industry.

After the war, Hay's communist party-related activities included teaching classes on the political significance of folk music with a group called People's Songs. Historical research for the class led to Hay's discovery of masked medieval European satirist-performers known as Matticinos. In 1948, the year of the Kinsey Report, a discussion at a party led Hay to write a proposal for a group that would act on the idea that homosexuals were an oppressed minority who must organize to secure their civil rights. Two years later Hay and four others founded the Mattachine Society, a semi-secret (or masked) organization grounded in discussion groups focusing on issues of interest to the homosexual community.

Harry Hay's commitment to Mattachine led to the end of his marriage in 1951; he resigned from the communist party the same year. Then at a Mattachine Society convention in 1953, Hay and his fellow co-founders were ousted from leadership positions due to the wider membership's discomfort with their leftist politics. After being called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Los Angeles in 1955, Hay retreated from public activism for a time. His focus shifted to research concerning the presence and social role of homosexual minorities in various cultures across history. Articles informed by this research appeared in publications of ONE Inc., whose members included founders of the Mattachine Society.

In 1963 Hay met John Burnside, an engineer and inventor who became his life partner. As the sometimes sole members of the Circle of Loving Companions, Hay and Burnside were active in the gay and Native American civil rights movements. In the early 1970s they moved to rural New Mexico. Toward the end of the decade Hay and Burnside were among the co-founders of the Radical Faeries, a "New Age tribal spiritual movement" that organized gay consciousness-building retreats in scenic natural settings. They returned to Los Angeles in 1979.

In the mid-1970s Hay participated in interviews with historians whose subsequent publications on the early gay-rights movement established Harry Hay as one of its central founding figures. Historian Stuart Timmon's well regarded biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay (1990), further enhanced Hay's stature as a gay-rights pioneer. The recognition contributed to Hay's popularity as a speaker on topics related to gay history and identity.

Harry Hay died in San Francisco in 2002.


Timmons, Stuart. The Trouble with Harry Hay. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1990.

Harry Hay Papers, Coll2011-003, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

ONE Archives subject files, "Radical Faeries", ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.


9.9 Linear Feet (16 boxes and 1 map case drawer.)

Language of Materials



Manuscripts, notes, published research sources, correspondence, interviews, clippings, financial and employment records, legal papers, photographs, posters, original and reproduced graphic material, flyers, memorabilia and other material documenting the life of Harry Hay. Hay conceptualized and was a co-founder of the Mattachine Society (1950), the first organization to advocate defense of the civil rights of gays and lesbians on the grounds that they were an oppressed minority. He would remain active in the gay movement as a writer and speaker throughout his life.The collection documents Hay's writing and research related to gay history and identity, his engagement with left and progressive politics dating from the mid-1930s, his involvement in the 1970s and 1980s with researchers exploring the roots of the gay liberation movement, his personal finances and work history, and his personal relationships.


The collection is arranged in the following series:

Series 1. Writing, 1935-1998

Subseries 1.1. Non-fiction, 1948-1998

Subseries 1.2. Fiction, 1935-1958

Subseries 1.3. Research materials, 1950-1980

Series 2. Correspondence, 1935-2002

Series 3. Personal, 1912-2002

Series 4. Photographs, 1870-2002

Series 5. Art, ephemera, and other graphic material, 1938-2000

Acquisition Information

Donor and date of acquisition unknown, but the materials were likely acquired by Stuart Timmons. The section in Series 5 titled "William Moritz collection" comprises graphic material owned by Harry Hay, but apparently collected by Hay's friend William Moritz, with each item numbered and described in an inventory list.

Related Materials

Harry Hay Papers (GLC 44), Gay and Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, California.

Mattachine Society Project Collection, Coll2008-016, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

Separated Materials

The following items have been separated from the collection:

1) a photocopy of Iolaus, an Anthology of Friendship, a volume edited by Edward Carpenter;

2) a catalog for the 1987 "UCLA Gay and Lesbian Film Festival";

3) seven issues of the UCLA Librarian, a newsletter: v. 16, numbers 23, 25, 26; and v. 17, numbers 6,7, 11, 14.

Processing Information

Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection processed by Marc LaRocque, May 15, 2011.


Finding aid of the Harry Hay papers, 1867-2002
Marc LaRocque
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, University of Southern California Repository

909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles California 90007 United States
(213) 821-2771