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Guide to the William P. Gaddis, Jr. Papers, 1939-1981
2002-32  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
This collection documents the underground gay life of William P. Gaddis, Jr. during his military service in the United States Navy at the time of World War II and contains letters from his travels in the late 1950s, as a civilian, to major cities around the world seeking to connect with gay life across the globe. The correspondence begins in 1939 with letters received from a gay lover stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It contains significant holdings relating to the lives of gays and lesbians during this time, recorded as personal correspondence in diary-like form. Much of the writing describes underground gay life in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1939 onward, as Mr. Gaddis was born in Berkeley and was stationed in this area during part of his naval career. The collection also contains a small number of photographs from this time, a larger number of negatives, a flyer produced in 1970 by the Society for Individual Rights as a warning to gay men about plainclothes police arrests at gunpoint at various San Francisco locations, and phonograph records with underground/coded gay content dating back as far as 1939.
Background
William P. Gaddis was born in Berkeley, California, in 1920. His father had a career in the United States Navy and, because of his father's career, Gaddis spent part of his childhood living in China. Gaddis joined the U.S. Navy himself around the beginning of World War II. Gaddis spent most of his life, when he was not traveling or stationed elsewhere in the U.S. Navy, living in his family home in Berkeley. Gaddis, according to the friend who was instrumental in convincing him to donate these papers, rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy before he was discharged from the military because he was homosexual. This discharge occurred in late 1943 or early 1944. After his time in the military he went on to become an electrician by trade and he traveled extensively around the globe from 1956-1958, writing letters to friends about the gay life in the various locations he visited.
Extent
6 Boxes
Restrictions
Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
Availability
Collection is open for research.