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George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: July 1865

Greetings! Thanks for coming back for more transcribed entries from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). If you're just joining us, in 2012 HSP acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War dating from 1863 to 1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'm providing monthly posts on Fondly, PA of transcripts of entries from his diaries.

To see other posts in the series, check out the links over on the right-hand side of this page.  Clicking on the diary images will take you to our Digital Library where you can examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.


With the war over, things were winding down for Parry and his regiment. At the beginning of the month, he remained in Georgia, in a camp outside of Macon. And, as he noted in several entries, it was a hot, hot summer. It seems that Parry caught some sort of illness that led him to an extended hospital stay. At the end of the month, he was moved north, based on orders from command, with other sick soldiers. Parry ended up in Cumberland Hospital, a volunteer organization, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets [ ]. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.


Thursday, July 7

An excessive Hot Day[.] So Hot
Turpentine run out of Pine trees
by Gallons.
                   (Row?) some sick with
                    Flies very bad and almost
Hell on Earth[.] 'So Hot' and so
much torment.


Thursday, July 13

Dressed up[,] rode into Macon
called on Major Greens[,] got a
pass to go at will. also  got
$1400.00 in Confederate Money.
Had a nice time. [midling?] well to


Wednesday, July 19

Very busy all Day[.] moved camp
to what was [a] building for the
Grand Confederate Armory. works

of Magnitude and beauty. Now
the property of the U. S. Gov't.
                                                Sent a
Paper to Edward Buckman.


Monday, July 24

Very Sick with Fever[.] Called
the Dr.['s] attention to things and
was sent to the Ocomulgee [Ocmulgee]

Hospital. Examined by Dr.[,] placed
under treatment.  changed my
suite for a Hospital one. Slept
till four O'clock when the orders
came to send all sick to Hospital
train to go north.  placed in a
splendid car on a very easy bed
hung on rubber. All night in cars.


Thursday, July 27
Left Huntsville in evening and
travelled all night. Had rain
during night.  passed through many
small towns and arrived at
Columbia at day light and at
Nashville. Transferred by Ambulance
to splendid Hospital. Cumberland


Friday, July 28
In Hospital[,] lost Day some
           Suffering from Piles[,]
weak Kidneys & Inflammation
of Bladder


Violet Oakley: Citizen of the World


Violet Oakley was truly a citizen of the world; as a muralist, illustrator, portrait painter, author, designer, and visionary, Violet Oakley stood out amongst fellow female artists of her generation. Her devotion to art and the belief that it was not only for “the select few” was made apparent through her involvement in political activities, which mainly focused on international issues of world government and disarmament. With such devotion to art and its place in politics, Violet transcended conventional roles of painting and portraiture and by 1911 she had become the only American woman to have established a successful career in mural art.

An Artistic Lineage


Violet Oakley [b. June 10, 1874] was born into a third generation of amateur and professional artists. Her father, Arthur Edmond Oakley, was a successful businessman who held a great interest in arts; as a young woman, her mother, Cornelia Swain, taught drawing and painted portraits in San Francisco; her elder sister, Hester, was a writer and illustrator; aunts Julianna and Isabella Oakley studied painting in Munich; both grandfathers were members of the National Academy of Design. So, it came as no surprise when Violet began to show interest in the arts and her early efforts of expression were highly encouraged. With pencil or brush in hand she filled numerous sketchbooks from childhood well into adulthood that captured daily events, family outings, concerts, and landscapes.

Women Playing Piano: page from Violet Oakley's Sketchbook

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania boasts around 140 of these personal sketchbooks in its vaults. (Violet Oakley Sketchbooks Call Number: Collection n. 3336)

Formal Education


Enchanted by the stories her aunts wrote in letters home from abroad, Violet started to live vicariously through their tales of adventure and art in foreign lands. This prompted her to start a more formal education in the arts. However, her training was quite sporadic in the beginning. In 1894 she traveled with her father to New York City to study at the Student’s Art League, then in 1895 while on an extended family trip to Paris she enrolled at the Academie Montparnasse to study under Edmond Aman-Jean and Raphael Collin. In 1896, while still in Paris, her father became ill and the family returned for medical treatment in Philadelphia. Violet entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to study under Cecilia Beaux, Joseph de Camp, and Henry Thouron. She would leave to study at Drexel a year later, but in 1913 she returned to PAFA to teach a class in Mural Decoration and was the only other woman besides Cecilia Beaux to teach there until the 1950’s.

After her year at PAFA Violet decided to change focus and left for the Drexel Institute School of Illustration to study under Howard Pyle, the most celebrated illustrator of the late nineteenth century. Pyle was known for his charismatic nature and generosity as an educator and was a significant inspiration to aspiring artists. He played a particularly large role in Violet’s education and was a tremendous inspiration to her. She admired him for his skill and versatile drawing style and throughout her career similarities in their aesthetic became apparent.

Commissioned Work


Between the years 1896 and 1906, under the encouragement of Pyle, word of Violet’s skill began to spread and she undertook numerous commissions. Violet was contracted to illustrate for numerous magazines such as Harper’s, Century Magazine, and Everybody’s Magazine. In 1900 All Angel’s Church in New York City approached Violet to decorate their church. She designed for them five lancet windows, a glass mosaic altarpiece and two large murals for the Apse. These two paintings were the beginning of Violet’s established career as a muralist.

In 1902 Joseph Huston, the architect  of the new Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg decided “at least one room should be decorated by a woman” and commissioned Violet to paint 13 murals for the Governor’s Reception Room. This would be the first time in American history that a woman was awarded such a commission in a public space. Violet decided the land of William Penn was a good place to begin her studies. She felt the imagery in the Capitol building should reflect ideals promoted by the founder of Pennsylvania, so Violet and her mother sailed to England and studied the history of the Quakers and of William Penn. Violet’s studies of the Quaker doctrine heavily influenced her personal outlook on life; she stated, “In time I became so impressed by the belief or testimony of the Quakers against carnal warfare that this idea, the victory of law, or truth over force, became the central idea of my life”. Violet would have another opportunity to exercise this new found doctrine. In 1911 Edwin Austin Abbey, the original artist commissioned to decorate the Senate and Supreme Chambers of the Capitol building, passed away before he could begin the work and Violet was approached to fulfill the rest of Abbey’s contract. From 1911 – 1927 she worked tirelessly on both rooms, taking the opportunity to continue to develop ideas found in the Governor’s Reception Room.

Violet Oakley with mural, photograph, undate

Violet Oakley with mural, photograph, undated

Art and Politics


Immediately after the completion of the Supreme Court murals, Violet left for Geneva, Switzerland to document the League of Nations. Oakley interpreted the creation of the League of Nations as an extension of William Penn’s ideals (as well as her own) and found herself a self-appointed ambassador. Violet’s involvement in this political event caused her to see a direct relationship between Geneva and Philadelphia and envision a “great Suspension Bridge connecting Penn’s City of Brotherly Love and the City of Geneva”. During the years 1927 to 1929 Violet created numerous portraits of the League’s member-delegates and other dignitaries for a Philadelphia newspaper, many of which were later turned into widely exhibited portfolios. These portfolios embodied Violet’s hope for a world where all nations could live together in peace. The originals were later presented to the Library of the United Nations in Geneva. After all of her involvement, it caused Violet great dismay when she learned of the United State's refusal to join the League.

Leage of Nations Delegate: page from Violet Oakley's Sketchbook

Violet felt politics was not an inappropriate activity for an artist. She strongly believed that the world’s problems are not to be left solely to politics and economics – that the attempt to create harmony in the world is in itself a work of art in which everyone has a part to play. Violet found a way to communicate this idea in a more accessible manner through two portfolios of color reproductions of all the Harrisburg murals along with a detailed explanation of them in a personally designed hand-lettered text. The Holy Experiment – William Penn’s term for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1682, depicted the images found in the Governor’s Reception Room and the Senate Chamber. Law Triumphant, the sequel, contained reproductions found in the Supreme Court Room and portraits of delegates who participated in the League of Nations (1933).

Violet Oakley’s collective work represents a lifelong pilgrimage and quest to help establish peace and harmony throughout the world. She embraced this as her “sacred challenge” with passion and dedication until her death at the age of 86, at her home in Philadelphia, 1961.


A Pinch of History: Norfolk Dumplings

Hannah Glasse’s cookbook is the oldest of the four that I chose to focus on, with the exception of Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (which holds recipes dating to Elizabethan times). Glasse was English, but her cookbook was widely used on the American continent.

Published in 1755, Glasse's cookbook looks its age. The front cover is completely detached and pages fall out left and right. When researchers hold the book in their hands, tiny pieces of paper sprinke the table below. 

I was terrified of damaging a valuable piece of history. For these reasons, I was more comfortable reading an e-book version on the computer. It was an exact facsimile scanned onto the Internet. The photos are of the original book, which it now safely back in its protective acid-free box. 

As I stated in my second post, Hannah Glasse’s cookbook is a published work created for instructive purposes. It felt less personal than Martha Washington’s or Mary Plumstead’s handwritten books. The book bears a title reflective of its time: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind ever yet published. She asserts in the introduction that the purpose of the book is to simplify the art of cooking for the servile classes so that servants may better provide for their masters. To this, I would say that Glasse has succeeded. Her book provided the most instructions on how to choose the best ingredients, the most basic instructions on tasks like roasting or boiling, the most recipes in total, and the most explicit recipes— I was left with little questions on how to execute the recipes because she provided enough steps and insight in the first place. The handwritten books are much vaguer; they were probably thoughts scribbled down in live action in the kitchen. Amelia Simmons’s cookbook is published as well, though much shorter and less in-depth.


The other challenge I encountered with Glasse, aside from the fragile condition of the book, was her use of the formal “S”. I come across these stylized characters in my history classes while exploring primary sources. Eventually you get used to it, but when I first begin I cannot help but read with a slight lisp as the “S” looks like an “F”. 

Compared to others included in Glasse's work, this recipe was extremely simple. I also thought the recipe was adorable, how Glasse added her own opinion at the end even though the book was a more formal work. The original recipe reads:

“To make Norfolk Dumplings, Mix a good thick Batter, as for Pancakes, take Half a Pint of Milk, two Eggs, a little Salt, and make it into a batter with Flour. Have ready a clean Sauce-pan of Water boiling, into which drop this Batter. Be sure the Water boils fast, and two or three Minutes will boil them; then throw them into a Sieve to drain the water away, then turn them into a Dish, and stir a Lump of fresh Butter into them, eat them hot, and they are very good.”

To say the least, this recipe fits in to how many might imagine colonial cooking to be. It was slightly tasteless and bland, according to our modern tastes. The addition of the butter at the end is definitely necessary, and I am not even a huge fan of butter.

I have no measurement of the flour, but you need A LOT to create sticky dough that can hold its own. Cooking often cannot come down to exact measurements. My dumplings looked like shapeless blobs because, rather than roll them into neat little balls, I felt that I should just drop handfuls of dough into the boiling water. I had never prepared a dumpling before, so I had no idea what shape they should be. I am still developing as a cook, and I have much to learn from these 18th-century women.

Hannah Glasse’s Norfolk Dumplings:

1 cup milk (I used 1% reduced fat)
2 eggs
Whole-wheat flour
Sea salt

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil
2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl
3. Add milk and stir to combine
4. Sprinkle some sea salt in before adding the flour
5. Begin adding flour little by little, stirring between. You want the liquid ingredients and dry ingredients to form a dough (I tried to get it to pizza crust or pie crust consistency)

6. Once the dough is cohesive, drop balls into the boiling water
7. After about 3 minutes, or when the dumplings are solid and cooked, drain them in a strainer

8. Place the dumplings in a bowl and stir a decent glob of butter into them while they are still hot, so that it melts fully—and enjoy!

Perhaps the addition of some honey & cinnamon would help to liven these dumplings up. Or they could simply serve as a dinner roll-type food!

Regardless of how each recipe is turning out, the experience of cooking from a historical cookbook is indescribable. I find myself laughing, grimacing, questioning, and feeling very excited to taste the results. Every recipe is literally an adventure-- who would have thought cooking could be so complicated and intriguing!

Before Stonewall, A Reminder

Before Stonewall, and long before the Christopher Street Pride Parade, there was Annual Reminder Day – a Philadelphia-based demonstration where gay men and lesbians protested for the same civil rights granted to their fellow heterosexuals.

The 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder Day, which occurred every July 4 from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall, inspired “Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court,” the new exhibit at the National Constitution Center.

One cannot underestimate the bravery exhibited by the demonstrators at the first Annual Reminder back in 1965. Visibly exposing oneself as a homosexual risked disastrous consequences, both personal and professional. If you weren’t “passing” as an heterosexual American, you were inviting trouble.

And it’s no surprise that in light of how potentially dangerous this visibility could be for the demonstration’s activists, the way in which activists represented themselves during the Reminder picket became extremely important.

Surprising to those familiar with gay pride parades across the country, the Reminder Day picketers were bound to a strict dress code – ties and jackets for men, dresses for women. Organizer Frank Kameny also instructed demonstrators to picket in a single-file line.

“We didn’t want people to gawk at us,” explained Kameny, who aimed to give onlookers the impression that the demonstration’s participants were, in his words, “employable.” “We wanted them to gawk at the message on our signs and in our leaflets,” he continued.

A copy of Frank Kameny’s original dress code, courtesy of Bob Skiva at the John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives

Also important to Kameny was the time and place of the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations. The picketing occurred after the city’s Independence Day parade, right in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, places which Kameny knew had an enduring symbolic appeal as emblems of the struggle for freedom.

When the flag-bearing – one of the most salient and sacred portions of the Independence Day parade – occurred during the demonstration, protestors would lower their signs, stand still, and place their right hand over their hearts, all in an attempt to communicate that they, too, were first-class citizens, and not just marginal people.

One could argue that this presentation was effective – the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations carried on in an overall orderly manner for the next three years. Each year, several more LGTBQ citizens would show up, growing from an initial group of about a dozen demonstrators to totals in the range of forty and fifty.

Then, Stonewall happened. Everything changed.

Often cited as the “true” beginning of the gay civil rights movement, the Stonewall riots were a series of aggressive, spontaneous demonstrations against an early morning police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. These demonstrations were a sharp contrast to the orderly nature of the Annual Reminder Day; their participants seemed less interested in the idea of equality and more focused on the idea of liberation.

Less than a week later, a group of about forty or so gay men and lesbians from New York City chartered a bus to Philadelphia to participate in that year’s Annual Reminder Day. The changing tides of the gay civil rights movement increased the number of demonstrators at 1969’s Annual Reminder Day to nearly 150 participants, a number dwarfed by today’s standards, but thrilling for veterans of the protests, such as Barbara Gittings.

The precise, orderly nature of the demonstration, however, struck many of these justifiably angry New Yorkers as overly decorous and mild-mannered. Most annoying to them was the still-honored dress code.

A pivotal moment occurred when two women decided to hold hands while demonstrating, breaking the rule of picketing in a single-file fashion. Organizer Frank Kameny demanded that the two women walk separately; his angered reaction was met first with quiet rage, and then with a total disregard for the Annual Reminder Day policies, with many demonstrators holding hands with their same-sex partners while picketing.

Once these rules had been shirked, there was no looking back. The following November, at the East Coast Homophile Organization’s movement, Annual Reminder Day was phased out, and the Christopher Street Pride Parade was born.

The first Christopher Street Pride Parade in New York City in 1970 is now considered legendary, chockfull of confrontational activism, including dances, political meetings, a wild parade, and erotic art shows. Held on June 28, it visibly reflected the liberationist style of protest, with longhaired, shirtless protestors holding signs demanding GAY POWER and engaging in open drug use.

And while the precedent set by the first Christopher Street Pride Parade would go on to define the nature in which Pride functions nationwide were conducted to this day, it is important to remember not only the circumstances under which the first Annual Reminder Day took place, but the bravery it took these original demonstrators to flaunt their visibility as homosexuals.

As LGTBQ activist Barbara Gittings described in the documentary Gay Pioneers, “Coming out in a picket line in 1965 was downright revolutionary for that time. It took gumption, it really took gumption and the conviction that we were right [and] the world was wrong. We were just at the start of cracking that cocoon of invisibility.”

The Village Improvement Association of Doylestown

In 1895, a group of fourteen women in Bucks County, Pennsylvania joined together to improve the quality of life in their community, forming the Village Improvement Association (VIA). Twenty-eight years later in 1923, the same group founded the Doylestown Hospital. Today, the Village Improvement Association of Doylestown is over 120 years old, has over three hundred and fifty members, host annual fundraisers, oversees a retirement community in addition to Doylestown Hospital, and continues to support projects improving the quality of life in Bucks County.

The VIA is an extraordinary group of women and is the only women’s club in the nation to own and operate a hospital. In addition to all that they do to improve the community of Bucks County, the VIA owns and maintains the James-Lorah Memorial Home, which also serves as their headquarters.

The James-Lorah Memorial Home is a 17-room Federal style building located on North Main Street in Doylestown, PA. The building was the home to Miss Sarah M. James, a charter member of the Village Improvement Association in 1895, and was bequeathed to the VIA in 1954 upon her death, including the home’s contents and a trust fund for its maintenance.

The house itself has a fascinating history. The north wing of the home was originally a saddler’s shop, built in the early 1800s. In 1824, the building was purchased by Abraham Chapman and gifted to his grandson, Henry, who used the property as his law office. In 1884, Henry expanded the building by adding the main section of the house. Noted historian and archaeologist Henry Chapman Mercer was born in one of the bedrooms in 1856.

In 1869, the home was purchased by Dr. Oliver P. James, a physician. Dr. James resided there with his wife, Sara Gordon James, son Oliver, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah. In 1896, Martha married the Reverend Dr. George H. Lorah, a Methodist minister. The house became the summer home of Sarah James and the Lorahs following the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. James and their son Oliver. When Martha Lorah passed unexpectedly in 1918, Sarah James and Dr. George Lorah received a special dispensation from the Methodist church to continue living together as brother and sister-in-law.

The James-Lorah Home provides a unique glimpse into the lives of the James and Lorah families. The home contents bequeathed to the VIA included not only the furnishings, but also books, papers, memorabilia, and ephemera amassed over the years by the James and Lorahs.

Dr. George Lorah, in addition to being a Methodist Minister, was an avid poet. The collections at the James-Lorah Home include many of his handwritten poems, as well as clippings of poems from his church’s publication, “The Green Street Banner.”

The Bogie Man, written by Dr. George Lorah

One of a few albums in the collection, From Over the Sea, consists of pressed flowers and fauna from travels abroad by Sarah, Martha, and Dr. George. In addition to this album, there are pressed flowers that can be found elsewhere in the collections.


A rather unexpected find during our survey visit was the following note, tucked into a Bible in one of the bedrooms of the home.

The collection also contains materials from Sarah and Martha’s youth, including several dance cards. Popular in the 19th century, dance cards were distributed to ladies attending formal dances and balls. Gentleman would choose the evening’s dance they wished to share with the lady, and sign his name next to it. The dance card below belonged to either Sarah or Martha, from the United States Military Academy (West Point) Graduation Hop in 1883.


The James-Lorah Memorial Home contains many more details of the lives of the James and Lorah families, as well as the Village Improvement Association of Doylestown.  If you’re interested in learning more about the VIA or the James and Lorah families, contact the Village Improvement Association!

A Pinch of History: They Ate What?

Olivia D'Aiutolo, HSP's summer 2015 Communications Intern, explores the library's cookbook collections as part of her new blog series, A Pinch of History: Culinary Commotion at HSP. 

In my blog series, I will be profiling several recipes from colonial cookbooks in HSP’s collections. However, I’d like to begin with one of the largest obstacles I’ve encountered so far on my journey outside of the kitchen: the strangeness and scarcity of many recipes’ ingredients.

When asked, my friends predicted that these older dishes would be extremely simple to prepare. They would be surprised to learn that most of the dishes these women made regularly featured an extensive list of ingredients, some of which are no longer available. Other ingredients required a significant amount of additional work. Instead of a “teaspoon of nutmeg”, many of these recipes call for “one nutmeg” which would have to be ground into a powder.

Other ingredients I had never heard of before. Here’s my running list of the obscurities so far, which I’m keeping to further understand these older culinary practices.

• Marrow- flexible tissue inside bones (I looked this up because I didn’t believe anyone would cook with marrow… I soon learned it’s common practice today for bone broth)
• Fricassee- when meat is cut, sautéed, braised, served in sauce it was cooked in
• Sweetmeat- candy covered in sugar; “meat” just meant food, something to eat
• Mace- covering of nutmeg shell
• Collop- slice of meat
• Pippin- red/yellow dessert apple
• Lamprey- jawless fish with tunnel-like sucking mouth (looks unappetizing… take my word for it)
• Sack- fortified wine
• Florentine- usually when spinach is included in a recipe
• Syllabub- dairy dessert made from cream & wine; served cold
• Posset- frothy custard made from cream, wine, eggs; served hot
• Treacle- uncrystallized syrup made during sugar refinement
• Suet- raw beef or mutton fat
• Tansy- flowering herbaceous plant (several books had recipes featuring flowers)
• Indian meal- cornmeal
• Pearl ash- first chemical leavening used in baking
• Emptins- yeast from the remnants of the beer brewing process
• Quinces- fruit in the apple & pear family
• Musk- aromatic substance from animal glands like deer
• Rusk- hard and dry biscuit or twice-baked bread
• Rosewater- rose petals steeped in water, used to flavor food

Have any of you come across these ingredients in your culinary adventures, past or present?
I am going to do my best to obtain mace and rosewater, as a lot of the baking and dessert recipes I’ve selected call for them. I’m trying my hardest not to compromise the integrity of the recipe, hoping to convey utmost authenticity of colonial cuisine through my blog.

Most of the dishes consumed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in America had a European taste, with the majority brought over from the Old World. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains recipes dating back to Elizabethan England. As time went on, recipes began evolving, incorporating the different materials and foodstuffs available in the New World that Europeans did not previously have access to.

Many items now considered staples would have looked unfamiliar to the Old World’s emigrants. Europe didn’t have corn, potatoes, squash, tomatoes or turkey.

I would also like to comment on the cookbooks themselves, as physical objects. Martha Washington’s and Mary Plumstead’s recipe books are handwritten; they seem more like personal family artifacts meant to be passed down through generations than something stuffed away in a kitchen. In the case of Martha’s cookbook, it was in fact an heirloom passed down to her by the mother-in-law of her first husband (George was her second husband). While reading through these cookbooks, I had the feeling of being a part of their family.

Hannah Glasse’s and Amelia Simmons’s books, on the other hand, are printed books with forwards and introductions. Glasse said she wrote the book to simplify the cooking process for the servile class while Simmons is known for the first cookbook published in America featuring exclusively American ingredients in several of the recipes. These were easier to read but were still written in a style entirely different from any common cookbook. Glasse and Simmons both devoted a significant amount of time explaining how to choose the best ingredients and cook with respect for seasonality.

I couldn’t help but feel connected to these women as I paged through their work. I know how difficult it can be to run a kitchen, as I normally cook every night in my house. I also began, over the last few months, developing my own recipes rather than using ones I have found. It is difficult to get recipes right the first time. I wasn’t concerned with the lack of specific measurements of most ingredients, as that is how I would cook. It is so much more enjoyable when you are not concerned with measuring this or that, but rather just working through the process and experiencing it. Throw in however much is needed to make the food taste good!

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, it is because he hears a different drummer."

HSP's Tyler Antoine explores one of the earliest gay magazines in the US, Drum, as part of a new blog series: "Beats of the Drum." Published here in Philadelphia in 1964, Drum represented a radical break from the past through its stark portrayals of homosexuals in mid-century America. For his inaugural post, Tyler discusses the immediate cultural milieu into which Drum emerged.

One of the more colorful items to be found in HSP’s Digital Library is the first issue of Drum, an early gay pride magazine first published by Clark Polak in Philadelphia in 1964. In this series, entitled “Beats of the Drum,” we aim to explore some of the more fascinating facets of this important document of LGBT history.

If you haven’t heard of Drum, you might be surprised at how much of a landmark magazine it was within mid-century gay American culture. First published in 1964, the climate in which the magazine appeared was hardly hospitable to homosexuals. Only six years had passed since the striking down of the Comstock laws forbidding the postage of homosexual materials.

In the early 1960s, homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder. The American Psychology Association listed homosexuality as a form of psychosis, recommended electric shock therapy, lobotomy, and other “treatments.” Far from the Equal Opportunity Employers of today, federal agencies were firing any employees suspected of being homosexual. Public LGBT demonstrations were few and far between, with the first Christopher Street Pride Parade still years away.

Put plainly, it was very dangerous to be gay at the time Drum appeared.  There was a serious lack of visibility due to the threat of being outed. In this time of ubiquitous gay pride events – everything from parades to dance parties – it’s easy to forget how these traditions are steeped in a longtime struggle from near invisibility to visibility and an appreciation for the public figures and unsung heroes who paved the way for these traditions to become so accepted.

The cover of Drum's inaugural issue in October, 1964


This is why Drum magazine represents such a revolutionary break. Unlike preceding LGBT publications – such as lesbian publication The Ladder, which relied on innocuous covers without any visual hint as to what could be found inside – the cover for the first issue of Drum displays the back-end of a man wearing only his swim trunks. Despite its frank appearance, Drum boasted a monthly circulation of about 10,000 at its peak – the largest circulation number for any magazine of its kind at that time.

More salacious photos and spreads would follow in subsequent issues. In 1965, it became the first American magazine to feature a full-frontal male pictorial. Polak's fearless approach to sexuality would ultimately be his downfall, however. The magazine ended in 1969 after a raid of Clark Polak's offices, resulting in Polak being brought up on 18 counts of publishing and distributing obscene material via his Trojan Book Service -- particularly obscene films. His business destroyed, Clark Polak would leave Philadelphia the following year.

A note from editor Clark Polak & Thoreau's quote that inspired the magazine's title. 

A seriously unsung hero, Polak was the founder of the Janus Society, an early homophile organization. After relocating to Los Angeles following his conviction, Polak continued a life of activism, founding a gay chapter at his local ACLU before ultimately taking his life in 1980.  The alienation he and his homosexual brethren felt can be observed from the Thoreau quote from which Drum takes its namesake – “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer.”


Signature Image: 

“The name of the Confederacy shall be the United States of America.” And with this polite introduction began the draft of America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.

Ratified on this day in 1781, the Articles are remembered as a complete failure (when they are remebered at all) – a misstep along the path towards the US Constitution.

This past week marked the birthday of Philadelphia's Henry Ossawa Tanner - Who was he?

Answer: Henry Ossawa Tanner was an artist, and he was among the first African American artists to gain national attention for his art.

Henry O. Tanner was born into a middle class family in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Philadelphia when Tanner was still a child, and he was educated at the Roberts Vaux School, a predominantly African American school. He decision to become an artist came when he was a young teenager, but his pursuit of art as a career was frowned upon by his father. He was a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and he wanted his son to enter the ministry. Despite this, Tanner applied to and was accepted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1879. There he was taught by Thomas Eakins, who encouraged him the direction of landscape painting.

Tanner didn’t complete his studies at the academy, and he left early to teach art and open a gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. He stayed there for two years and then moved to Paris, France, in the early 1890s. He died there in 1937. His time in Paris was Tanner's most prolific, and it was there that he developed his realist style. He became known for his life studies, such as The Banjo Player (1893), and religious works, such as Daniel in the Lions' Den (1895) and Return of the Holy Women (1904).

In HSP's library are a number of books recounting Tanner's artistic career, including Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit (call number N 6537 .T35 A4 2012 FOLIO) and Henry Ossawa Tanner: American Artist (call number Gt .045 M424). HSP also has a number of collections that highlight the history of art and artists in Philadelphia, such as those of Benjamin West (#3149), John Neagle (#2112), the Sartain family (#1650), and Violet Oakley (#3336).


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