Mar 9, 2016

Finding the Gay Men in Old Photographs


I love finding beefcake in old photographs: hard chests, bulging biceps, perhaps a hint of beneath-the-belt gifts, men and boys caught at a moment of time a century or more ago, bright with promise and erotic energy.

I try to imagine the lives they had.  The books they read, the games they played, their hundreds of sunrises and breakfasts and walks through city streets.

I try to imagine their friends, their lovers.

I try to figure out if they were gay..

Of course, they grew old and died long ago, so I can never really know them.

Unless they drop in for a visit.

Remember what Walt Whitman said:

Full of life, now, compact, visible,  
To one a century hence, to you, yet unborn, seeking me
Fancying how happy you would be, if I could be with you, and become your comrade.  
(Be not too certain but I am now with you.)


Usually there's no name to go with the physique, so research is impossible.

But for these turn-of-the-century hunks, I have a name and a place. They are the Tonawanda, New York high school basketball team, which won the New York State Championships in 1907.

Basketball was only invented in 1891, so they were playing an innovative new sport.





1. Hewitt Miller, the oldest of the group, born 1887.  He went to Michigan State College, where he joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity.  In 1919 he was back in Tonawanda, where he played for the American Legion basketball team.

In 1924, he told the Michigan State College Record: "Am still single."  If he wasn't married at age 37, chances are he never had a wife.

He also said  "Hope the dormitory fans win out, because it is there the rigorous and hearty germ of college spirit is sprouted, and kept alive."

He really liked those MSC dorms.






2. Harry Webb was born in 1889.

As an adult, he worked in a granite factory.

An article in the Grand Island Dispatch mentioned that he belonged to the Young Men's Club of Grand Island, which played pingpong in Larson's Soda Bar.

In 1952, "Harry Webb's Orchestra" performed at a Gay Nineties review at an elementary school in Grand Island, near Tonawanda.

He died in 1957 in Toledo,  No mention of a wife and kids.







3. Legrand (Bill) Simson (1886-1974).  went on to Cornell, where he was student body president, the captain of the football team, and on the rowing team.  Later he became a businessman.

In 1972, Cornell alumni news tells us that his old friend Clarence N. (Sliver) Seagrave tracked him down: "They were a great pair and still are."













4. Blake Miller.(1889-1987).  He went to Michigan State College with Hewitt Miller, no doubt his brother, where he played football, baseball, and basketball.  Later he played pro football, coached at Michigan State, and was a golf pro at the East Lansing Country Club.  He was married, and died in Lansing, Michigan in 1987.












5. Duval Hosmer.  Can't find anything on him, but a Duvill C. Hosmer is one of the plaintiffs in a court case filed against Buffalo Commercial Insurance Co. in 1907, and a Clarence Hosmer (1891-1968) was an offensive guard for the Tonawanda Kardax football team in 1921.

Who do I want hovering over me now?

Simson is the hottest and Hewitt is most likely to have been gay.  But if I can only get one, I'll take Duval-Duvill-Clarence.  He has an air of mystery, and perhaps of tragedy.

See also: Beefcake and Bonding in Old Photographs