From Open for Research

Here Comes Mister Marcus

After far too many moons since a Visions and Voices update, we are back with some exciting news; the GLBT Historical Society has a new website! So go ahead and explore the sections, click on links, and see what amazing virtual nuggets of LGBT history await you.

Marcus and Matthew of Glendale, 1973; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus and Matthew of Glendale, 1973; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

In other exciting news, Visons and Voices is proud to announce the Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03), now fully processed and available to researchers in the GLBT Historical Society Archives. Coming in at just over 43 linear feet, this is one of the archives’ larger collections and includes an array of Mister Marcus’ personal and professional materials: photographs, memorabilia, correspondence, awards, press packets, clothing, and more, highlighting Marcus’ deep and dedicated involvement within the leather community, the Imperial Court System, and his well-known weekly column in the Bay Area Reporter, which he wrote for over 38 years from 1971-2009. Additionally, Marcus contributed articles and photographs to Drummer Magazine, The Leather Journal, and many other publications, in addition to being a frequent judge at Mr. Leather, Mr. Drummer, and International Mr. Leather contests (among others).

Marcus and Sarria, ca. 1976; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus and Sarria, ca. 1976; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Beside his expansive work within the leather community, Hernandez was actively part of the Imperial Court of San Francisco, one of the largest and oldest LGBT organizations in the world. In 1972, Hernandez became the first Emperor of the Imperial Court, or Emperor I After Norton. During his reign, he established the Spoon Awards which were presented to individuals in 20 different categories for continuously “stirring the pot”. He continued his involvement with the Imperial Court throughout his life, judging contests for many years.

Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Emperor Marcus; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

His collection, which was donated to the GLBT Historical Society in 2010, is just over 43 linear feet and documents his life from the years 1933 to 2009. The materials have been arranged into “photographic and AV materials”, which make up the bulk of the collection, and “non-photographic and AV materials”. Included are: photographic prints, negatives, slides, floppy discs/compact discs, and VHS; memorabilia such as awards, contest programs, buttons, and books; personal papers including correspondence, ephemera and keepsakes, notebooks and schedules, and creative writing; professional papers, such as Bay Area Reporter columns and newspaper clippings authored by Mister Marcus; and textiles and apparel which include hats, watches, leather vests, and other related personal artifacts. A few of the collection’s photographs even document his childhood in the 1930s through his time serving in the US military in the early 1950s and up into his early years living in San Francisco in the 1970s. These early photographs help reveal the more personal side of Marcus’ history, something that is less evident in his professional work.

Marcus ca. 1934; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus ca. 1934; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
"To Mother, With love always, Gily" from Lenggries, Germany July 4, 1952; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
“To Mother, With love always, Gily” from Lenggries, Germany July 4, 1952; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

One of the GLBT Historical Society’s long-time volunteers, Richard Leadbetter, spent hours upon hours sorting through Marcus’ photographs – hundreds of rolls and prints documenting leather events and contests,

Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Imperial Court events, and Marcus’ circle of friends. When the photos were finally sorted and all other materials re-housed, preserved, and documented, Leadbetter and I created a collection finding aid and catalog record. Both those documents can be found by searching “Marcus Hernandez” on the GLBT Historical Society website’s “Search Our Archives” section.

If there’s any takeaway from the Marcus collection (and there are many!) it’s that Marcus seemed to have a part in everything LGBT-related in San Francisco. Photographs and references of him pop up everywhere, from his time working in the Mayor’s office in the early 1970s to those many Pride Parades in which he rode on his own float. For over 40 year, his presence in San Francisco put many at ease, while his quick wit earned him the respect of many. But he is not just a writer, an advocate, an Imperial Court Emperor; he is a legend, he is the one and only Mister Marcus.

The BML Videos collection now open to researchers

One of the larger collections that the NHPRC grant has brought to light in the archives is a videotape collection from the now disbanded group BML Videos. Coming in at just over 16 linear feet, this collection contains over 400 VHS and SVHS tapes created mainly during the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, documenting numerous LGBT events, contests, fairs, and performances in the Bay Area, including: Gay Softball League events; the Bare Chest, Cheeks & Chaps, Mr. South of Market, Mr. San Francisco Cowboy, Mr San Francisco Leather, Leather Daddy, International Ms Leather, International Mr. Drummer, and bodybuilding contests; events at the Eagle; Imperial Court coronations and celebrations; the Closet Ball; Folsom, Castro, Dore Alley and Mission Street Fairs; and Pride Parades. There is also video from the 1993 March on Washington and footage from bike and leather clubs and drag shows.

The BML Videos collection was donated to the GLBT Historical Society in 2014 and with it came, thankfully, an inventory of contents created by the collection donor (when a collection comes with any sort of inventory, archivists are generally happy campers). This inventory contains details about individual recordings that only the creator could know: who shot what footage, raw versus edited content, and exact video dates. As a research tool and supplemental guide, this inventory not only reveals valuable contextual information about the collection itself, but it also provides a useful map to help researchers better navigate the details of each recording.

But like many creator-produced collection inventories, the valuable information it contains doesn’t necessarily make practical sense to the public. To address this, an archival finding aid was created that not only contains basic collection information, such as the scope of the collection and how large it is, but also a simplified inventory, or container listing, that one can utilize to better understand the potential research value of the collection. This finding aid container listing is enhanced by viewing the donor’s inventory, making for a robust, multi-faceted collection guide when combined. It is a nice compromise between the MPLP practices we utilize here at the GLBT Historical Society archives and the more detailed item-level description that most archivists simply don’t have the luxury to carry out.

With the collection now fully processed, the BML Videos videotape collection (#2014-10) is open to researchers in the GLBT Historical Society archives. Guides for the collection can be found at the archives search page. To view items from the collection or the donor-created videotape inventory, please contact the archives team.