The Mayor of Folsom Street: The Life and Legacy of Alan Selby
May 16 – September 30, 2019
Curated by Jordy Jones, Jeremy Prince and Gayle Rubin
This exhibition recounts the story of “Daddy” Alan Selby, the founder of the iconic South of Market leather and kink emporium Mr. S Leather, within the context of a changing SoMa neighborhood and the emergence of a distinct leather and kink culture.
“The Mayor of Folsom Street: The Life and Legacy of Alan Selby” surveys Selby’s life from his establishment of Mr. S Leather in San Francisco in 1979, to his community efforts during the AIDS crisis, to his undisputed position as “Daddy of all Daddies” in the city’s leather and kink subculture. It also traces the evolution of his small shop into a de facto community center and international destination that continues to occupy a unique place in the history of alternative sexualities.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Jordy Jones, Selby’s biographer; Jeremy Prince, the GLBT Historical Society’s museum and exhibitions director; and Gayle Rubin, renowned feminist and sexuality theorist and professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.
“‘The Mayor of Folsom Street’ is a portrait of a man, a business, a subculture and an era. Selby’s workshop was connected to the kink dungeon and to the hospital ward,” Jones says, referring to Selby’s volunteer work in hospitals during the AIDS crisis. “Mr. S. is more than a brand. This exhibition reflects Selby’s role as a public Daddy, one whose protection and support could always be counted on.”
Drawing on materials in the Alan Selby papers preserved in the GLBT Historical Society’s archives and on recent scholarship, the multimedia exhibition showcases artifacts, fine art, photographs and scarce historical documents.
The show also reflects Selby’s participation in the daddy/boy subculture of consensual relationships that involve personal and erotic mentoring of younger men by older men in the gay leather and kink community. Underscoring the importance of cultural transmission and inheritance as a significant aspect of this subculture, the exhibition seeks to foster connection across queer generations.
About Alan Selby
Alan Selby (1929–2004) was born Alan Henry Sniders in Yorkshire, England. He entered the Royal Navy at the age of 18 and served the United Kingdom as a medic and nurse in the years following World War II. Selby became a gentleman’s clothier after leaving the service, working as a representative for a textile firm. After a trip to San Francisco in 1969, where he was inspired by the nascent leather scene, Selby partnered with his lover Peter Jacklin—a skilled leatherworker—to establish a small factory and retail outlet, Leather Unlimited, in London’s Wandsworth neighborhood.
In 1979 Selby and Jacklin moved to San Francisco and founded Mr. S Leather on 7th St. in the SoMa district. Jacklin’s death from AIDS in 1987 led Selby to sell the business and devote much of energy to volunteer and charity work fighting the epidemic. He remained active in San Francisco’s leather community until his death.
About the Sponsors
“The Mayor of Folsom Street” is sponsored by Mr. S Leather and David Hyman.
About the Curators
Jordy Jones is a native Californian and a longtime San Francisco resident now living in rural Mendocino County. He is an independent scholar, curator, artist and activist. He received his PhD in visual studies, with an emphasis in critical theory, from the University of California Irvine in 2008. He is the author of The Mayor of Folsom Street: The Auto/Biography of “Daddy” Alan Selby, aka Mr. S (Fair Page Media, 2017).
Jeremy Prince started with the GLBT Historical Society in 2011 as a volunteer in the newly opened GLBT Historical Society Museum. He is now the society’s director of exhibitions and museum operations. He holds an MA in early modern European history and museum studies from San Francisco State University. In 2013 established an independent archives dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of gay “bear” culture.
Gayle Rubin received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1994 and has been teaching there since 2003. She is the author of a series of groundbreaking articles on the politics of sex and gender collected in Deviations: The Gayle Rubin Reader (Duke University Press, 2012) and a forthcoming book on gay leather culture in San Francisco.
Banner photo: Mr. S Products (U.S.A.) Ltd. product catalog (circa 1979); artwork by Lou Rudolph; collection of the GLBT Historical Society.