Philadelphia-area Personnages: Natives, Residents, and Visitors--and One Owner in approximate chronological order
Queen Christina of Sweden, the sovereign of New Sweden (the Delaware Valley) lived habitually in men's clothes, loved to ride, and loved her lady in waiting, Ebba Larsdotter Sparre. The colors of the Swedish flag are the colors of Philadelphia's flag: baby blue and yellow.
Baron von Steuben, the Prussian general who trained George Washington's troops at Valley Forge. His birthday, September 17, is the only public holiday in the United States in honor of a gay man. Most of the German Americans who parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway would be surprised to know that von Steuben came to America one step ahead of the police, who were trying to arrest him for indiscreet behavior with young men. The Baron brought with him a seventeen-year-old Frenchman to share his bed. The French lad was described as his translator though the youth spoke neither German nor English.
James Buchanan, an antebellum president of the United States, was romantically linked with a rather butch senator from Alabama.
Charlotte Cushman, director of the Walnut Street Theater in the 1840s and an actress of international standing, famous especially for playing Romeo, among other "trouser" (male) roles. Her principal romantic relationship was with the sculptor Harriet Goodhue Hosmer.
Walt Whitman, the Good Gray Poet or Great Gay Poet, lived in Camden for more than twenty years, making it the gay mecca of the world. Thence he attracted, among countless others: Edward Carpenter, the English gay socialist who first advocated gay rights in the English language and who crossed the ocean twice to visit Walt, whom Carpenter honored as a mentor. Oscar Wilde, the Irish dramatist, who visited Walt when he was in town to lecture at Horticultural Hall, just south of the Academy of Music and...
Thomas Eakins, Philadelphia's most famous painter, who crossed the Delaware enough to become a friend of Walt's and to painter Walt's picture more than once. One of the paintings hangs in the Penna. Academy of the Fine Arts; another, in which Walt appears as a spectator at a boxing match, hangs at the Phila. Art Museum. Eakins once told a class that, "the male form is the most beautiful in nature." He shared a studio on Chestnut St. with the a former student, a sculptor, for 15 or 20 years. Samuel Murray and Eakins went camping together for two weeks every summer for many years. In the current (2001) exhibit of Eakins' work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are Eakins' portrait of Murray and an Eakins' photograph of the very handsome and well-made nude Murray. Murray's photographs of Eakins were taken right through to the end of Eakins' life.
Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of the first gay rights organization in the world, visited Philadelphia, where he noted that the hustlers identified themselves by wearing red ties.
Emma Goldman, the anarchist, was the first person to advocate gay rights in America, though she was not herself gay. Philadelphia police once imprisoned her in the tower of City Hall.
Wilson Ayer, turn-of-the-twentieth-century architect, who designed the Penn Museum, 33rd and Spruce Streets.
M. Cary Thomas, the president of Bryn Mawr College who made it a world-class institution. She and her spouse, professor of English, hosted a visit by: Gertrude Stein, who based a novel and a number of stories on the romantic lives of her hosts and their friends, male and female
Charles Demuth, the great modern painter from Lancaster, Pa., many of whose most famous works are composed of the military insignia associated with his beloved, a German officer killed in the First World War
Bayard Taylor, the poet from Kennett Square, for whom its high school is named. He was a great admirer of Walt Whitman and saw himself as the gay poet whom Walt had foreseen and described in The Leaves of Grass.
BayarRustin, organizer of the March on Washington in 1963