James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Friday, June 12, 2015


Gay Freedom Day Parade on Montgomery Street, taken between 1972 and 1978 (GLC 35 Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection)

In anticipation of the Pride parade at the end of the month, we're highlighting some materials from years past. We've drawn from the ephemera collections in the library's Hormel and San Francisco History centers, and we've included some photos from the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection.

1974 Gay Freedom Celebration (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The first thing you notice is that the event has been called by many names: Gay Freedom Day, Gay Liberation Day, San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration and Parade, and SF Pride are just a few of the variations.

1975 Gay Freedom Day Parade route (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The next thing you'll see is that the parade routes and final locations have changed over the years. Many of the early parades started in the Financial District, continued to Polk Street and ended at Civic Center. The SF Pride website has a nice history of Pride events in San Francisco with a link to additional information on the grand marshals, parade line up, maps, and photos.

1975 Gay Liberation Day program cover (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The programs usually include the parade route, a notice of the events and entertainment schedule, and, increasingly, advertising. The early programs are quite slender, often a single newspaper-sized sheet folded into fourths. By 1975 there are over 35 pages, and by 2000 the programs are hundreds of pages long.

1975 Gay Liberation Day program, p.35 (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The programs provide wonderful snapshots of the time and include notices for events, businesses, political races, and organizations. I particularly like the announcement of the Gay Liberation Rally on the same page as the Jockey Short contest.

1977 Gay Freedom Day Parade business suit flyer (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

Later files include flyers as well. Mind you, what you wore to the parade in 1977 was just as important as it is today. What's in fashion may have changed, but being fashionable never goes out of style.

Gay Pride Postcard to Anita Bryant (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades, 1977)

The 1977 parade was well attended and well photographed. This was largely in response to the attack on LGBT rights that took place in Dade County, Florida. Anita Bryant led the well publicized Save Our Children campaign which sought to overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance. She proved to be a lightning rod for the LGBT community and its allies.

San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade on Market Street with signs of Fascists and Anita Bryant (GLC 35 Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection, June 1977)

We limited the scope of this post to pre-1982 events but there is a wealth of material from 1982 to the present. Let me leave you with a photo of the crowd filling Civic Center plaza with the old Main Library behind. Wishing you all a very happy Pride!

On Parade! August 1981 (SFHC Ephemera Collection: Homosexuals. Gay Freedom Day Parade)

The San Francisco History Center Ephemera Collection and the GLC Ephemera Collection are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

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