The Original Mattachine

A. Nora Long, producing associate

black and white photo of Mattachine Society Christmas Party

Mattachine Society Christmas Party, 1951 or 1952. From left to right: Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Paul Bernard. Photo by Jim Gruber.

This picture is of the original Mattachine Society, at a Christmas party in the early 1950s. It is a rare shot – in fact, one story goes that the only reason Harry agreed to sit for the picture in the first place is because the photographer, Jim Gruber, assured him there was no film in the camera (a classic trick).

The hesitancy to be photographed was not unfounded paranoia -the Mattachine Society became the subject of an internal FBI investigation starting in 1953. Due to his affiliation with the Communist Party, Harry was already under FBI surveillance, and in 1955 was summoned to appear before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. The fear of being arrested, harassed, or physically abused by members of law enforcement was rooted in the reality of experience.

Which makes this photo all the more remarkable and valuable to us today.