The Pink and The Blue
Lesbian and Gay Life at Yale and in Connecticut, 1642-2004



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50

January 17, 1990

Carl Van Vechten

"Yale May Not Think So, But It’ll Be Just Jolly"

Carl Van Vechten at Yale with the singer and music critic Nora Holt.
Photograph courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

In 1962, Carl Van Vechten, novelist, photographer, and wealthy, white supporter of African-American writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance, placed in his collection, in Yale’s Beinecke Library, a mysterious box that he asked be kept closed until twenty-five years after his death.

Van Vechten died in 1969, and his donation was opened on January 17, 1990. It turned out to consist of about twenty scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and photos that combined to constitute a light hearted, ironic comment on homosexual men, lesbians, and masculinity and femininity.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Though Van Vechten included some clippings from the 1930s, he apparently compiled the scrapbooks in the mid-1950s.

Van Vechten clearly intended to leave Yale an irreverent, provocative legacy. The heading of one of his scrapbook collages suggests that Yale may not be thrilled by this donation: "Yale May Not Think So, But It’ll Be Just Jolly."

Van Vechten’s scrapbooks occasionally include references to lesbians. For example, an article on "The Problem of Masculine Women" includes photos of women in tuxedos and cropped hair.

Among the older clippings is a 1931 report of a drag ball in Harlem, from the New York Amsterdam News, including the subhead, "One Simpering Male Describes Affair as ‘a Veritable Glimpse of Fairyland.’"

Several pages of Van Vechten’s scrapbooks contain press reports of Christine Jorgensen’s sex change, and of men passing as women and women passing as men.

The activities of homosexual-rights groups are reported in articles that Van Vechten clipped in the 1950s.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

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