ER and Law & Order: SVU writer and producer Newal Baer is teaming up with LGBTQ drama series producer P.J. Palmer and LA writer Michael J. Wolfe to create a docuseries titled The Mystery of the 1957 Gay Wedding Photos. The photos first appeared online in 2013 and were later published online by The Advocate in 2018 and in early 2019.
So what is the actual story they are looking to tell? LGBTQ activists and historians are currently on the hunt to find a gay couple who had a wedding in 1957. While the 1971 marriage between Richard John “Jack” Baker and Michael McConnell is considered the first government-recognized same-sex marriage in the U.S., many same-sex couples held weddings of their own to celebrate their relationships.
Do you recognize anyone in these photos of a gay wedding in Philadelphia in 1957? Archivists are trying to return these wedding pictures 60 years after the photo developer confiscated them.https://t.co/MHd8852xEG
— Caitlin G DeAngelis (@cgdhopkins) July 22, 2019
It seems one such couple did so in 1957. They then tried to get the photos from the wedding developed in a North Philadelphia drugstore. Unfortunately, the business owner thought the photos of two men kissing and cutting cake were “inappropriate.” As such, he withheld them from one of the men who tried to pick the photos up, according to NBC News.
Fast forward to today, and the photos are currently in the possession of the ONE Archives Foundation in Los Angeles and the John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives in Philadelphia. There are 21 photos with the John J. Wilcox and the rest are with ONE Archives.
Activists and historians now wish to know who is the couple in the wedding photos. Although several news sources have reported on the photos, no one has come forward to claim them. Even Twitter users have joined in the discussion to spread the photos and hopefully find the couple.
Pictures of a gay wedding—from 1957. Read this. https://t.co/PlacfSZxkY
— Tom Beer (@TomBeerBooks) July 25, 2019
The creators shared above are working closely with ONE Archives Foundation and the John J. Wilcox, JR. Archives at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia to create the series.
“The Mystery of the 1957 Gay Wedding Photos series will follow Baer, Palmer, and Wolfe as they search for clues and look to unlock answers to many of the outstanding questions behind the wedding,” reports Deadline. A website and Facebook page have already been created to connect with the public and work together to find the couple.
“We are drawn to stories of bravery, where these men lived out their lives under threat of danger or actual harm,” says Baer. “We owe them our deepest gratitude because they did something no one else had done before them: they recorded their love for themselves and for posterity. Now 60 years later, we have the photos, but there’s a painful gap between the past and the present. How did these pioneers live their lives as a couple? What barriers did two men married in the ‘50s, when the legal repercussions were severe, face? What drove them to take the bold chance to develop these photos when sodomy laws prohibited gay sexual relationships? Their legacy empowers us today and we are setting off to find these men and their stories. Along the way, other heroes have appeared, whose stories have never been told. So, this is a treasure hunt for our past that emboldens our future.”
These private photos from a 1957 gay wedding are beautiful, mysterious, illuminating and elevating. A toast to the happy couple and the queer heroes of the past:https://t.co/I29YFqWD5J
— Tom & Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) July 24, 2019
“The first time I saw these photos I was surprised to be moved to tears, I’ve never seen these types of family photos before,” said Palmer. “These men look so happy and in love, and the memory of those moments were muted when the photos were denied to them and their history denied to the world. The archives hold an enormous collection of these types of stories that were nearly erased. We are out to bring these stories forward to reclaim our history to show we have always been here, since day one.”
Wolfe added, “Searching for these men for the past 18 months, talking to countless LGBTQ elders and hearing stories of what life used to be like for them, has been a master class in gay history. To speak with them is to connect with my ancestors, to finally know family I never knew I had.”
Here’s hoping the men can be found soon.