Date of Submission
Literature; American Studies
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Project Advisor 2
In 1959, Philadelphia only had a half-dozen coffeehouses within the city proper. Owners of these coffeeshops claimed their patrons were college students, artists, and people looking for a quiet place to spend an inexpensive evening in a non-alcoholic atmosphere to eat pastries, drink coffee, tea and hot chocolate, read, play chess or checkers, listen to music, and talk. Neighbors and policemen added to that list homosexuals, drug users, beatniks, and oddballs who would deal and do drugs, prostitutes, and cause a raucous at late hours. The reality was somewhere in between.
Most Philadelphians did not know these places existed—that was, until Frank Rizzo and police in Center City, Philadelphia raided the Humoresque Coffeeshop in Washington Square West. “Police Raiders Break Up Chess Game, Seize Men in Beards, Girls in Tights,” ran the first outlandish headline in Philadelphia’s Evening Bulletin on February 12, 1959. As the coverage continued, and more people realized gay men and lesbians gathered in these spaces, the rhetoric changed. Through news clippings from mainstream papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Evening Bulletin, this thesis reconstructs the events at Humoresque and challenges the notion that public discourse of same-sex sexuality did not happen in the 1950s. Local print culture in Philadelphia represented gay men and lesbians in different but related ways and this influenced and was influenced by the ways gay men and lesbians represented each other.
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Fiorellini, Nick, "“A Visit to the Coffee Houses”: How Local News Wrote About the Humoresque Coffeeshop Raids" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 74.
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