Monday, May 6, 2013

Vintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram

Here is another vintage image that caught my eye. Like many of the others I've posted on Tumblr, I found it on a site that aggregated a lot of vintage photos but had no identifying data.

This one caused me to pause and look for the story. These two men, dressed in similar clothes, seem to be sharing a happy moment in their home. The camera man in the background looking back at us through the image captured by another camera-- I wonder what he's doing there -- and I wonder just what it is he is filming.

The image is dated February 1956. It was captured one year before the images of a same sex wedding that I found that took place in Philadelphia in 1957.  Probably not them. Right? Definitely not the young couple from the Netherlands.

As it turns out, the story of this photo was easy to track down. It turns out that this couple spent at least part of their lives right down the road from me in Andover Massachusetts.

A quick Google Image search turned up the original source of this (and many other) images of these two young men. Bob Young bought these photos and has taken the time to research the history behind them. He's indicated on his Flickr page that it was okay to reblog the photos as long as he's credited. I've decided to reblog his whole post. Bob has done such great work on chronicling this history of these forgotten lives.

Some today wish to deny the existence of same sex relationships. Others like to act as if same-sex relationships are a recent creation. History shows otherwise. These forgotten voices--these vintage loves--are important stories that have been hidden from history. As we tell and retell these stories, we bring back a rich but faded history of love, struggle, and liberation. These men lived in a time where there love was dangerous -- their very act of living was courageous and blazed a trail for all of us live in a today that offers significantly more freedom.

Here is what Young wrote about his images.

Frank and Roger in Central Park, 1951
Roger and Frank:
Gay Life and Love in the 1950s

by Bob Young

The snapshots in this collection belonged to a gay man named Roger Miller Pegram, who passed away at the age of 70 in 1999. They date from 1945 to 1956, and most of them document a romantic relationship that Roger had with a man named Frank from 1951 to 1956. At some point after Roger’s death the photos ended up for sale in a junk shop located in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where he had lived. They were found, or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say they were rescued, by Maria DiElsi, a photo-historian and collector who had never met Roger but happened to live in the same neighborhood. Maria came across a box in the shop filled with miscellaneous photos, and as she sorted through the pile she discovered that the same two young men (frequently seen posing together), kept popping up in snapshots from the 1950s. On closer inspection it was obvious that the photos were of a gay couple. Maria also found that on the backs of almost all the snapshots were detailed handwritten notes. Perceiving their significance, Maria pulled all of them from the box and bought them. In 2005 she loaned a selection of the photos to the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego for the exhibition “Snapshots: From the Brownie Box to the Camera Phone.” The San Diego Tribune published a review of the exhibition and this is what columnist Robert L. Pincus had to say about the images:  

Roger in Burlington VT, August 15, 1954
“Our iconic view of the 1950s features trim, fresh suburbs with working dads, stay-at-home wives and lots of children. But snapshots broaden our portrait of an era, too. Roger and Frank, a persistently happy looking gay couple, prolifically documented their vacations, Christmas celebrations, parties and other events between 1945 and 1956.”

As mentioned, there were notes on the versos of almost all the snapshots. The notes were written by Roger, and they frequently include details such as the date a photo was taken, the location, and often the first and last names of individuals pictured. Most of the photos were taken in the Northeast (New York and New England), but there were also images from locations in both North and South Carolina, and even Mexico. Roger did not record either his or Frank’s last names, so initially there was the mystery of the two men's identities. During the time the snapshots were in Maria’s possession she did not attempt to use Roger’s notes to conduct research that might have yielded biographical information. 

Happy Holidays from Frank, Roger, and Butch, 1954

"Member", Roger, & Bill: Andover, MA 1955
 I purchased the collection from Maria in 2010, and my first question, after I had spread all of the photos out on my dining room table was, “Wow!, who were these guys?” I have collected vintage photographs of men for many years, but had never seen anything quite like this pre-Stonewall visual record of one gay couple’s life together. I had to agree with Robert Pincus about the prolific quality of the collection. Here were parties and vacations, and visits to Central Park. Here was delightful evidence of Roger and Frank’s “camp” sense of humor: both men posing on Christmas morning with their dainty little cat named “Butch,” or Roger standing and grinning next to a Vermont road sign that spelled out the words “The Queen.” 
Bill, Roger, Frank, & Kelly: Andover, MA 1955

I was aware that the period in which these snapshots were taken was a particularly difficult one for LGBT Americans. The atmosphere of paranoia and heightened institutionalized percussion that characterized the McCarthy era compelled many gay people to live double lives that required ever vigilant caution and secrecy. In 1953, President Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, which banned from federal employment, as well as employment from companies that did business with the government, any worker who exhibited “…criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion." Thousands of LGBT people lost their jobs in what is now referred to as “The Lavender Scare.” Across the country during the 1950s, police departments also began to step-up the level of systematic harassment by conducting raids on bars and restaurants that catered to a gay clientele. Even private house parties were not immune from being raided. In addition, the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality a mental disorder, and many individuals ended up being confined to medical institutions for treatment of their “abnormal condition.” In a societal climate such as this, I can only imagine what the daily stresses and pressures must have been like for Roger and Frank. However, the photos bear witness to the fact that in spite of the hostility, these two men were able to create and sustain a loving relationship and apparently had an enduring network of friends who they socialized with on a regular basis. 

Daggert and Roger, Andover MA, Oct 1955
 Partly in response to the way LGBT people were being perceived and treated by the larger society, this was also the time that saw the founding of three of the earliest gay and lesbian civil rights organizations: The Mattachine Society (1950), ONE Inc. (1952), and The Daughters of Bilitis (1955). Although I don’t know if Roger and Frank were involved with the early homophile movement, it was because of men and women like them (who were simply attempting in greater numbers to live their lives free of persecution) that pioneering organizations like the MS, ONE Inc., and the DOB were established. 

Since many of the people pictured in the snapshots were identified by first and last name, I decided to see if I could find any information on these individuals. I began by Googling some of the names, entertaining the slim hope that after more than 50 years I might come across either some revelatory facts or actually locate someone living who appeared in a photo. Call it beginners luck, but the first time I did a Google search I found the 1996 New York Times obituary of a 74-year-old man who I had a hunch might be pictured in three house party photos that were taken in Andover, MA, in 1956. His name was Paul Lammers and here is a link to a snapshot image of him being hugged by Roger at the partyYou can read Paul Lammers’ New York Times obituary here.

Roger and Frank, 1955
Paul Lammers’ obituary noted that he had been a soap opera director for 40 years and that at the time of his death he was living in Washington, CT. The most telling detail was that he was survived by a male companion, Dr. Leo Altschul. My next step was to ascertain if Leo Altschul was still alive. More Google searching revealed that he was. I even found a 2009 photo of Leo that was taken at a fundraiser for the Washington, CT public library. I then made prints of several snapshots from the collection, including the three in which Paul appeared, and mailed them with an explanatory letter to Leo’s address in Washington. Two days later an ecstatic Leo called me. The Andover snapshots (which he’d never seen before) were indeed of his partner Paul, taken a few years before they met. Although Leo had not gone to any house parties in Andover, Paul had attended several in the mid-50s. These parties were hosted by a man named Bob, who owned a men’s clothing store in Andover. According to Leo, they were private, invitation-only gatherings, and were held a couple of times a year. Interestingly, Leo also told me that he recognized Frank in the snapshots but not Roger. He and Paul would see Frank at New York City parties in the 1960s, and by that time Frank was in a relationship with another man. Leo only knew Frank as an acquaintance and thought his last name was either Beauchamp or Bouchard. He didn’t know Frank’s exact vocation either but was pretty sure he was a businessman. He did remember that Frank had died of lung cancer in the 1980s. We ended our talk with Leo telling me quite a bit about his relationship with Paul, which included some extremely interesting details about pre-Stonewall gay life. He said those years were tough at times, but he added, “We had a lot of fun, too.” At the time we spoke in the spring of 2010, Leo was 82 and retired from a career as a clinical psychologist.

 While Leo did shed some light on the Andover parties, he only provided a few sketchy details about Frank, and had no information on Roger. However, I didn’t give up searching and was eventually rewarded with a major breakthrough when I looked for a man named Henry C. Entreken, Jr., who appeared in a photo with Roger taken at Fort Jackson, SC in 1953

I Googled Henry’s name and a link came up for a St. Petersburg, FL real estate agency called Entreken Associates. The site included Henry’s qualifications, which mentioned that he’d graduated from Emory University in 1951. The Emory yearbook for 1951 can be found digitized at the site, and it was there that I discovered that the portrait of Henry Entreken in the ’51 yearbook matched the Henry in the Fort Jackson photo. As there was no contact e-mail for Henry at the real estate site, I once again made a photo-print and wrote a letter. Within a few days of mailing the photo and letter I received a call from Henry, and he sounded even more excited than had Leo. He told me that he and Roger had worked in the same supply school office at Fort Jackson, along with Henry’s future wife. I learned that Roger’s last name was Pegram and that he was originally from Charlotte, NC. Roger had attended a military academy during his high school years (Henry couldn’t remember which one) and had wanted to go to West Point, but poor eyesight kept him out. He spent his freshman year of college at Georgia Tech, but transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1950. After talking to Henry I went back to the e-yearbook site to see if the UNC – Chapel Hill yearbook for 1950 had been digitized. It had been and I found Roger’s senior photo! His full name was Roger Miller Pegram, and he’d graduated with a degree in history. I also found portraits of Roger in the yearbooks from his sophomore and junior years.

Frank in uniform, 1944-1945
 Roger was at Fort Jackson in 1952-1953 to fulfill a term of deferred military service, and told Henry that before that he’d been living in New York City. Roger’s family (especially his mother) wanted him to return to North Carolina after Fort Jackson, but Roger was determined to go back to New York (where as revealed in the snapshots, he was already establishing a life where he could live as a gay man.) Henry only knew Roger for that brief period at Fort Jackson, and told me that after 57 years he was glad that his wife was able to recall many of the details he’d forgotten. Henry said he was 23 when the photo was taken and that he was happy I’d sent him a copy because it showed him before he lost his hair. I also told Henry that it was due to Roger writing his complete name on the photo that I was able to find him. Henry thought that Roger made a point of writing “Henry C. Entreken, Jr.” because he always thought it was funny that Henry signed every document this way. I remember thinking, thank God for Roger’s sense of humor! 

Roger in High School, 1944
 After talking to Henry, I started looking for additional information related to Roger. I learned by checking the online Social Security Death Index that Roger Miller Pegram was born on May 13, 1929, and died on Dec. 23, 1999. At a genealogy website called “The Pegram Family Album,” I discovered that Roger was an only child and that at some point his parents divorced. When I searched the Internet by entering “Roger M. Pegram,” I found that he had written several business manuals in the 60s and early 70s for The Conference Board, the well-known non-profit business research group. In fact, according to the global library catalog WoldCat, many of his publications could still be found in college and university libraries, (including the library were I currently work, which has two of Roger’s manuals on the shelf.) 

Roger apparently had a life-long interest in history. His college degree was in history, and several of the snapshots in the collection show him and Frank visiting historic sites. He was an active member in several hereditary and historic groups, and I came across reference to Roger at websites for such organizations as the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution, the National Society of Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, and the Society of Colonial Wars. 

Roger, 1954
 At the time of his death, Roger owned homes in Philadelphia and Palm Springs, CA. According to an obituary that was published in the Charlotte Observer in March of 2000, he died in Palm Springs. Investigating the Palm Springs connection, I found that Roger had been a member of the gay seniors group Prime Timers of the Desert. The Prime Timers publish a newsletter and a short “in memory” notice for Roger appeared in the spring 2000 issue. The newsletter’s “in memory” notices usually mention the name of surviving partners, but in Roger’s case there was none. The Charlotte obituary also noted that Roger’s body was cremated and his ashes were interred on March 25, 2000, at the St. John’s Lutheran Church Cemetery, located in Concord, NC. I was hoping that the obituary might provide the name of surviving relations, but none were listed. 

While I have learned quite a bit about Roger Pegram, there is still a lot that I don’t know and hope in time to discover, not the least being the identity of Frank. If what Leo Altschul remembers is correct, Roger and Frank’s relationship did not survive the 1950s. However, the fact that Roger held on to the snapshots until his death, leads me to believe that this chapter in his life was of particular significance to him. One of my favorite images in the collection is a shot of Roger and Frank sitting on the couch in their apartment. On the back of the photo Roger had simply written, “Us, Spring 1955.” It is a succinct but affecting statement that resonates across the years.

Frank, Nantucket, 1955
As I’ve already said, I had never seen a group of photos quite like this, and as an example of 1950s snapshots that have survived they are atypical. However, Roger and Frank must not have been the only gay couple from this period that documented their relationship in photographs. Unfortunately, I suspect that over the years many personal photos that recorded the lives of LGBT people were discarded, perhaps seen as embarrassing or unimportant by family members or others who oversaw the handling of a gay person’s estate at the time of their death. The photos of Roger and Frank ended up in a junk shop, and it was simply a lucky coincidence that Maria DiElsi found them, recognized their worth, and purchased them as an intact collection. 

Final Note: This text is a work in progress, and will be modified when additional information about Roger and Frank is discovered. I welcome anyone who has information about Roger Miller Pegram to contact me. 

Reblogging the photos and identifying me as the source is fine, but PLEASE do not download the images and post them unaccredited to another site. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or comments about the photos.

Thank you,

Bob Young, Cheshire, CT, USA

Roger, Nantucket, 1945

Roger & Frank, Brant Point Nantucket, 1955

Terry, Frank, Fred, and Freddie, August 1955

Roger, State Fair in Skowhegan Maine, August 19, 1954

Fred, Roger, Don, Charles at Frank's Birthday June 1955

Frank and Paul Lammers, January 29, 1956 
Paul Lammers, Bill, and Roger, January 29, 1956

The more I look at the Bob Young's photos, the more that I'm not entirely sure that the wedding in Philadelphia doesn't feature some of the same cast of characters. I've looked at them so long this evening everyone is starting to look alike (or, more accurately, perhaps I'm just seeing what I want to see).

More importantly, what do you see?

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.


  1. I think that there was a period in history when the young, hip intellectuals called themselves "bohemians" and gay individuals were fully integrated (gay couples, I don't know). I think this was around the 1930's In New York mostly but, on the West Coast too.

    1. Hi Paula,

      I wouldn't say that gay and lesbian people were fully integrated in the 30s. Sure, there was an active gay scene in Berlin in the late 20s and early 30s. US culture also started thinking about same sex attraction in ways that it had not previously -- however the world was incredibly unsafe for same-sex couples. As the 30s came to a close, the US was rapidly engulfed in a return to Victorian morals and men were regularly rounded up and jailed on charges of perversion and indecency -- sometimes even jailed for riding in cars together.

  2. I love these pictures of Roger and Frank. I keep thinking of how difficult It was for them to have a relationship in the 50s. I am in a 30 year relationship from the early 80s and Ive seen so many changes from then.

  3. Yes -- one of the things I like most about history (especially the history of how people lived, related, and loved) is that it reminds me that it is always hard to imagine what our lives will be like 10, 20, or 30 years into the future. We're great at seeing clearly how we've changed. We aren't so great at realizing that the people we are today will be very different than the people we are 20 years from now.

    Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Junoman!