Were same-sex weddings in Philadelphia a “thing”?

The last time I went on an archives trip for this project it was to the ONE institute Archives in Los Angeles where I had the good fortune of being the first to see an amazing set of photos of a wedding ceremony that took place in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s. You can read the fascinating story of how they came to be at the ONE Institute archives here.

This week I am at Cornell carrying on with my research. Listed in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections’ finding aid is this:

Photo albums of Philadelphia lesbian couple, 1950-1955. Two albums contain photographs directly related to the Feb. 15, 1953 wedding of two of their gay male friends. The women were among the chosen few guests in attendance at the wedding, which appears to have been at a private home, possibly the home of these women.

Although it seemed unlikely, I worried that they would turn out to be the same photos.

In an amazing display of self-control, I waited until the end of my first day after slogging through about 50 file folders in the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley fond, before requesting the photos. As you can see, the photos are terrific, and they are not of the couple whose pics were donated to ONE:

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I was chatting to my mom on the phone about my find and we got into a discussion about the cake topper. I was surprised that they hadn’t tried to alter it to be two men, not a man and a woman. As my brain was gearing up to think about how to write about this analytically, my mother chimed in with her usual incisive wisdom: “They probably just didn’t care,” she said. It’s hard to imagine not caring, but maybe she’s right. Maybe.

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