The Library Company of Philadelphia


Men Together



Three unidentified men in Civil War uniforms. Albumen carte-de-visite photograph, ca. 1865. Gift of S. Marguerite Brenner.


Historically, all-male activities and organizations have been so common that their same-sex aspect rarely elicits comment. Men studied in sex-segregated schools, worked in sex-segregated jobs, and participated in a multitude of sex-segregated leisure activities. Many men lived in all-male environments when they joined fraternities, served in the military, lived in monasteries, or spent time in prison.

Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works. New York: Century Company, 1894.


In recent years, biographers have scrutinized the evidence that Abraham Lincoln may have had intimate relationships with one or more of his male friends. Shown here is the transcript of a letter Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed in February 1843, shortly after Speed married a young woman named Fanny Hemming. Lincoln writes, in part, "You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting," and signs the letter "Yours forever, A. Lincoln." He also assures Speed that he is "now fully convinced" that Speed loves his wife "as ardently as [he is] capable of loving" – but he won't be able to advise Speed in the future because he himself has never been married.


The challenge for the historian is to evaluate such evidence in light of 19th-century norms of behavior. Ultimately, the exact nature of the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed may be unknowable today.

Men on board ship; inscribed on verso: August 1896, Pennsauken, N.J. Gelatin silver photograph. Gift of Helen Beitler.


Nearly all of the fifteen men in this photograph are wearing caps with "Pennsauken" lettered on the front. A couple of them are smoking pipes. Their casual poses suggest that they are probably friends enjoying a day together. Since they appear to be middle-aged in the 1890s, some or all of them may be Civil War veterans.

Men and boys in front of the clubhouse of the Philadelphia Motor Cycle Club. Gelatin silver photograph, 1905.


Founded in 1903, the Philadelphia Motor Cycle Club based its activities at 2513 N. Broad Street. The storefront at the left in the photograph is that of George W. Reinbold, who sold the Thomas Auto-Bi model of motorcycle, according to lettering on his front window.

Joseph Byron Studio. Lobby, Hotel Walton, Phila, Pa. Gelatin silver photograph, 1908. Gift of Joan Bonner Conway.


This photograph presents the ornate lobby of the Hotel Walton as a place for men. In addition to the male guests and employees, the photograph captures the lobby's mural painting depicting men engaged in a medieval hunt. The proprietors ("Lukes and Zahn") were Louis Lukes and Bernhard Zahn, who also operated Smith & McNell's Hotel and Restaurant in New York City in the 1910s.

William H. Rau, photographer. Dinner Tendered to Mr. Louis Lukes by a few of his friends. Gelatin silver photograph, 1914. Photograph. Gift of Joan Bonner Conway.


Louis Lukes, honored at this formal dinner, was one of the proprietors of the Hotel Walton at Broad and Locust streets, in Philadelphia. By 1915 he was also the president of the Pennsylvania State Hotel Association. It may well be that this dinner celebrated Lukes' election to that office, and the friends in the photograph hoped to benefit from their association with him.

Fitz-Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake:
A Literary Friendship


Poems, by Croaker, Croaker & Co. and Croaker, Jun. As Published in the Evening Post. New York, 1819. Gift of John Jay Smith.


In 1819 satiric poems poking fun at prominent New Yorkers appeared in the New York Evening Post and the National Advocate over the names of "Croaker," "Croaker, Jr." and "Croaker & Co." The two authors were members of the Ugly Club, a men's club specifically for handsome young men, despite the name. "Croaker" was the pseudonym of Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820), and "Croaker, Jr" the pseudonym of Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867). Together, they collaborated as "Croaker & Co." This slight pamphlet is a compilation. Halleck soon lost his writing partner as the recently-married Drake became less interested in collaborating with Halleck in the composition of campy poetic send-ups.

Fitz-Greene Halleck. Fanny. New York: C. Wiley & Co., 1819.


Halleck, incensed that Drake chose to stop collaborating with him, produced a long poem entitled Fanny (a word that could mean female genitals in crude 19th-century slang). Halleck rails against marriage in the mischievous style of the "Croaker" poems. In Stanzas 30-32 (shown here), he suggests that Fanny's father is rich enough to buy "half of fashion's glittery train"— the "brother dandies" who are "gay as the Brussels carpeting they tread on." Hell hath no fury like a dandy upstaged by a wife.

Fitz-Greene Halleck. "On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake" in Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems. New York: G. & C. Carvill, 1827.


Drake's death was a turning point for Halleck as a poet. His "On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake" was frequently reprinted, and by 1830 Halleck's poems had become weightier in tone than the light satiric verse of the "Croaker" poems, leading some to call him the "American Byron." In 1833 he edited an extremely thorough edition of Byron's works.

Gems of Poetry, from Forty-Eight American Poets. Hartford: S. Andrus and Son, 1848.


By 1848 Halleck's portrait appears as the frontispiece in this anthology of "the most popular authors." The likeness is based on an 1828 portrait by the prolific painter Henry Inman.

Biographical sketch of Fitz-Greene Halleck, in Sketches of Distinguished American Authors, Represented in Darley's New National Picture, Entitled "Washington Irving and His Literary Friends, at Sunnyside." New York: Sanford, Harroun & Co., 1864


In 1864, at a time when authors were the celebrities of American culture, artist F. O. C. Darley included Halleck among the literary lions seated around Washington Irving at his residence Sunnyside in Tarrytown, New York. The fifteen authors included Hawthorne, Longfellow, Cooper, and Emerson. It is Darley's composition – there is no evidence that Irving ever met many of the men. This key to the print is open to the biographical sketch of Halleck.

Bayard Taylor. Joseph and His Friend. New York: G. P. Putnam & Sons; London: S. Low, Son & Marston, 1870.


After Halleck's death in 1867, the novelist Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) wrote this fictional account of the relationship between Halleck and Drake. It is addressed to those "who believe in the truth and tenderness of man's love for man," among other audiences. The elevation of same-sex affection as pure and noble was common, especially in early American literature. Halleck in particular did not deny his affection for men. The change in attitude toward overt celebration of relationships between men may have helped derail Halleck's prominence in American letters.


Taylor, a native of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, may have had his own checkered past. His first wife died two months after the wedding. Soon thereafter, Taylor's travels took him to Egypt, where he lived on a boat on the Nile with a middle-aged German businessman. In his published account of the trip, A Journey to Central Africa (1854), Taylor describes their life together as "happy and care-free as two Adams in a Paradise without Eves." The two remained close, and Taylor married the man's niece in 1857.