FOF #1523 – Chicago’s Extraordinary Queer History

Feb 10, 2012 · 53338 views

Since its founding, Chicago has always been a forward thinking kind of place.

As a city located by a river that ties the North and South and a railroad connecting the east to the west, Chicago is where people come to get their groove on!

Right now at the Chicago History Museum there’s a great exhibit “Out in Chicago” chronicling how people in the Windy City have organized their lives around their sexual desires and sense of self.

The first and largest exhibit of its kind, Out in Chicago gives visitors a powerful sense of what life was like for people before the words gay, lesbian, bi and trans came to be.

Back in the 1912, a lot of people knew that gay men wore red neckties to find each other, and pretty green dresses. Painting of George Ade and Orson Collins Wells by William Herman Schmedtgen. Schmedtgen insinuated that Ade and Wells were homosexuals by putting a red bowtie on Wells and the Chicago Athletic Club symbol on his fan. The painting hung at the all-male Chapin & Gore Tavern in Chicago for many years. Photo courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

For the month of February the Chicago History Museum is free to the public so go and see this fabulous exhibit before it closes at the end of March.

Joining us today are historians Jill Austin and Jennifer Brier who helped put together this amazing exhibit by mining the History Museum’s very own archives for hidden clues.

Listen as we talk to these fascinating women about “outing” historical figures, secret gay codes and how gay men cruised at the turn of the century.


Did President Nixon accidentally help ignite the gay rights movement in Chicago? Was he really gay all along?

Chicago’s publishing past and the battle between gay publications.

Charlie Chaplin looked hot in drag in the film A Woman, made right here in own back yard at the Essanay Studios.

Red Neckties, the history of Lesbian Potluck Party Flyers, and what the future of your community will be like.

Featured Music:
Tom Goss – Back to Love – Till the End:iTunes


  1. Jamie says:

    Wow! wonderful, fascinating show! I’m going to check out the exhibit this weekend!

    I think it’s so important to learn and know our collective, gay history. Thanks so much to the museum for putting this together.

  2. Rick says:

    Learned many new things about Chicago and gay culture. Great podcast guys!

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