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1901 Autobiography

Preface: This excerpt is from the first known autobiography written in America by a self-described homosexual. We do not know his real name or have an image of him. The author, who was thirty years old when he published the autobiography in 1901, adopted the pseudonym Claude Hartland. A publisher of medical textbooks in St. Louis, Missouri, printed his book—a slender volume in a green, clothbound edition, which Hartland titled The Story of a Life. The narrative's one-hundred pages detail Hartland's physical symptoms and personal idiosyncrasies as a kind of case history for the benefit of the local medical fraternity, to whom he dedicates the book. Records show that Hartland's memoir actually reached few of those physicians, falling into obscurity for decades until San Francisco's Grey Fox Press reissued it in paperback in 1985, with a foreword by C. A. Tripp. David Bergman, James Gifford, and Jonathan Ned Katz have recently joined Tripp in recovering Hartland's memoir, including it in developing histories of gay and lesbian lives and life writing.

The Story of a  Life (page 77).

By Claude Hartland

I did not like St. Louis at all , but made up my mind to spend the winter (1899-1900) any way and begin to look about for employment.

I had never done anything but teach, and being perfect stranger, I did not now hot to go about finding work. I was worn out with mental labor and resolved to pursue it no further.

I was not fitted for manual labor of any sort, and while walking about the streets wondering what to do, a sign, "Ladies Tailoring," on a window, caught my attention. I knew that I had not forgotten how to sew, so I boldly entered and asked for work.

It was during the busy season, and help being scarce, I was taken on one half-days trial, at the end of which time I was employed.

Soon after this, I met a young man one evening on the corner of Sixth and Olive Streets, who was affected as I am and we knew each other at sight. I spent that night at his house and we had a most delightful time. He was gentle, refined and very interesting, and we soon became fast friends...

I soon met several men in a social way, but so far had fallen in love with none...

One Sunday evening, while seated in the Columbia Theatre watching the show, a man came in and took the seat beside me. He was very handsome and had a sweet, fascinating face, yet I could see that he had been drinking heavily.

He soon began a conversation with me, and I found his voice as sweet and interesting as his face. We continued in conversation, and when the show was over, we were not far from being in love with each other. 

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