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Not married but willing to be: Pictures of male lovers from 1850s to 1950s
Not married but willing to be: Pictures of male lovers from 1850s to 1950s when being gay was illegal

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Some of the images in the new book (Picture: Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s)

If these pictures got into the wrong hands when they were taken, many of these men could have ended up in prison – or even dead.

They may seem like simple images now, and nothing out of the ordinary, but in fact they show incredible acts of bravery.

They were taken in the U.S. between the 1850s and 1950s when gay relationships were illegal, and even punishable by death until the 1873 in South Carolina.

Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, who are married, collected over 2,800 images over the last 20 years from flea markets, estate sales and family archives before digitising them for their book Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love.

Among the previously unpublished pictures are formal studio portraits and more candid shots at the beach or in homes.

The subjects vary from 19th century working class men to fashionably dressed businessmen, students, soldiers and sailors.

They give a fascinating insight into life as a gay man all the way from the U.S. Civil War through to World War Two and into the 50s.

Their collection now includes photos from all over the world.

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Hugo and Neal’s obsession with the pictures started while at an antique shop in Dallas, Texas, where they found an image from around 1920 showing two men in a loving embrace, gazing at one another.

The collectors were curious how this photo—an accidental find—could have survived into the 21st century.

A second photo came to them through an online auction. Presented in a small art deco glass frame with the words ‘yours always’ etched into the glass, it shows two soldiers from the 1940s posed cheek to cheek.

Following these early discoveries, Hugh and Neal began to devote more time to search for photographs.

Commenting on the release of the book, the authors said: ‘The subjects of our photos will publicly narrate their own lives for the first time in history.

‘And far from being ostracized or condemned, they will be celebrated and loved.

‘And the love that they shared will inspire others, as they have us. Love does not have a sexual orientation. Love is universal.’

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Soon, the couple became experts at deciphering the platonic from the romantic, picking up on tell-tale signals that the subjects may have been lovers.

From their work, they also picked up trends throughout the ages.

For example, many men started wearing rings in some of the images, though gay marriage was not legal at the time.

One of the earliest photos in the book, from around 1860, shows one of the men wearing a ring on his little finger.

During WWII the appearance of wedding rings, bracelets, and other jewelry serving as symbols of commitment became more common and were worn by many soldiers and sailors.

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Another theme that emerged was the photo booth picture, strip which was popular with couples for decades.

The anonymity of the photo booth was a safe place for a couple, as they could act as the subject, the photographer, and developer.

You can buy Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s, published by 5 Continents, online now.

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Note: No trees were destroyed in the sending of this contaminant free message. However, I do concede, a significant number of electrons may have been inconvenienced.
[-] The following 2 members Like andy's post:
  • Bookworm, eastofeden
I will definitely be buying a copy of this.
Tell him when l come up to him and ask to play the record, l'm gonna say: 
''Voulez-vous jouer ce disque?''
'Voulez-vous, will you kiss my dick?'
Will you play my record? One-track mind!
[-] The following 1 member Likes CellarDweller's post:
  • andy
So beautiful. I’ve seen these all over the www but they get me every time.

Being gay is not for Sissies.
[-] The following 1 member Likes Bhp91126's post:
  • andy
Meh, I always said that the way to my exes heart was not through his stomach, but through the middle of his shoulder blades with a pick-axe!
Looking at these pictures always makes me feel a certain way. Makes me wonder what kind of lives these men end up leading. Wonder if they "made it", especially for the last picture. Assuming they're in their 20's, they might have lived through a decent part of the modern day and lived through the AIDS pandemic.

What would they think of life and gay culture today? The journey we took to get here. Did they even dare to dream of the future we take for granted today? Food for thought.

[-] The following 1 member Likes Kenny221's post:
  • andy
I LOVE these photos! A friend of mine has a nice collection of vintage photos of gay couples - this is a great collection!
[-] The following 1 member Likes eastofeden's post:
  • andy
Yeah, they're super sweet and so lovely.

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