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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 2057

Cockettes and San Francisco counterculture collection


Ephemera, art, phonograph records, and photographs documenting performance by the Cockettes, the Angels of Light, and related individuals and groups in 1960s-1970s San Francisco (Calif.).


  • circa 1958-2008
  • Majority of material found within circa 1967-1980


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to the bulk of this material. Collection is open for research.
The bulk of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.
Restricted: special handling required; consult curatorial staff for appointment (two phonograph records).


2 linear feet (3 boxes, 1 folder, 1 volume)
Contains approximately 400 items comprised of posters, fliers and other ephemera, artwork, photographs, books, phonograph records, and other materials related to the theatrical group, the Cockettes, and other artists, filmmakers, and performers active in San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Includes material related to Steven Arnold, Todd Trexler, Sebastian, Hibiscus, Sylvester, Divine, and the Angels of Light collected by Stephen Terry. There is material from Sebastian's Nocturnal Dream Shows at the Palace Theater which included midnight movies, theater, and "sexual anarchy", including the first performance by The Cockettes, early solo performances by Sylvester, and West Coast premieres of underground and counterculture films. Further materials relate to similar events in San Francisco beyond the Palace Theater and in New York.

Biographical / Historical

The Cockettes, called a "fantasy drag troupe" and the inventors of "acid drag", drew from and influenced culture broadly, developing from underground performance to mainstream fame in San Francisco. The band was founded in 1969 and disbanded in 1972; some performers struck out on their own in the wake of the band's success.

Sylvester performed as Sylvester and his Hot Band in the mid-1970s; Hibiscus, founder of the Cockettes, created the group Angels of Light in San Francisco; and Sylvester and members of the Cockettes who did not join the Angels of Light attempted a show, largely unsuccessful, in 1971 in New York City. Several members of the group continue to perform.


Collection has been minimally processed. Materials are roughly grouped according to original order.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Custodial History

Previously owned by Stephen Terry.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2020MT-107. Purchased from Stephen Terry with the Timothy S. Mayer fund, 2020 March.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup and Melanie Wisner, 2020.
Link to catalog
Cockettes and San Francisco counterculture collection, 1958-2008 (bulk 1967-1980) (MS Thr 2057): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2020 September 2
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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