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Secret Historian

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Secret Historian

Sam Steward at Phil’s Tattoo Joynt, South State Street, 1956 or 1957


Justin Spring discusses the life and times of Samuel Steward, the Chicago university professor who taught for many years at Loyola and DePaul Universities before dropping out of academia to become a tattoo artist on South State Street and a sex researcher with Alfred Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. Steward’s secret diaries, journals, novels, stories, statistics, photographs, and artworks—nearly all of them relating to his highly adventurous sexual life—were the basis of Spring’s biography Secret Historian (FSG, 2010) and, more recently, of the exhibition “Obscene Diary: The Secret Archive of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Pornographer,” at New York’s Museum of Sex. Spring describes the evolving gay scene in Chicago as Steward experienced it in the late 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.


Recorded Thursday, September 8, 2011 at the Chicago History Museum.

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