Leather is a gay male subculture centered upon the wearing of leather clothing. Some leathermen practice sadomasochism. The word leather is sometimes also used to refer to lesbian or heterosexual sadomasochism.

A goodly number of archives and libraries around the world have collections that include items about leather culture. This site only lists English-language archives containing special collections that are directly related to leather culture, or whose Websites can be easily searched for items related to leather culture.

This site is part of The Leather Research Reference Shelf.

This directory is maintained by Dusk Peterson. Fiction by Dusk Peterson is available, including leather fiction.

Sections below:

Tips for Researching Leather Culture in Libraries and Archives

* Australia
* Canada
* Germany
* New Zealand
* South Africa
* United Kingdom

> California
> Florida
> Illinois
> Indiana
> Michigan
> Minnesota
> Missouri
> New York
> Ohio
> Oregon
> Rhode Island
> Texas
> Washington
Related Links
Related Sites at This Domain
E-mail This Site


In North America, the places with the greatest amount of leather-related research material are California, Illinois, New York State, and Ontario.

Please note that libraries and archives may have restrictions on access to the materials. It is best to inquire ahead of time about the collections if you plan to make a trip to view them.

The libraries and archives listed below fall into three categories:

Public libraries and GLBT community center libraries. These are generally open to members of the public who qualify for library cards.

Research archives and research libraries. These are generally open only to qualified researchers. However, this does not necessarily mean that you must be an academic. If you are doing research for an article or story intended for a popular audience, you may still qualify. Note that some GLBT community centers have research archives attached to them.

Club libraries. These are often quite small and are usually only open to members. If you are having difficulty locating certain materials in your area, though, it may be worth enquiring whether the club will allow you access to their library.

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives provides a helpful guide to the difference between libraries and archives. And for anyone who is wondering whether the Webmaster of Leather Fonds is in need of a spellchecker, the linked page explains what fonds are.

Archives of libraries that have large gay erotica collections are likely to have substantial numbers of leather items, simply because most leather literature, art, and drama has been produced as erotica. Gay pulp novels are especially prone to have leather-related themes.

Many American library and archive catalogues use the subject headings established by the Library of Congress. Some leather-related subject headings appear below. The most commonly used headings for leather books are marked "common." (For the politics of sexual subject headings, see chapter six of Cynthia Ann Moya's Talking About "Pornography": A Comparative Subject Analysis of Sexually Explicit Materials.)

* Black leather jackets
* Bondage (sexual behavior) [common]
* Bondage and discipline (sexual behavior)
* Fetishism (sexual behavior)
* Flight jackets
* Gay motorcycle clubs
* Handkerchief codes
* Leather clubs
* Leather contests
* Leather jackets
* Leather/Levi clubs
* Leather life style (sexuality) [common]
* Leather lifestyle [common]
* Masochism [common]
* Motorcycle clubs
* Motorcycle gangs
( Motorcycle jackets
* Sadism [common]
* Sadomasochism [common]
* Sexual dominance and submission
* Sexual domination and submission
* Uniforms - erotic aspects


Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Melbourne, Victoria. Only the archive's periodicals and videos are listed online. The periodicals include a large number of leather publications from Australia and the United States, and one periodical from the United Kingdom. The United States holdings include some of the most important leather periodicals from that country, as well as several little-known ones. Keywords: "leather," "S&M."


Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Toronto. A guide to the collection and search engine is available online. No keyword search is available. The archive claims to house "the world's biggest collection of lesbian and gay periodicals." The periodicals and vertical files are listed online; these collections contain a large number of leather items. Other types of materials are not listed online. The archive notes, "As leather gear is well documented throughout many archival accessions, we do not acquire common leather artifacts." The site includes a valuable resource, Our Own Voices: A Directory of Lesbian and  Gay Periodicals, 1890s to 2000s, which not only lists the archive's own holdings but also periodicals not owned by the archive. This resource can be used to obtain publication information on leather periodicals.

DSSG Book Lending Library, Toronto. A club library with books, comics, magazines, newsletters, catalogues, convention programs, and videos. Mixed in sexual orientations.

Sagacity Alternative Sexuality Society Library, Victoria, British Columbia. A club library with books, videos, CDs, and magazines. Mainly heterosexual materials, with some gay and lesbian. (Site's warning page.)


BDSM-Archiv, Berlin. Still in the process of being permanently housed, this German-language archive, "Europe's first BDSM archive," includes a moderate number of English-language publications. The full inventory is online, along with contact information for making an appointment to view the archive.


Lesbian & Gay Archives of New Zealand, Wellington. The archive's manuscripts are catalogued by topic. Scroll down the manuscripts page for links to "Ercolano, Philip," "Leather clubs," and "Leathermen."


Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, Johannesburg. The collections are described online, with people's names listed by last name first. The archive has substantial amounts of mid-twentieth-century records, the period when leather was forming in the United States. Major leather collection: Hugh MacFarlane (photographer for American physique magazines, which were popular among leathermen; the entry also provides links to other collections in the archive that contain physique magazines). Possible leather content: Dungeon Night Club.


Brighton Ourstory Project. Covers GLBT life in the Brighton area. The archive includes two boxes of material from the Sussex Lancers Motor Sports Club, whose members had "a common interest in leather, denim, rubber and uniform." A substantial description of the artifacts and the club's history is available at the link in the previous sentence.

USA: California

CatalogQ. The periodical holdings of most of the libraries and archives mentioned below can be searched through this online catalogue. The catalogue does not contain all periodical holdings for the libraries. Keywords: "leather," "sadomasochism," and "fetish."

GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco. Includes a large number of leather periodicals and artifacts. Search the individual catalogues for entries, using the keyword "leather" or the name of the person or organization you are seeking. Major leather collections: Desmodus Publishing Records (publisher; includes records related to the magazines Drummer, Mach, and Tough Customer), Mark I. Chester Papers (photographer), Geoff Mains Papers (activist and author), Cynthia Slater Papers (bisexual founder of a mixed-orientation sadomasochism group; also active in leathermen's groups).

Lavender Library, Archives, and Cultural Exchange, Sacramento. The library is open to the general public. A large number of leather items are available in its fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, videos, and special collections. An online catalogue is available, with separate sections for the library's many erotica titles. Keywords: "leather," "sadomasochism," "bondage," and "fetishes," but a number of leather materials aren't adequately labelled, so the safest thing to do is to browse through the lists.

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles. The library's online catalogue was unavailable when this entry was prepared, and its archival resources are not listed in detail. However, CatalogQ reveals that the archive has a large number of leather periodicals.

San Francisco Public Library. The library is open to the general public. It holds a moderate number of leather books, including early pulp novels. A few leather periodicals are also available. An online catalogue is available. Keywords: "leather lifestyle," "sadomasochism." The James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center has archival materials, but the archives' holdings are not described in detail online.

Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles. (Caution: Site includes erotic art images.) Portions of the foundation's holdings may be open to the general public. The foundation is devoted to the leather artist Tom of Finland and other gay erotic artists, including many leather artists. The archival holdings are described in the foundation's newsletter. (The later articles referred to in the newsletter appear not to have been published.) No catalogues are provided at the site, but the site offers a good deal of information on gay erotic artists, especially in its newsletter and links pages.

University of California, Los Angeles: Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections. GLBT studies are included in the collection. Major leather collection: John W. Rowberry Papers (editor and author). Information on the Rowberry Papers is available online.

USA: Florida

Stonewall Library & Archives, Fort Lauderdale. The books and videos catalogue reveal a moderate number of leather titles. Library of Congress subject headings are used. Because the catalogue is a single page that is 9MB long, the site offers a zipped version. Major leather collection: Pulp Fiction Collection.

USA: Illinois

Leather Archives & Museum, Chicago. (Caution: Site includes erotic art images.) The museum is open to the general public. The LA&M is the only archive in the world specifically devoted to leather culture. The archive centers upon gay leather but has some lesbian and heterosexual materials. The archive's Website describes the nature of its collections. The site includes some resources, such as the Leather History Timeline and a newsletter that publishes historical articles. An online catalogue is not yet available. Special collections: Chicago Hellfire Club, Etienne / Dom Orejudas (artist), International Gay Rodeo Association, International Mr. Leather, Kris Studios, National Leather Association, [Chuck] Renslow Family Enterprises (run by the founder of many Chicago leather institutions, including the LA&M). The archive also owns the personal papers of a number of individuals, including Joseph Bean (author), Mark I. Chester (photographer), Tony DeBlase (author and editor), and Wally Wallace (owner of the Mineshaft bar in New York City).

USA: Indiana

Up the Stairs Community Center Archives and Resources Library, Fort Wayne. A GLBT library with some leather books. A list of the books that can be checked out is available online.

USA: Michigan

Michigan State University, East Lansing: Comic Art Collection. Includes a number of leather artists. There is a keyword search engine, but it covers all of the university site. Sample keywords: "gay erotic art," "sadomasochism," "sadism," "masochism," or the artist's name. Note that artists' names are listed by last name first.

USA: Minnesota

Quatrefoil Library, St. Paul. The library is open to the general public. The online catalogue does not use keywords, but the library appears to have a large number of leather books.

USA: Missouri

University of Missouri-St. Louis: Western Historical Manuscript Collection, Lesbian and Gay Collections. The Mid-Continent Life Services Corp. and St. Louis Lesbian and Gay Archives collections have a few records related to leather. Keyword: "leather."

USA: New York

Cornell University, Ithaca: Human Sexuality Collection. The archive focusses on "gay and lesbian history and the politics of pornography." The library has a moderate number of leather periodicals; these are usually (though not always) labelled "s/m" in the periodical lists. Detailed information on the holdings is available online. Major leather collections: Pat Califia Clippings Collection (news clippings collected by a leather author), Gay Men's Popular Fiction Collection ("erotic and pornographic novels on gay men's subjects, including such themes as muscle, cowboy, sado-masochism, sailors, and leather"), Wendell Ricketts Papers (includes papers and photographs collected while working for a leather magazine), Les K. Wright Papers and Bear History Project (on a related gay subculture). The archive also owns a number of collections with physique photographs and with other gay erotica. All of the collections can be located through the finding aid.

The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, New York City. The library and archives are open to the general public. The library contains a number of leather books. An online catalogue is available for the library. Library of Congress subject headings are used.

The Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation. (Caution: Site includes erotic art images.) The foundation's permanent exhibits are open to the general public and include a number of leather artists. A list of the artists is available. No other information is provided online about the holdings of the foundation's archives. No search engine is available. The site has a large number of resources, including a links page that is a good starting point for researching gay art.

New York Public Library, New York City: International Gay Information Center Archives. The Ephemera division appears to include a substantial number of leather items. The Subjects file tells the various keywords related to leather. Some leather periodicals are kept by the center. The center's books are listed in the online catalogue for the New York Public Library, and include some leather-related titles. Library of Congress subject headings are used.

New York University, New York City: Fales Library. Major leather collection: The Gay and Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection, 1955-1988. No keyword categories are provided for these novels. A full list of the pulp fiction books is available online.

The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Devoted to the photographer who (among other things) created a famous series of pictures of leathermen. The foundation reports that it has research facilities but does not describe the nature of its archive.

USA: Ohio

Peer Group, Cincinnati. A club library with books and videos. Mixed in sexual orientations. (Site's warning page.)

USA: Oregon

Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest, Portland. Major leather collections: Community Ephemera: Religious, Sport, Leather, Et Al (contains a number of leather-related items), Oral History Project: Laurie Chilcote ("he became the lover to a prominent member of a motorcycle gang. In the early 1960's he became a friend and tenant of Bob Mizer, the notorious founder of the Athletic Model Guild," whose photographs were popular among leathermen).

USA: Rhode Island

Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island: John Hay Library Special Collections, Gay and Lesbian Literature Collections (scroll down). Collections can be searched through the Josiah catalogue or through the Pulp Fiction Database. Library of Congress subject headings are used. General holdings include a large number of pre- and post-Stonewall books. Major leather collections: Gay Men's Pulp Fiction, The Richard G. Katzoff Collection (includes a large number of books by Larry Townsend and by John Preston), The Preston Archive (devoted to author and editor John Preston).

USA: Texas

SAADE Library, Austin. A club library with articles, books, comics, magazines, newsletters, catalogues, convention programs, and videos. Mixed in sexual orientations.

USA: Washington

Pacific Northwest
Library for Sex-Positive Culture, Seattle. A library for members of a community center. Includes BDSM titles: books, magazines, and file folders. The catalogue is online for members only. A partial list of titles is available through the Society for Human Sexuality. (Site's warning page.)


Collection of Links to Sexuality Libraries, Resources, Etc.

The Conversio Virium BDSM Library Project. A project by a student group to donate books to the Columbia University Libraries. Lists nineteen proposed books.

Hall-Carpenter Archives: Useful Links. GLBT archives in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe.

International Directory of Online Leather Magazines and Newsletters.

Lavender Legacies Guide. Guide to American archives with GLBT materials.

Leather Books in Alternative Formats. Includes books available from libraries for the blind.

Leather Culture, 1945-1985: A Bibliography of Printed and Online Resources.

Leather TOCs: Tables of Contents for Leather Magazines. See especially Links: Other Indexes, which links to indexes of books and periodicals that include leather material.

Links on the History of Friendship, Romantic Friendship, Romance, and Sexuality. Links to the major resource sites. Includes GLBT sites.

Library Q: The Library Worker's Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resources. The reference section links to a number of sites providing information on doing GLBT research.

Pornography Research Made Easy. A review of Joseph W. Slade's Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide, the first volume of which includes a section on major research collections.

Sexology World-wide. From the Archive of Sexology, Germany. A directory of "Institutions, Organizations, Resource Centers, Training Programs, and Scientific Journals" around the world.

The S/M Library Project. A press release from the SM/Leather/Fetish Community Outreach Project, about a plan to donate books to college and university libraries. Lists seven proposed books. (Site's warning page.)

Stonewall Library: Library of Congress Classification. The LC system of classifying books, annotated to show where various types of gay books are located.

Undergraduate Research Guide: Pornography. A guide to academic works about pornography. See also Research Topics: Pornography.

See also the home page of The Leather Research Reference Shelf for links to major leather research sites.


Dusk Peterson's other leather writings.


For research questions concerning leather books and magazines, you should contact the Leather Archives & Museum. Comments, corrections, and questions about this site may be sent to Dusk Peterson.

[ HOME ] [ The Leather Research Reference Shelf ] [ Leather Fiction, History, and Magazines ]

Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at as part of The Leather Research Reference Shelf. Copyright © 2004-2005 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (