Exhibit: West Set

History of The West Set: The Gentlemen’s Social Club of West Philadelphia

30th Anniversary President's Message


“The President’s Message – In January 1957 a group of young men in Philadelphia with similar interests and ideals, united to form a club. We were mainly interested in the cultural aspects of our society. Through travel and study, we learned that we could foster an appreciation for the arts. This club was to be known as The West Set.

In the community we have tried to be of help, giving aid and support wherever possible. Contributions to charities that have solicited our help, would not have been possible without our many friends. In addition, we have broadened our knowledge through travel and have had the opportunity to spread good will abroad. Through the years we have developed friendships in the islands and Europe.

For thirty years we have tried to maintain a social organization of which we could be proud. The fraternal relationship that exists among our members is intense. We have succeeded in becoming a close knit unit, existing for the good of all members. Our successes we have learned to accept with humility, and our failures with quiet dignity.

We hope this evening for you will be a memorable occasion. From The Gentlemen of the West Set on this their thirtieth anniversary, we extend to all of you our most sincere and cordial welcome.

We have been blessed.”


* Community member Ricardo Bostic provided The Black LGBT Archivists Society with the items presented in History of The West Set: The Gentlemen’s Social Club of West Philadelphia. He was also instrumental in providing information about the group. As you scroll through the exhibit, you will notice the photocopied quality of each image. The originals are believed to have been discarded as “junk.” Still, the information contained within is valuable and adds to Philadelphia’s important history.

Gentlemen of The West Set: Harry W. Boston, William E. Johnsen, TK Watson, Herbert White, Gerald J. Lewis, Arnold S. Pannell, Joseph Swann, M. Bertrand Hill, Bobby Wilder, Herbert B. Watts, Jerome B. Gaymon

The Gentlemen of the West formed in 1957. Marc Stein’s City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972, points out that eight of the 12 members lived in and around West Philadelphia, or frequented the area for its night life. Ricardo Bostic shares: “They would give parties, but they were never gay parties because it was a different time then. But all of the gay people would go to the parties. One event was in 1970, basically during Penn Relay Weekend. They would always do things around Penn Relay Weekend, especially house parties. They would party from Thursday to Monday at a different person’s house. Monday would be the climax. They called it “corner day.” On “corner day” you would bring all the liquor left over from the parties and they would have a little something on that Monday. It was a good time.”

The West Set: Joseph Swann, Bert Hill, Herbert Watts, Harry Boston, Bobby Wilder, TK Watson, Theodore Price, Herbert White, Gerald Lewis, Jerome Gaymon, Arnold Pannell, William Johnson

“They also had Cabana Parties at Atlantic City’s Chicken Bone Beach where all the Blacks would gather. If you go to Atlantic City now you would see a plaque on the beach that says Chicken Bone Beach, and that’s where all the Blacks would mingle. They held this event every year in July or August and it would be the whole weekend. They had a mailing list for gay people around the country. Straights too, but mostly all of their attendees were gay.”

“They would have the Miss West Set Competition. Miss West set was a straight woman, and reflected the jet-setting style of these Gentlemen. The first prize winner would receive a trip, maybe to Puerto Rico. That’s how they did things. Joan Myers Brown, founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and The Philadelphia School of Dance Art, was a Miss West Set from 1972 to 1973.”

Joan Myers Brown, Miss West Set, 1972-1973

Former Miss West Set Contestants: Maxine Hill, Theila Smith, Patricia Joyner, Patricia Whaley, Juanita Vine

Miss West Set Contestants, 1967: Rachael Dangerfield, Sue Simpson, Lorraine Taylor, Marilyn Patterson, Phyllis Sims

The West Set Members

The West Set was comprised of 12 members. These men were very active throughout Philadelphia, and add to Philadelphia’s important history.

Gerald J. Lewis showed a concern for the health and well-being for the men in his community. He served a Board of Directors member (and President) for Unity, Inc., one of Philadelphia’s first HIV/AIDS service organizations.

Jerome Gaymon was a noted choreographer with the Philadelphia Cotillion Society and Heritage House. The December 1964 issue of JET shows Gaymon and Patricia Joyner, a former Miss West Set, at the funeral of Dr. Eugene Wayman Jones (founder of the Society).

Jerome Gaymon and Patricia Joyner in JET Magazine (12/1964)

The West Set Presents: Invitations

As a private club, the Gentleman of The West Set held social events throughout Philadelphia. Their themes reflected a passion for travel, culture, community building and good times. The invitations in this collection are full of history. They list the names of organizational leaders and members, often times the name of the current Miss West Set and the incoming court, and gave formal announcement of premiere social gatherings for professional Black men and their friends. Eight of those invitations are featured below.

The first invitation in this collection celebrates the group’s 5th anniversary (February 18, 1962) with an invitational only cocktail party held at the Heritage House in North Philadelphia. Other events included the Carnivals Capers Extravaganza (in 1965, with music by Benny Fields’ Band), the 1968 Leurs Cabrioles De Carnaval De’Cennales Dinner Dance, the 1970 Una Fiesta En Diciembre, as well as the 1978 Fall Extravaganza.

Feb 18, 1962 Fifth Anniversary Cocktail Party, Heritage House, 1346 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA

Apr 24, 1965 Carnival Capers Extravaganza, Times Auditorium, 309 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA

May 12, 1967 First Decennial Ball (10th Anniversary), Adelphi Auditorium, 1453 N. 52nd St., Philadelphia, PA

Apr 27, 1968, Leurs Cabrioles De Carnaval De'Cennales Dinner Dance, Imperial Ballroom, 217 S. 60th St., Philadelphia, PA

Apr 26, 1969 Carnival Capers Dinner Dance, Imperial Ballroom, 217 S. 60th St., Philadelphia, PA

Una Fiesta En Diciembre, Dec 5, 1970, Chestnut Hall, 3900 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA

15th Anniversary, Bal Anniversaire, May 20, 1972, Cherry Hill Inn (NJ)

Fall Extravaganza, Nov 4, 1978, Academy of Music Ballroom, Broad and Locust Sts., Philadelphia, PA

Items in this collection were provided by Ricardo Bostic.

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10 responses

21 08 2010
3 09 2010
5 09 2010
Ricardo Bostic

Thanks Kevin for all that you do in perserving our black LGBT history.

14 09 2010
Brenda Dixon Gottschild

Kevin et. al., This is an invaluable treasure trove of Philadelphia’s rich African American history. Thanks for giving a home to this incredible archive. Keep up the good work.

2 10 2010
LC

This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing

6 10 2010
11 10 2010
Stephanie

Information is Power! This is great stuff, Keep up the great work!

5 12 2010
robin bass

harry boston & jerome gaymon were childhood friends and later,patients of my dad,who became “dr”robert bass.(i worked in his office)pat whaley,(pictured in your archives)former ms west set contestant ,was a witness to my fathers’ 3rd marriage. i’m proud to say these very elegant,eloquent,fashionable people have been a part of my life.jerome & harry remain a part of family discussion with my dad. (84th b’day,!0/30) pat whaley is alive and well and still very fashionable and dedicated to her church and community service.so glad to have discovered this site.it documents my family’s social history.

12 01 2011
Derrick Johnson

Mister Kevin Jones:

You couldn’t know how happy you made me this morning. I’ve been looking for information on Dr Eugene Wayman Jones for years now, and here you’ve posted not only biographical info on him but also photographs. THANK YOU! As a child I knew Dr Jones. He lived across the street from my grandparents on Park Avenue in North Philly. I knew he was special, and I certainly knew that he and I had something very special in common–yes, even at the age of five I knew that. Dr Jones was about as openly gay as one could be in the 1950s & 60s (short of going in drag), but he was well respected by many black folks in Philadelphia (atleast those with any sense). Thank you for giving me what I’ve been looking for for quite a while now.

Oh, I am also a friend of Ricky Bostic ( I hope he feels the same). I had asked him about Dr Jones, but he didn’t remember him. I can’t wait to email Ricky and tell him that I found what I wanted on your website. Thanks again, Kevin.

13 01 2012

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