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13 June 2012

Ex-Mayor’s house raided

Arthur C Harper, from Columbus, Mississippi, was mayor of Los Angeles 1906-9. He was forced to not run again after suggestions, that were never proved, that he had accepted payoffs from bordellos.

After a trip to Bakersfield, Mr and Mrs Harper returned home unexpectedly, on the last day of March 1920, to find a raid by the Los Angeles police ‘purity squad’ against a party given by their son Joseph, 24.

Joseph and seven others were in female garb. The police claimed that a ‘degenerate orgy’ was in progress, and charged all twenty found with Social Vagrancy. The female garb was confiscated as ‘evidence’, and those wearing it had to send for masculine clothing before they could leave. Eight were denied bail after failing to pass medical quarantine examinations.

Four of those arrested were naval personnel. They had been invited by an acquaintance, and said that they didn’t realize that the women were ‘men’ until a late stage, and then they though it a good-natured masquerade stunt.

Two months later all charges were dropped.

*Not Joseph Harper the US soldier, the Scottish footballer, nor the Labour MP.
  • “Police End Stag Party; Say Men in Girls’ Garb: Twenty Arrests Follow Raid on Home of Former Mayor Harper”. Feb 1, 1920. “Medic’s Test Holds Eight: Was a Harmless Masquerade, is Parents’ Statement; However, Arresting Officers Promise a Sensation; Some Await Masculine Garb to Replace ‘Finery’ ”. Feb 2, 1920. The Daily Mirror, Online at:
  • “U.S. Sensation: Police Raid Ex-mayor of Los Angeles House: Men Gowned as Women”. Reynold’s Illustrated Newspaper, 4 April 1920, reprinted in George Ives (ed Paul Sieveking). Man Bites Man: The Scrapbook of an Edwardian Eccentric. Penguin Books, 1981: 125.
  • Tom De Simone, Teresa Wang, Melissa Lopez, Diem Tran, Andy Sacher, Kersu Dalal, Justin Emerick. Lavender Los Angeles. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub, 2011: 24.

Social vagrancy – in a private house ??

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