International Imperial Court System collection
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of programs, fliers and handbills, tickets, leaflets, certificates, medals, pins, and other ephemera and memorabilia related to the LGBTQ group the International Court System (ICS), also known as the International Imperial Court System. Materials primarily document activities of individual courts in California and the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s and 1980s, including annual Coronation Balls, drag shows, and other charitable or social events. Among the courts represented are the Imperial Council of San Francisco, Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco, Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon, and the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Raintree Empire (Washington). Files for the Rose Court include a guide to Portland's court system by Rose Emperor VI Tom Terrific. Raintree Empire records contain handwritten speeches by Empress III Ronni Bee and Emperor III Jim, as well as copies of the group’s articles of incorporation and bylaws, bank records, circular letters, mailing lists, and a miniature leather vest. The collection further contains programs for the Tavern Guild of San Francisco's Beaux Arts Ball and events of other organizations affiliated with the ICS, including the gay motorcycle clubs Barbary Coasters and Inter-Club Fund of San Francisco, and the Black LGBTQ groups United Ebony Council of Seattle and United Ebony Kingdom (Portland, Oregon). Also present are certificates and medals given to winners of the Billy DeFrank Camp Awards; general ephemera such as a pamphlet on venereal disease issued by the Gay Community Center of Seattle and a National Gay Task Force Women's Caucus brochure; and newspapers serving LGBTQ communities, including the NW Fountain and Gay Times.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research
Conditions Governing Use
The International Imperial Court System Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Langdon Manor Books, 2017, 2019.
Organized into two series: I. Ephemera and Papers, 1971-2008. II. Pins and Medals, 1973-2003.
3.42 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Language of Materials
The collection consists of programs, fliers and handbills, tickets, leaflets, certificates, medals, pins, and other ephemera and memorabilia related to the LGBTQ group the International Court System (ICS), also known as the International Imperial Court System. Materials primarily document activities of individual courts in California and the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s and 1980s, including annual Coronation Balls, drag shows, and other charitable or social events.
International Imperial Court System
The International Court System (ICS), also known as the International Imperial Court System, is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world. The court system was founded in San Francisco in 1965 by José Sarria, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States. In 1962, Sarria and a group of gay bar owners formed the Tavern Guild in response to police harassment of their businesses. In 1963, the Guild held the Beaux Arts Costume Ball, the first large public drag ball in San Francisco; several years later Sarria was crowned Queen of the Ball, and after he declared himself Empress, the coronation became tradition and the court system developed. As of 2022, the ICS consists of a network of more than 65 individual charitable nonprofit organizations in North America, with the Imperial Council of San Francisco considered the "Mother Court." Each court, or chapter, conducts fundraising events throughout the year to support LGBTQ and other causes, the most notable being their annual Coronation Balls. Courts generally crown two monarchs during Coronation Balls who serve for a year and help stage charity events that often feature drag performers. Most courts are known as empires, although some are designated baronies or ducal courts; the latter is used when a chapter's geographical territory overlaps with an established court, such as the Ducal Court of San Francisco.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection or revisions in arrangement and description.
- African American sexual minorities
- Balls (Parties)
- Barbary Coasters Motorcycle Club
- Bee, Roni
- Buttons (information artifacts)
- DeFrank, Billy
- Drag balls
- Drag balls -- California
- Drag balls -- Oregon
- Drag balls -- Washington
- Drag queens
- Drag queens -- California
- Drag queens -- Oregon
- Drag queens -- Washington
- Drag shows
- Drag shows -- California
- Drag shows -- Oregon
- Drag shows -- Washington
- Female impersonators
- Gay Community Center (Seattle, Wash.)
- Gay activists
- Gay clubs
- Gay community -- California
- Gay community -- Oregon
- Gay community -- Societies and clubs
- Gay community -- Washington
- Gay culture
- Gay culture -- California
- Gay culture -- Oregon
- Gay culture -- Washington
- Gay liberation movement -- United States
- Gay motorcycle clubs
- Gender expression
- Gender nonconformity
- Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco
- Imperial Council of San Francisco
- Imperial Sovereign Court of the Raintree Empire
- Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon
- Inter-Club Fund of San Francisco
- International Court System
- International Imperial Court System
- LGBTQ resource
- Lien, Jim (James R.)
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (U.S.)
- Nonprofit organizations
- Printed ephemera
- Sexual minorities
- Sexual minorities -- Societies and clubs
- Sexual minority culture
- Souvenir programs
- Tavern Guild of San Francisco
- Terrific, Tom
- United Ebony Council of Seattle
- United Ebony Kingdom (Portland, Ore.)
- Guide to the International Imperial Court System Collection
- by Brooke McManus
- July 2022
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
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