Fascinating Vintage Photographs Uncover Glamorous History of Drag Queens

1949- This San Antonio drag queen proves that traditional states like Texas could appreciate drag entertainment. UTSA General Photograph Collection
1951- The 1950s were more “Leave it To Beaver” than drag-friendly, but queens like Kitt Russell still remained. Queer Music Heritage
1950s- And continued to sell out houses night after night. Queer Music Heritage
1952- Clubs like Madame Arthur’s French Fun House continued to delight audiences with nightly drag shows. littlethings
1955- Though neighbors might whisper if you were seen attending a show. littlethings
1952- The “Fun-Maker’s Ball” proves that drag balls continued to flourish in the 1950s. Qualia Folk
1952- The art of “female impersonation” continued to evolve as quickly as the make-up quality. Professional drag queens were expected to be passable as actual women. Queer Music Heritage
1956- Drag celebrity impersonations, like this one of Marilyn Monroe, began to appear in more and more drag acts. littlethings
1957- Here is a photo of 1950s drag queen Robbie Ross in drag. Queer Music Heritage
Robbie Ross not dressed in drag. littlethings
Late 1950s- Casa Susanna, a resort-house in the Catskills of New York, was born. Time Magazine
1959- Casa Susanna provided a safe retreat for heterosexual men who enjoyed dressing in women’s clothes. littlethings
1961- For many of Casa Susanna’s visitors, it was a welcome respite from having to adhere to the usual social norms. Time Magazine
1962- Casa Susanna continued to grow through the early 1960s. littlethings
1960s- The 1960s were a time of great change and revolution, especially sexually. The era of McCarthyism and Eisenhower was over. littlethings
1960s- Drag queens began to gather more regularly and openly in some of the country’s first gay bars, such as the Stonewall Inn. Even this photo from Kansas City, MO, shows that drag entertainment had spread to the Midwest. littlethings
1960s- Drag continued to evolve from “female impersonators” and professional performers into a form of creative self-expression for gay men. littlethings
1960s- Drag became less about a making a living and more about finding a community. littlethings
1960s- Though not emblematic of the “drag scene,” this unique photo shows a 1960s Los Angeles police troop in drag. There were frequent attacks on older women by muggers, so the police dressed in drag as a trap. Retronaut
1969- This photo, taken the same year as the Stonewall Riots, shows a similar plan in NYC. This drag-wearing cop might actually have been part of the raids. Retronaut
1967- This photo, taken a few years before Stonewall, is emblematic of some trailblazers that paved the way for LGBT rights. littlethings