"I Am Now Well And Strong"


This photograph was taken during a visit to Helsinborg, Sweden, just before Frederik Hammerich emigrated to the United States (Collection of Charts and Pictures, The Royal Library, Copenhagen).

Among those who emigrated to the United States as forced or voluntary exiles from their own lands, the “homosexual” has not often been mentioned.

A "scandal" involving Frederik Hammerich began in 1893, in Copenhagen, Denmark, when a seventeen-year-old working-class male, Anders Andersen, was arrested and charged with having had sexual relations with an eleven-year-old boy.[1]

During interrogation Andersen said that he himself had been "immorally treated" (though "not unwillingly") for the first time the previous summer by two men, Martin Kok and Frederik Hammerich.

Martin Kok, an impoverished author of patriotic poetry and plays, was soon arrested. The sensationalistic Danish press strongly hinted that, as a boy, Kok had himself been seduced by writer Hans Christian Andersen, who had died in 1875. This allegation was denied by Kok.

Frederik Hammerich, twenty-five years old (born 1868), the other accused, fled from Denmark to Sweden two weeks before news of the scandal appeared in the press. A museum curator, and member of a well-known and respected family of civil servants (his father was a judge), Hammerich was able to raise money to emigrate to America.

On February 4, 1893, from a temporary hide-out in Helsingborg, Sweden, Hammerich wrote to his elder brother Kaj, a junior civil servant in the Danish Ministry of Justice. Hammerich said he had booked passage to the United States and would leave in a few days.

For some reason, Hammerich's departure was postponed and he went back to Copenhagen. On February 18, he appeared, apparently voluntarily, before a judge in the city's criminal court. He confessed to having been masturbated by Anders Andersen, but denied having reciprocated. Hammerich was not detained, probably because of his family connections. On March 1, Hammerich's brother Kaj appeared in court and said that Frederik had left Denmark and was on his way to the United States.

That same day, Frederik Hammerich wrote to his brother from Sweden: "My nerves have been very bad and I still could not get any sleep." He explained that it would be best not to see his parents before leaving for the United States: "I am not heartless, but you will understand how hard it is for me to see any of my family." Hammerich thanked his brother for his help.

Taylorville, Illinois

Frederik Hammerich's next extant letter was written to his brother Kaj, and Kaj's wife, Louise, from Taylorville, Illinois, on May 8, 1893.

Frederik thanked them for their "dear letters" and said "I am now well and strong." His "courage with regard to the future" was "unweakened." He had "unfortunately not yet found work," but, because of language problems, he had only started to look for employment a few days earlier. He planned to teach French and German when his own English improved. "If I can stay as interesting as I am now," he wrote, "I shall get a lot of pupils. You must remember that Taylorville is only a small town. And small towns are in many ways very much alike, even if they are located thousands of miles apart. My arrival here has been a big event, and so far the young ladies have been desperately wooing me in a very energetic American way . . . . They are very much like provincial girls at home regarding bad taste in dress and manners."

Both Danish and American young women were "excessively splendid," but the Americans "seem to be more able, fresher and stronger." He would not stay in Taylorville more than a year, as he could not utilize his knowledge of language, "and I shall never really be at ease in this place. The town is too small, people are too inquisitive and prying and -- there is too much religion. Twice every Sunday I go to church."

He also attended other religious meetings at least three times a week. "I don't drink liquor any more," he said, "but as long as I smoke and do not join any of the 8 halfwitted or totally crazy religious communities (can you believe it, 8 churches for 4000 people)," he would remain an outsider. "One of the good qualities that I believe I possess is tolerance and deference for the convictions of others. But I demand peace in my own territory. That I shall never get here."

Hammerich referred to one "exceptionally good and honest fellow, of whom he was fond, though the man had "never heard of anything but Temperance and Free Methodism." The Dane also described a Free Methodist clergyman with "a face like a knife and a will of iron. He is determined to have me converted. But I will not be converted into his faith, which is hard and cold, and only ardent in intolerance and fanaticism, which kills all life and joy on earth, considers everything not directly connected to Faith as sin and danger, rejects art, science, knowledge, love of parents, love of brothers and sisters, etc."

Hammerich said that "Mama writes to me today" that religion in Illinois must be like one of the Danish fundamentalist movements. Hammerich disagreed. Danish fundamentalism, he declared, was "pure fun and games compared with Free Methodism." But he told his brother and sister-in-law: "Don't think I am crushed by this. I won't let myself become bothered, and I keep as much to myself as possible, but sometimes it is undeniable that I feel a little closed in."

Hammerich asked his brother to collect his royalties for a play and some articles and requested a picture of his brother's son, "my beloved Little Boy." He continued, "I often long for him, Louise will understand better than anybody. Next to our parents he is the one that I miss the most." The exile thought of his brother and sister-in-law with both sorrow and "comfort and joy, because I know that you have forgiven me, and that you think of me with forbearence and love.... I have no Little Boy here but a little Frank, with whom I have made friends, only in reality he is an atrocious child.... Just now he is howling and screaming: Freeeederik, and kicking his mother because she won't let him disturb me. When he is well-behaved -- which he seldom is -- he is irresistible, especially when he discovers that there is a common word that I don't understand and screams: Oh, Goodness gracious!"

Hammerich ended: "Good by for now, dear Louise and Kaj. We shall always stick together."

Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California

Frederik Hammerich's letters to his family in Denmark continued until 1917. For about five years he worked as a clerk in the Pullman Car Company in Portland, Oregon. From about 1900, he lived in San Francisco, where his main social contacts seem to have been with that city's colony of Danish immigrants. Other letters to his brother do not tell much about the exile's life, but it appears to have been lonely and difficult. When Hammerich's father died in 1916, the obituary in a Copenhagen newspaper mentioned all his sons who held important positions in Danish society. Frederik Hammerich, the outcast, was not mentioned.


Funeral home records state that "Frederick C. Hammerich" was born in Denmark on April 23, 1868, and died in San Francisco on December 31, 1918, at the age of 50 years, 8 months, and 8 days. He had lived at 1149 Masonic Avenue and died at home. The cause of death is listed as "Asphyxiation by gas." His funeral was charged to "Halvor Jacobsen," 303 Flat Iron Blvd, Room 303, at 445 Market. The funeral was held on January 3, 1919, the presiding clergyman was the Rev. Stensrud (?) and Hammerich's body was cremated at Woodlawn Cremation. A printed clipping attached to the funeral home record calls Hammerich the "faithful friend of Peter M. Paulsen and family," and that the funeral was held at H.E. Surh & Co, 2319 Mission Street. A scribbled note says that "Mrs. Paulsen will pay $125 and write east for balance," and that the bill was paid in full.[2]

Danish Obituary

On January 11, 1919, an item in a Danish newspaper reported "The Death Of A Copenhagener in San Francisco," and that Hammerich had committed suicide by gassing himself. The story said that "the life of Frederik Hammerich was storm tossed and troubled," but nothing about the scandal that had exiled Hammerich was mentioned.

The obituary quoted a brief autobiographical account of Hammerich's life in the United States which he had written, in 1911, for the twenty-fifth reunion publication of his high school: "As happens to everybody coming to this country I have been tossed about to a degree that would dizzy every Dane who stayed at home, but have usually landed on my feet. I am and have been one thing today, another yesterday, and something different a year later.... I have been cast from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Mexican Gulf to the border of Canada, but have now reached the city that I love, San Francisco, where I have lived through joy and sorrow, from earthquake to reconstruction. Life in America is hard, for many crushing, but it is extremely interesting, and I am glad that I have been given the opportunity to live it.

Hammerich's Danish obituary concluded: "Apparently this unsettled life had become too difficult for the aging man, since he chose to end it himself." A final line declared: "Frederik Hammerich was unmarried."

Copyright (c) Jonathan Ned Katz 1983, 2009.


  1. This entry first appeared in Katz's Gay/Lesbian Almanac (1983), pp. 235-39, and is expanded here.The details of Hammerich's life were provided by Wilhelm von Rosen, who discovered Hammerich's letters in the archives of his brother, Kaj Hammerich, in Rigsarkivet (National Archives), Copenhagen (priv. ark. nr. 5529). The interrogation of Martin Kok, Frederik Hammerich, and Anders Andersen is recorded in the documents of the Criminal Chamber, Police and Criminal Court of Copenhagen, now in the Provincial Archives of Copenhagen. The allegation in a Copenhagen newspaper (Kobenhavn, Feb. 21 1893) about Hans Christian Andersen's sexual relationship with "M. K." (Martin Kok, 1850-1942) had no foundation in fact. Andersen's diary reveals that the two were barely acquainted, and Kok denied the allegations in a letter to Andersen's executor, March 1, 1893. It seems quite probable, however, that Andersen was homosexual, although nonpracticing. But Danish public opinion in 1893 was horrified. A reader ended a long letter of protest to a newspaper with the words: "Much that was dear to our country has been lost," and asked whether it possible to steal "the memory of our great men?" Andersen's homosexuality was asserted in an article in the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Leipzig) vol. 3 (1901) by Albert Hansen, pseudonym of a homosexual Danish police officer and author, Carl Hensen Fahlberg. Later, in 1906, during one of Denmark's biggest homosexual purges, Fahlberg was arrested. Since he had not committed any provable crime, he was released, but fired from the police force. He immigrated to the United States and lived as a farmer in Arkansas; very ill, he returned to Denmark in 1934. He wrote several novels with homosexual themes. He committed suicide in 1939. For Hammerich's Danish obituary, see unidentified newspaper clipping of Jan. 11, 1919, in the archives of Kaj Hammerich. Jonathan Ned Katz thanks Wilhelm von Rosen for this research and the translations, and for accommodations in Copenhagen.
  2. This funeral home record was discovered online by a volunteer at SAGE.