Sodom on the Passaic: Excavating Early Queer Histories of Newark, 1870s-1940s, by Peter Savastano and Timothy Stewart-Winter

Chapter 1, “Sodom on the Passaic: Excavating Early Queer Histories of Newark, 1870s-1940s,” is a collaboration between Peter Savastano and Timothy Stewart-Winter that examines the impact of industry, immigration, and proximity to New York City on Newark’s emergence as a queer hub in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Primary sources from this era are rare, but Savastano and Stewart-Winter highlight several examples that shine light on LGBTQ lives in the city during this period.


One such source is a logbook of daily reports from Frank E. Brex, a detective in the Newark Police Department, which documents the emergence of queer nightlife in the city and notes arrests for sex between men. Savastano and Stewart-Winter locate the logbook as the first of many sources that demonstrate the ongoing policing of gender and sexuality in Newark.


Another source, a short 1925 book called Homo-Sexual Life by Newark-raised author William J. Fielding, describes sexuality as a spectrum, rejects the common framing of homosexuality as a disease, and praises famous queer sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. Field also corresponded with another famous sexologist, Havelock Ellis, and their correspondence is archived at New York University. Savastano and Stewart-Winter identify the book as extremely progressive for its time.