Claude M. Gruener and Rick Wagner: Research on Sterling and Bloss, MAIN PAGE
First Photo of “Blossy” Found:
OutHistory.org Inspires Major Discovery by Community Researchers
OutHistory.org reports the discovery of the first photo of James Orville Bloss, the live-in, sleep-in-the-same-room with, long-time companion of John William Sterling, a corporate lawyer and major Yale donor who died in 1918.
OutHistory announced the find to mark LGBT history month, October 2011.
The photo was found by Claude M. Gruener, one of four gay men inspired to become history sleuths by an entry on OutHistory, the website on LGBT history.
The OutHistory entry on Bloss and Sterling that inspired the researchers provides evidence that these lifelong bachelors lived together for almost 50 years and that their “unusual relation . . .was often spoken of.”
Bloss’s picture is published on OutHistory, along with another find of Gruener’s -- a previously unknown, character-revealing photograph of Sterling (below).
“Bloss’s friends called him ‘Blossy,’” said historian Jonathan Ned Katz, “suggesting, at the least, an informality that didn’t apply to Sterling, and, it seems, a hint of defiant effeminacy.” Katz wrote the original OutHistory entry on Bloss and Sterling.
Sterling is remembered today mainly because he bequeathed Yale University $15 million ($200 million in 2011), at the time said to be the largest donation to any institution of higher learning in the world. His gift today supports Sterling Law Fellowships and Sterling Professorships (the latter, Yale’s most prestigious and highest paid), and it built Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, Sterling Chemistry Library, Sterling Law Building, Sterling Hall of Medicine, the Hall of Graduate Studies, and the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle (the campus of Yale Divinity School). Sterling’s law firm continues today as Shearman and Sterling, a major transnational corporate legal player.
The four gay researchers met on a Google Group devoted to discussions of the past. Intrigued by the relationship between Bloss and Sterling documented on OutHistory, early in 2010 they set to find new information about its character.
After the group’s research report was complete Gruener stumbled, almost by accident, on the picture of Bloss, one of the major items for which they had earlier looked in vain. Gruener, a resident of Albany, who worked for 40 years in public relations, was thumbing through a volume in the New York State Library and Archives in Albany when he came upon the picture.
The four Sherlocks devoted multiple hours to research and to debating the meaning of their finds, and completed an enormous report about Bloss and Sterling, published on OutHistory.org in ten sections.
These community-historians also purchased, reviewed, and transcribed young Sterling's hand-written journals, and his later, hard-to-read diaries, housed in Yale’s Sterling Library. Those transcriptions, published on OutHistory.org, include previously unknown references to Bloss.
“I’m thrilled at this group’s contribution and I’m still assimilating their discoveries,” said Katz. He added: “This team’s work in recovering the LGBT past is exactly the kind of community-based research we hoped to spark when we started OutHistory.org.”
The groups’ research is listed on OutHistory.org under the names of Gruener and Rick Wagner, who edited its findings, and Gruener placed the reports on the website. Two other members of the team did not wish to be named.
“Fight against forgetting!” sums up the mission of OutHistory.org,” said Katz, adding: “This example of community-based history research is particularly poignant because it was the last activity one member of the group participated in before he was incapacitated by a condition that causes memory loss. (The researcher’s guardian feels that he would not want his name revealed).
OutHistory.org is now funded with donations from individuals.
Introduction last edited September 23, 2011, 10:41 pm
Sections of the Gruener-Wagner Research Report
Guides to the Gruener-Wagner Research
- Sterling's Journals Transcribed and Listed Chronologically
- Original entry on the lives of Sterling and Bloss by Jonathan Ned Katz