Descriptive inventory for the Thing Magazine records, ca. 1980-1995, bulk 1987-1994

Thing Magazine records

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Descriptive inventory for the Thing Magazine records, ca. 1980-1995, bulk 1987-1994

Prepared by Rebekah McFarland, 2019; ed. by Julie Wroblewski, 2019.
Processed with funding provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Thing Magazine records, circa 1980-1995 (inclusive), circa 1987-1994 (bulk)
Creators: Thing Publishing (Chicago, Ill.)
Robert T. Ford
Trenton D. Adkins
Lawrence Warren
Dates: circa 1980-1995 (inclusive), 1987-1994 (bulk)
Accession number: 2018.71
Bib number: 00229681
Call numbers: MSS Lot T
MSS Oversize T
Size: 17 linear feet (21 boxes and two oversize folders)
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

Gift of Frank Ford, Trenton Adkins, and Michael Thompson (accession #: 2018.71).

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


For audio-visual listening or viewing, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original (and to have a use-copy made if one is not available). Boxes 19 and 20 contain audio cassettes, audio and visual reels, VHS, and a U-Matic. Existing listening copies of selected audio materials are available in box 18.

Advance appointment required to view color material, photographic negatives, and items contained in Box 10. Due to condition of the original photographic materials in Box 17, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original (and to have a use-copy made if one is not available).

Please cite this collection as:

Thing Magazine records (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder/call number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Separated material:

Separated materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center include ten issues of Thing (HQ77.T44 OVERSIZE) and two issues of Think Ink (NX1.T5 FOLIO).

Collection Summary +/-

Correspondence, periodicals, news clippings, interview transcripts, mailing lists, performance fliers, location fliers, creative submissions, research files, artwork, posters, office collage material, and other materials related to Thing, Think Ink, LGBTQ+ culture, the drag scene, Black culture, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Contained in this collection are many files used in the production of Thing, including photo spreads. This collection also contains Thing’s organizational material, outreach, and distribution correspondence. Audio-visual material includes color photographs, black and white photographs, Polaroids, photo negatives, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, one U-matic cartridge, 16mm film reels, and one 8mm film reel. Two oversized files contain promotional material for Thing, Think Ink, and Essex Hemphill.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Thing was created by Robert Ford, Trent Adkins, and Lawrence Warren in 1989 and ran through 1993, spanning ten issues. The zine grew out of a previous publication, Think Ink, which was created in 1987 by the three with the help of Simone Bouyer. Think Ink ran for two issues.

Thing was founded to provide a platform to represent Black LGBTQ+ life. As such the zine is full of art, house music, interviews, commentary, small and large features, recurring columns, poetry, and articles centering around Black culture, LGBTQ+ culture, HIV/AIDS activism, drag, camp, and more. Individuals highlighted and interviewed over the ten issues include notables such as Marlon Riggs, Joan Jett Blakk, Essex Hemphill, RuPaul, and Vaginal Davis. Thing was published in Robert Ford’s apartment, and thousands of copies were distributed world-wide through stores, subscriptions, and written in requests for individual issues.

Robert Ford was one of the three original founders of Thing. He was a writer, DJ, publisher, advocate, and cultural documentarian based in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to working as the Creative Director at Rose Records from 1982-1990 and publishing Thing, Ford contributed articles to such publications as Babble and Planet Rock. He passed away on October 4th, 1994 at the age of 32.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

African-American gay men -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
Drag artists
Drag artists
Gay men -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
HIV infections--Prevention
HIV-positive persons
House music -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
Periodicals -- Publishing -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
Underground press -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
Zines -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
Ford, Robert T.
Knuckles, Frankie
Thing Publishing (Chicago, Ill.)
16mm Film
35mm Photographic negatives
8mm film
Administrative records
Photographic prints
Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

This collection is organized in three series. The first series, Robert Ford, has three subseries. The second series, Thing operations, has five subseries. The third series, Subject files, has six subseries. It must be noted that this collection is highly intersectional, with subjects crossing over frequently. Folders have been designated a series based on the majority of the contents within the folder. One subseries, Research materials, was created for folders with material too intersectional to place into a more specific subseries.

Photographs were processed in a similar way: photographs originally housed together remained together when placed into new housing and were labelled as such. Loose photographs were arranged based on the order they were stored. In addition, many of the photographs in the subseries "Performance, places, people" cross over with "Zine production." They were processed into "Performances, places, people" to keep the integrity of the photo collection as intact as possible.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Robert Ford, 1987-1994 (box 1, 15, 19)
Subseries 1. Biographical material, ca 1992-1994 (box 1, 15)
Subseries 2. Correspondence, ca. 1990-1994 (box 1)
Subseries 3. Writings, 1987-1994 (box 1, 19)
Series 2. Thing operations, (1986-1994) (boxes 1-5, 10-11, 14-16, 18-20, OS folder 1)
Subseries 1. Think Ink, 1986-1989 (box 1, 10, 16)
Subseries 2. Administrative records, 1989-1994 (box 1, 10)
Subseries 3. Zine production, ca 1989-1994(boxes 2-4, 10-11, 14, 18-20)
Subseries 4. Distribution, ca 1990-1994 (boxes 4-5, OS folder 1)
Subseries 5. Correspondence, 1992-1994 (box 5, 10)
Series 3. Subject files, 1980-1995 (boxes 5-17, 21, OS folder 2)
Subseries 1. Performances, music, people, 1980-1994 (boxes 5-7, 10-17, OS folder 2)
Subseries 2. HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 1989-1994 (box 7, 10)
Subseries 3. LGBTQ+, 1986-1994 (boxes 7-8)
Subseries 4. The Black Experience, 1989-1994 (box 8)
Subseries 5. Research material, ca 1980-1995 (box 9, 12, 15, 16)
Subseries 6. Office collage, ca 1990s (box 13, 15, 16, 21)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Rebekah McFarland using Oxygen XML editor, 2019; ed. by Julie Wroblewksi, 2019.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Processing Note:Processed with the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The collection was partially processed at an earlier date. As such, much of the original order of the collection is gone, though the majority of the collection maintains original order within the folders.
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