• Identification00229681
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Thing Magazine records, ca. 1980-1995, bulk 1987-1994
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationThing Publishing (Chicago, Ill.) Robert T. Ford Trenton D. Adkins Lawrence Warren
  • Date
    • 1980-1995
    • 1987-1994
  • Physical Description17 linear feet (21 boxes and two oversize folders)
  • Location
    • MSS Lot T
    • MSS Oversize T
    • PCP-273
    • 0MM.332

Processed with funding provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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 and visual 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).

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

  • Names
    • Ford, Robert T.
    • Knuckles, Frankie
    • Thing Publishing (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Subject
    • African-American gay men -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
    • Drag artists
    • Gay men -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
    • HIV-positive persons
    • HIV infections--Prevention
    • House music -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
    • Periodicals -- Publishing -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
    • Underground press -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
    • Zines -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century.
  • Geographic CoverageChicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century

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.

Series 1. Robert Ford, 1987-1994 (box 1, 15, 19)

This series consists of writings, correspondence, interviews, and other material relating directly to the life of Robert Ford. Note: Box 15 (color photographs) must be requested in advance. Box 19 (audio and film reels) requires listening copies.

Subseries 1. Biographical material, ca 1992-1994 (box 1, 15)

This subseries consists of funeral material, interviews, and photographs relating to the personal life of Robert Ford.

Subseries 2. Correspondence, ca. 1990-1994 (box 1)

This subseries consists of letters and postcards written to Robert Ford.

Subseries 3. Writings, 1987-1994 (box 1, 19)

This subseries contains writings by Robert Ford. This subseries also contains a music video, "Self Service," directed by Robert Ford. Visual and audio elements of the music video are currently separated. Note: one essay was processed into this subseries by a previous archivist, yet has no identification indicating that Robert Ford wrote it. It has been left in this subseries.

Series 2. Thing operations, (1986-1994) (boxes 1-5, 10-11, 14-16, 18-20, OS folder 1)

This series is comprised of mailing lists, correspondence, writers’ files, news clippings, interviews, photographs, photographic negatives, film, audio cassettes, audio reels, a U-matic, and notes regarding the operation of Thing. This series also contains one folder of oversize material. Note: boxes 10 (documents, correspondence and color photographs), 14 and 15 (color photographs), and 16 (negatives) must be requested in advance. Boxes 19 (audio and film reels) and 20 (audio tapes, VHS, U-matic) require listening copies.

Subseries 1. Think Ink, 1986-1989 (box 1, 10, 16)

This subseries contains photographs, photographic negatives, interviews, articles, and correspondence regarding the production of the two issues of Think Ink.

Subseries 2. Administrative records, 1989-1994 (box 1, 10)

This subseries includes writing samples, art samples, and correspondence between Thing staff, artists, models, and writers.

Subseries 3. Zine production, ca 1989-1994(boxes 2-4, 10-11, 14, 18-20)

This subseries consists of articles, photographs, layouts, art, film, VHS, film, cassettes, audio reels, a U-matic, and other items utilized in producing the issues of Thing.

Subseries 4. Distribution, ca 1990-1994 (boxes 4-5, OS folder 1)

This subseries consists of correspondence, forms, and office files representing the distribution of Thing across the world. Also includes office records regarding distribution to stores, in addition to individuals.

Subseries 5. Correspondence, 1992-1994 (box 5, 10)

This subseries contains correspondence regarding the zine (though not regarding distribution).

Series 3. Subject files, 1980-1995 (boxes 5-17, 21, OS folder 2)

This series contains articles, photographs, photograhpic negatives fliers, articles, ephemera, pamphlets, and other material regarding music, the drag scene, individuals, art, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ+ culture, and Black life in America. The series also contains items used in the Thing office collage. It is important to note that the subject files are the most intersectional of the series. Series contains one oversize file. Note: boxes 10 (documents, correspondence and color photographs), 14-15 (color photographs), and 16 (negatives) must be requested in advance. Box 17 contains cracked polaroids and is restricted.

Subseries 1. Performances, music, people, 1980-1994 (boxes 5-7, 10-17, OS folder 2)

This subseries contains photographs, photographic negatives, fliers, articles, and other material regarding performances, music, and people.

Subseries 2. HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 1989-1994 (box 7, 10)

This subseries contains photographs, fliers, articles, and other material regarding the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.

Subseries 3. LGBTQ+, 1986-1994 (boxes 7-8)

This subseries contains photographs, fliers, articles, and other material regarding LGBTQ+ life and culture.

Subseries 4. The Black Experience, 1989-1994 (box 8)

This subseries contains photographs, fliers, articles, and other material regarding Black life in America.

Subseries 5. Research material, ca 1980-1995 (box 9, 12, 15, 16)

This subseries consists of clippings, documents, and novel drafts related to subjects of interest at Thing.

Subseries 6. Office collage, ca 1990s (box 13, 15, 16, 21)

This subseries contains ephemera and photographs from the collage located on the wall of the Thing office. Also contains photographs and photographic negatives of the office collage.