Deceptive Creatures: 100 Years of Philadelphia Mummers Drag, Trans & Gender Variance
This is a chronological collection of drawings, clippings and photos of men in drag in Philadelphia Mummers' parades from the late 19th century through the late 20th century. Most of them come from Philadelphia newspapers and the city photo archive.

The Mummers or “Shooters” tradition dates back to the early 19th century as a raucous, wildly costumed celebration of the New Year by Philadelphia all-male clubs. When the city took over sponsorship of the parade in 1901, “Best Female Impersonator” became an official category. A few men, like Frank Carter, Harry Adams and George McClernand Jr. won awards year after year for extravagant and visually stunning female attire. Chances are that some, if not all three of these men, had more than a once-a-year interest in cross-dressing.

By 1933 a writer would complain:
" . . . for quite a number of years, the first prize has always gone to a 'fairy,' made up as a woman and dressed in the gorgeous gown of a woman. "

Although vaudeville drag performers had appeared in the parade before, the Mummers really took on an overtly gay tone in the 1970s and 1980s when local female impersonators were hired to perform, creating a controversy not because they were gay, but because they were professionals. Ironically, it was also in this post-N.O.W., gay liberation era, that this all-male bastion crumbled and women were begrudgingly allowed to participate in the parade.

End of an era -

By 1980 the "Best Female Impersonator" category was made optional, with cash prizes reduced to mere tokens. No award in that category has been given since 1993.
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