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Harris, Alvin S. and Richard "Dick" Oliver Wheeler | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Harris, Alvin S. and Richard "Dick" Oliver Wheeler

Historical Note:

Alvin S. Harris was an amateur erotic photographer, who lived in the San Francisco Bay area. He specialized in "bizarre photography" and collected materials on cross-dressing, lingerie, fetishes, and erotic literature. Beginning in the 1930s, he photographed much of this material and sold it. Harris corresponded with many men and women active in cross-dressing and trans culture and was a close friend to Louise Lawrence, well known trans community organizer. When Harris married in the 1950s, his wife asked that he dispose of the collection, and so he gifted it to his friend, Richard "Dick" Oliver Wheeler.

Dick Wheeler was born on July 16, 1916 in Montréal, Quebec, Canada to parents Richard Howes and Rena Stacy (neé Oliver) Wheeler, who were American citizens living permanently in New York State. Following high school, Wheeler trained as a mechanical engineer at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and graduated in 1936. He later became a development engineer with the Carborundum Company. His interest in model trains led him to create two railroad displays for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, "Railroads at Work" and "Building a Railroad." He married Hannah Frances Blattman in 1943 and in 1945 the couple founded Model Engineering Works, a manufacturer of model trains and kits. The company and its owners moved to Monrovia, California in 1949. Wheeler was also a collector of erotic literature and photographs. He donated a portion of his collection in 1998 and the remainder in 2004. Dick Wheeler passed away in 2009.

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