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Leather Archives & Museum
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History of the LA&M

In August 1991, the LA&M was incorporated in the state of Illinois. From that date until May 1993, the Leather Archives was, in effect, an idea struggling to take form. In 1993, 1994 and 1995, the LA&M existed as a growing collection and appeared in public only as exhibits at International Mr. Leather in Chicago (plus a couple of abortive attempts to appear on the road). In fact, most members of the Leather Communities of the world - even in North America - were still unaware of the LA&M. In 1996, a storefront home for the LA&M was opened in Chicago. Much larger exhibits were mounted in this space, but the collection outgrew the space very rapidly. In July 1997, Joseph W. Bean arrived to take on the job of Executive Director of the LA&M. Within three months, he had started a series of changing exhibits and proposed to the Board of Directors a capital campaign to raise funds to buy a building. The capital campaign was announced in December of 1997, and met with immediate success. The LA&M moved into its permanent home in late 1999. The 10,000 sq. foot building provided for exhibits and the effective storage of the ever-growing collection of leather history. In January of 2002, Joseph Bean retired from the LA&M, and then volunteer Rick Storer was hired to continue the work started by Bean and the entire leather community. In August of 2004, the leather community made a $225,000 balloon payment to pay off the mortgage of the LA&M. Also during 2004, the exhibit space was expanded from one 2,000 sq. foot gallery to a full building tour of eight galleries.

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