Leonard "Len" Keith and Joseph "Cub" Coates grew up in the rural New Brunswick village of Havelock in the early 20th century. The two were neighbours, and they clearly developed an inseparable relationship. Len was an amateur photographer and automobile enthusiast who went on to own a local garage and poolhall after serving in the First World War. Cub was the son of a farmer, also a veteran of the First World War, a butcher, contractor, and lover of horses. Their time together is catalogued by Len’s photos, which show that the two shared a mutual love of the outdoors, animals, and adventure. Photographs of Len and Cub on hunting and canoe trips with arms around each other’s shoulders or in bed together make clear the affection they held for each other. Their story is one of the oldest photographic records of a same-sex couple in the Maritimes.
Len & Cub features Len’s photos of their life and tells the story of their relationship against the background of same-sex identity and relationships in rural North America of the early 20th century. Although Len was outed and forced to leave Havelock in the 1930s, the story of Len and Cub is one of love and friendship that challenges contemporary ideas about sex and gender expression in the early 20th century.
About the authors
Meredith J. Batt (they/them) grew up in Sackville/Moncton and earned a BA in history at the Université de Moncton. They currently work as an archivist at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Their writing has appeared in Xtra Magazine, the Canadian Historical Review, and Active History.
Dusty Green (he/they) grew up in northwest New Brunswick and holds degrees from St. Thomas University and the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. Green has previously worked at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives and Fredericton Region Museum. He is currently manager of communications and marketing at the New Brunswick Lung Association. While working at the Provincial Archives, Green came across the photos of Len and Cub and created a photo book that would be the precursor of Len & Cub: A Queer History.
Green founded the Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick (QHINB) in 2016, with Batt joining in 2018 and currently serving as president. QHINB is an archival and educational initiative that aims to collect and preserve archival records of 2SLGBTQ+ history in the province. Since then, they have conducted oral history interviews and worked with numerous 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and organizations to ensure that New Brunswick’s queer history has a permanent home in the Provincial Archives.
“An archive to treasure. This story of love and companionship pulls us across time and reminds us of the queer possibilities that have long blossomed in New Brunswick and beyond.”
Craig Jennex, co-author of <i>Out North</i>
“A brilliant piece of historical detective work. Batt and Green have pieced together a rare portrait of two queer, rural New Brunswickers from the 1910s and 1920s. Historically significant, this exhaustively researched, beautifully written work is utterly absorbing given the rich photographic record included in the volume. But photos alone don't make history, it is the sensitive, analytically nuanced writing of Batt and Green that brings their world to life. This is a book for every rural queer kid who wondered if they were the only one and for queer historians eager for histories of same-sex experiences and culture beyond the cities.”
Valerie J. Korinek, author of <i>Prairie Fairies</i>
“The photos alone make this book a must-have for those interested in uncovering the queer histories of rural New Brunswick. The affectionate photos of Len and Cub together convey the essence of a relationship never recognized during their lifetimes. An important contribution to Canadian queer historiography.”
Ed Jackson, co-editor of <i>Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer</i>