Samuel M. Steward was born in 1909 in Woodsfield, Ohio, the only son of an auditor and a schoolteacher. In 1927 he moved to Columbus to earn multiple degrees at Ohio State University. It was here that Steward's life began to change in other ways as well. At Ohio State he began to explore his sexuality more fully.
During this time, Steward also began corresponding with Gertrude Stein and eventually met her and Alice B. Toklas in 1937, developing a friendship that lasted years. In a 1993 interview with this writer, he said of Stein: “I found her very warm and almost maternal towards me. My impression was she was not quite sure of herself and wanted to have the admiration of even a young squirt like myself.” After Stein's death in 1946, Steward continued to make an annual trip to Paris to visit Toklas until her death in 1967. Steward also lunched with Thomas Mann, knew André Gide and Lord Alfred Douglas, and even had an affair with Thornton Wilder in Zurich and during Wilder's later visits to Chicago.
In 1934 he became a professor of English at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. Later, he taught at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. In 1936 he was dismissed from his position as assistant professor at WSU for his portrayal of prostitution in his novel Angels on the Bough. After his abrupt departure, he came to Chicago, where he was an associate professor of English at Loyola University from 1936 until 1946 before moving to DePaul University from 1948 to 1954.
From 1946 to 1948 he was the editor of several departments for the World Book Encyclopedia. It was at this time that Steward also met and became an unofficial collaborator with the sexual behavior scientist Alfred Kinsey. He not only found contacts for the researcher; in 1949 he even performed in a bondage-and-S&M scene with a sadist for Kinsey to film. The two remained close until Kinsey's death in August 1956. During this period Steward also submitted drawings and wrote fiction under various pseudonyms and in a number of publications, including the famous Swiss gay magazine Der Kreis ( The Circle ) .
In 1954 Steward left DePaul, disenchanted with academia when none of the students in his incoming English class had heard of Homer. Two years earlier, Steward had become a tattoo artist, using the name Phil Sparrow lest the faculty at DePaul disapprove of the nature of his moonlighting. He then decided to do tattooing full-time and subsequently worked as a demographer in Chicago, Milwaukee and Oakland.
During this time he continued his diverse writings. In the next 35 years he released mysteries, nonfiction, literary fiction, erotica, memoirs and more. He wrote two Gertude Stein—Alice B. Toklas mysteries, Murder Is Murder Is Murder ( 1985 ) and The Caravaggio Shawl ( 1989 ) , and was working on a third at the time of his death. He also edited a collection of their letters, Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas ( 1977 ) . Some of his other titles include Understanding the Male Hustler ( 1991 ) , Chapters from an Autobiography ( 1981 ) , Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos ( 1990 ) , A Pair of Roses ( 1993 ) , and the historical novel Parisian Lives ( 1984 ) . Under the pseudonym and alter ego Phil Andros ( in Greek, “philos” means “loving,” and “andros” refers to “man” ) , he also wrote several erotic novels about the adventures of a hustler, with titles such as My Brother the Hustler, $tud, The Boys in Blue, The Greek Way, and San Francisco Hustler.
Samuel Steward died on New Year's Eve 1993 in Berkeley, Calif., of chronic pulmonary disease at the age of 84.
From Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, edited by Tracy Baim, Surrey Books, 2008.