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John A. Zeigler, Jr. papers

Identifier: Mss 0125

Collection Overview

This collection consists of the papers of John A. Zeigler, Jr., poet, music philanthropist, and co-owner of the Book Basement bookstore in Charleston, S.C. The papers span the years 1755 to 2015 and include biographical materials; materials about the Book Basement, the bookstore Zeigler founded with Edwin Peacock; assorted writings including typescripts of poetry, plays, fiction, and nonfiction; materials relating to friendships with Prentiss Taylor, Roderick Quiroz, and Taylor’s friendship with Langston Hughes; correspondence; materials relating to the book and play Jeb & Dash: A Diary of Gay Life, 1918-1945; materials documenting Zeigler’s music philanthropy; photographs; materials relating to the Follin, Elfe, and Zeigler families; and writings and clippings by and about friends. Many of the materials have handwritten annotations by Mary Jo Potter, Zeigler’s niece, who donated the papers after Zeigler’s death.

Biographical materials document Zeigler’s education at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., his service in the United States Navy during World War II, and birthday celebrations from the ages of 89 to 102. The papers also contain materials relating to the Follin, Elfe, and Zeigler families. Zeigler’s mother was an Elfe, and his maternal grandmother was a Follin. The Follin and Elfe materials make up the majority of the family papers, with a few materials relating to the Zeigler and Glover families. The Follins were Catholics who immigrated to Charleston from the French colony of Sainte-Domingue following the Haitian revolution. Follin family materials include daguerreotypes, cabinet cards, scrapbooks, marriage, birth, and death certificates in French, legal documents about the ownership of 9 College Street, and clippings. Elfe family materials include photographs, clippings, genealogical research, and information about the estate of Marguerite Elfe Erckmann. Zeigler family materials include writings by John A. Zeigler, Sr. and Virginia Marie Elfe Zeigler, and information on Zeigler family reunions.

Also included are writings by Zeigler including typescripts of Zeigler’s poetry books Alaska and Beyond and The Edwin Poems. There are also reviews and letters received about Alaska and Beyond, The Edwin Poems, and Edwin and John: A Personal History of the American South. There are also typescripts of an unpublished novel, plays, short stories, and poetry. There are also correspondence and clippings related to the writings included. Also included are materials relating to the Book Basement, the bookstore co-owned by Zeigler and Peacock. Book Basement materials include account books, correspondence, photographs, and clippings.

The papers also contain materials relating to Zeigler and Peacock’s friendship with lithographer Prentiss Taylor (1907-1991) and Taylor’s partner Roderick (Rod) Quiroz (1923-2011). These materials include clippings, photographs, and correspondence, notably letters and cards received by Taylor from author Langston Hughes and a card from Isham Perkins (“Dash” from Jeb & Dash) to Taylor and Quiroz.

Also included is correspondence with friends, notably New Zealand author Noel Virtue, relatives, and institutions about daily life and about Zeigler’s writings. There are also materials documenting Zeigler’s philanthropic activities in Charleston’s music scene, especially his sponsorship of music students at the College of Charleston. Materials include concert programs, photographs, and correspondence with students and professors, notably Enrique Graf, Eunjoo Yun, Lee-Chin Siow, and José Lemos. There are also photographs documenting Zeigler’s life in Washington, D.C., Zeigler and Peacock’s daily life and international travel.

The papers also include materials about the book and play Jeb & Dash: The Diary of a Gay Life, 1918-1945, in which Zeigler was fictionalized under the pseudonym Nicky Bowman. Jeb & Dash materials include letters received from author Ina Russell, playwright Michael Conley, and researcher Dean Alcorn, a copy of the play script, and photographs of Isham Perkins, aka “Dash.” There are also materials about author Carson McCullers, who was a close friend of Peacock and Zeigler. The materials include photographs of McCullers, letters received from the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga, and clippings. The papers also include letters, photographs, and poetry by former Book Basement employee and friend T.J. Worthington. There are also articles and clippings about Kenneth Dow, friend and historic restoration enthusiast. Zeigler also collected writings by friends including playwright Andrew Little, World War II veterans Julian Mixon Hayes and George Laycock, author Carlos L. Dews, and researchers Joseph Butwin and Dan Griffin.


  • Creation: 1755-2015

Language of Material

Materials in English, French, and Spanish

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

John Asbury Zeigler, Jr. was born on February 5, 1912, in Manning, South Carolina, to John Asbury Zeigler, Sr. (1888-1960) and Virginia Marie Elfe Zeigler (1890-1997). He had three siblings, Virginia Z. Potter (1914-2002), Marguerite Z. Williams (1915-1990), and William (Billy) B. Zeigler (1917-2012). Zeigler graduated from Florence High School in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, starting in 1928, graduating in 1932 with a B.A. in English. While at the Citadel, he founded the student literary magazine The Shako and staffed the student newspaper The Bull Dog. In 1933, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps. During this time, Zeigler joined the Poetry Society of South Carolina and participated in the Dock Street Theatre playwriting competition held by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward. He briefly taught high school in Charleston before moving to Washington, D.C., to work with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. While in Washington, Zeigler also edited the literary magazine Foothills. His poetry was published in Harper’s Bazaar, The Washington Post, and Good Housekeeping. During his time in Washington, Zeigler became friends with lithographer Prentiss Taylor (1907-1991), and with federal employees Isham Perkins and Carter Bealer, who were later fictionalized as C.C. Dasham and Jeb Alexander in a published version of Bealer’s diaries, Jeb & Dash: The Diary of a Gay Life, 1918-1945. Zeigler appears in the book under the pseudonym Nicky Bowman.

In 1939, Zeigler moved in with his great-aunt Virginia (Detie) Follin (1861-1945) and aunt Marguerite (Peggy) Erckmann (1887-1970) at 9 College Street, now 9 College Way, in Charleston. In July 1940, Zeigler met his life partner, Edwin Peacock (1910-1989) at Isle of Palms, South Carolina, through their mutual friend Roberta (Topie) Johnson. Peacock was born in Thomasville, Georgia, and worked in Columbus, Georgia, for the Civilian Conservation Corps where he met author Carson McCullers. Peacock had hearing difficulties, and McCullers loosely based the deaf gay character of John Singer in her novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter on him. Peacock was working in the finance office at Fort Moultrie when he met Zeigler. Zeigler and Peacock moved to Tesuque, New Mexico, and then San Francisco, California, in 1941. In April 1942, Zeigler and Peacock enlisted together in the Naval Reserve as apprentice seamen, and began their training in San Diego, California. They then both volunteered to change to the rating of radioman and attended radio school in Boulder, Colorado. Peacock was stationed at Cape Chiniak, Alaska, and Zeigler was stationed at Yakutat, Alaska, where he served as a radioman second class and as a naval correspondent for the army newspaper Glacier Gazette. He continued his radio work aboard the attack transport USS Dickens in the Pacific theater from 1944-1945, which carried troops to Iwo Jima and Guam.

Zeigler was honorably discharged on November 1, 1945. He then returned to Charleston, where he and Peacock opened the independent bookstore the Book Basement in Zeigler’s family house at 9 College Street on February 19, 1946. The Book Basement became a gathering place for intellectuals living in Charleston or visiting the city, including authors Langston Hughes, Maurice Sendak, and Carson McCullers, and lithographer Prentiss Taylor. In 1971 the building at 9 College Street was purchased by the College of Charleston, and Zeigler and Peacock sold the bookstore. They remained in Charleston, moving to 19 Wentworth Street in the Ansonborough neighborhood. In 1984, Zeigler published Alaska and Beyond, a collection of original poems. When Peacock passed away in 1989, the two had been a couple for forty-nine years. After Peacock’s death, Zeigler became a major patron of music in Charleston. He sponsored music scholarships at the College of Charleston and supported the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Spoleto Festival USA. In 2007 he published another poetry collection titled The Edwin Poems. Zeigler’s biography was published by James Sears in his 2009 book Edwin and John: A Personal History of the South. He donated a portion of his papers to the Duke University Libraries from 2008-2013. Zeigler received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award in 2013, which is the highest honor for contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Zeigler died on October 2, 2015 at the age of 103.


12.0 linear feet (6 cartons, 3 oversize boxes, 1 postcard box, 2 volumes, 2 videocassettes, 2 compact discs, 1 DVD)


The papers contain writings, biographical materials, correspondence, and photographs documenting the life of John Asbury Zeigler, Jr., poet, music philanthropist, and co-owner of the Book Basement bookstore in Charleston, S.C. Materials relate to Zeigler’s education at the Citadel, and his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II in Yakutat, Alaska. The papers also cover Zeigler’s relationship with Edwin Peacock, their friendship with lithographer Prentiss Taylor and his partner Roderick Quiroz, and Taylor’s friendship with author and poet Langston Hughes. There are also family papers relating to the Follin, Elfe, and Zeigler families, and materials relating to the book Jeb & Dash: A Diary of Gay Life, 1918-1945 by author Ina Russell.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Biographical materials, 1912-2015
  2. Family papers, 1755-2006
  3. Writings, circa 1918-2015
  4. Book Basement, 1946-2008
  5. Prentiss Taylor, 1931-2006
  6. Correspondence, 1937-2015
  7. Music philanthropy
  8. Photographs, 1909-2015
  9. Jeb & Dash, 1986-2013
  10. Carson McCullers, 1966-2015
  11. T.J. Worthington, 1968-2015
  12. Kenneth Dow, 1948-2000
  13. Works by friends, 1970-2005

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in April 2008 by John A. Zeigler, Jr. and in 2017 by Dr. and Mrs. William Zeigler Potter.

Related Material

Related materials in Special Collections include Prentiss Taylor Lithographs (Mss 0147) and College of Charleston Records, 1970-present.

Separated Material

Published materials were removed from the papers and cataloged separately.

Processing Information

The papers donated by John A. Zeigler, Jr. were originally processed by Special Collections staff, date unknown. Papers were reprocessed and encoded by Cara McHugh, April 2013. Encoded finding aid was reviewed, edited, and uploaded by Martha McTear, July 2013. Papers were reprocessed to include a 2017 accrual donated by Dr. and Mrs. William Zeigler Potter by Rebecca Thayer, March 2019.

Inventory of the John A. Zeigler, Jr. Papers, 1755-2015
Processed by: Rebecca Thayer; finding aid created by: Rebecca Thayer
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supported the processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)