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John Martin Taylor papers

Identifier: Mss 0204

Collection Overview

This collection consists of the papers of John Martin Taylor, also known as Hoppin’ John, American food writer and culinary historian of the American South. The papers span the years from 1935 to 2018 and include biographical materials; assorted writings including manuscripts, speeches, published essays and articles, diaries; working files; materials relating to his store Hoppin’ John's; and other materials related to his professional and personal life. Topics include Lowcountry cooking and culinary history as well as art, Taylor’s travels and personal life.

Biographical materials relating to Taylor’s personal life document travel, education, his marriage, and Taylor's work in the culinary field. The materials in his personal files include clippings, awards, congratulatory cards, and a scrapbook. There are also writings by Taylor including manuscripts of articles, speeches, cookbooks including Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking, and unpublished short stories, fiction and nonfiction books. Also included are Taylor’s diaries containing entries recording his travels abroad, language studies, and social life as a gay/bisexual man. Diaries occasionally contain pencil sketches and photographs by Taylor and friends along with newspaper clippings. There are also assorted published magazine and newspaper articles written by Taylor for Gastronomica magazine, the New York Times and Omnibus newspapers, and other publications. Note: original folder titles are in quotation marks and have been retained where possible.

There are also working files that Taylor assembled while researching and composing his articles, speeches, lectures, potential books, and other works. Working files contain correspondence, contracts, research notes, drafts, and published copies of his works. The bulk of the working files are for articles that Taylor wrote for various publications, including Omnibus, The Washington Post, Gastronomica, and Gourmet. Also included are his working files for lectures and speeches given at various museums, symposiums, and dinners, including the Smithsonian, along with research notes, associated event flyers, and correspondence relating to the event. Working files for books contain research notes, correspondence, and clippings Taylor collecting during the writing process. Also included are working files of Taylor's poetry and song lyrics.

The collection also includes materials relating to Taylor’s online and brick-and-mortar store Hoppin’ John’s, consisting of promotional materials, photographs, brochures, and newsletters. Since much of the store was destroyed during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the collection has very few materials relating to the store from the years 1986-1989. The materials that are included in the collection mostly relate to the online store and describe events Taylor participated in as a store representative.

The papers also include assorted correspondence between John Martin Taylor and his friends and family, mostly about life events or holidays. Taylor had a large collection of mail art (art designed to be sent through the postal service) created by friends, relatives, and fellow artists, including members of The B-52s. A few mail art pieces created by Taylor are also included in the collection. Many of the pieces are sections of paintings, collaged postcards, or original photographs taken by the sender, and are about camp subjects. There is also a large collection of mass-produced postcards. Most are postcards received, since friends and family knew that Taylor collected postcards, and sent postcards so that he could grow his collection. He particularly collected vintage postcards, and postcards with camp subjects, pigs, or Elizabeth Taylor. The collection does include some postcards sent by Taylor which he then took back from the recipient and added to his collection. Also included are assorted letters, cards, printed emails, faxes, and invitations sent and received. Most of the assorted correspondence is between Taylor and his friends and family, and topics are usually personal life events, publishing, and politics.

There are also loose photographs, slides, and photograph albums from throughout Taylor's life. Images are mostly of gatherings and events with Taylor, friends, and family, including members of the band The B-52s (Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, and Ricky Wilson), artist Mary Edna Fraser, Taylor's sister Susan Highfield, and Taylor's husband Mikel Herrington. Also included are numerous images from Taylor’s travels in Provence, Greece, and Italy.

Also included is a small amount of artwork created by Taylor consisting of drawings and photographs. Subjects of the artwork include architecture, nature, friends, and food. Also included are handmade collage books created for Taylor by family and friends as gifts on special occasions. There are also assorted writings by other authors collected by Taylor including poems, manuscripts, and published material. Notable authors include the poet Kent Brown (1952-2003) and the culinary historian Karen Hess (1918-2007). There is also his mother Rebecca Martin Taylor's handwritten cookbook.

Audiovisual materials in the collection include audiocassettes, compact discs, and a videocassette. The audiocassettes contain appearances on various radio cooking shows, mostly the public radio show The Splendid Table. Topics discussed are Lowcountry cooking and his cookbooks. Other audiocassettes also contain lectures and interviews conducted by Taylor. One notable interview is with artist Sam Doyle at Doyle’s home on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, shortly before Doyle passed away. Compact discs contain a recording of The Splendid Table where Taylor discussed food in Sri Lanka, and assorted digital files including manuscript drafts, correspondence, recipes, and Hoppin' John's company information. A single video reel has clips of Taylor, all shorter than 10 minutes, including FoodNation with Bobby Flay, and a pilot TV show.


  • Creation: 1935-2018


Language of Material

Materials are in English, Italian, French, and Mandarin Chinese

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 Martin Taylor was born on October 21, 1949 in Baton Rouge, La, to Rebecca Martin Taylor (1920-1982) and Thomas Taylor (1920-2008), both scientists. His family moved to Orangeburg, S.C., in 1953. His mother had a “fanatical interest in cooking,” and Taylor credits her for much of his lifelong interest in cooking. In 1971 he graduated from the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Ga., with a degree in journalism. He worked as a freelance photographer for several years in Charleston, S.C., Atlanta and Athens, Ga. before getting his Masters in Film, also from UGA, in 1977. While living in Athens, Taylor became lifelong friends with the members of the band The B-52s. In 1979, after working as an artist-in-residence at the Sandy Creek Nature Center on a two-year federal grant project, he left Athens to work as a freelance artist, photographer, and writer in the Virgin Islands and Charleston, S.C. He spent a year cooking on a yacht with master chef Thom Tillman, before moving to Paris, France, and Genoa, Italy to continue his freelance painting and photography. During this time and through the 1990s, he kept regular diaries, focusing on his travels and language studies, and describing intimate details of his personal life as a gay/bisexual man. In 1984 he moved to New York, N.Y., to work as the American Liaison and Food Editor for the French language magazine ICI New York. Taylor interviewed culinary historian Karen Hess for the magazine about her annotated edition of The Virginia House-Wife. These experiences changed his professional direction away from art and photography to cooking and culinary history. While living in New York, Taylor was a regular customer at the culinary bookstore Kitchen Arts & Letters. It was from this that he got the idea to open his own culinary bookstore, Hoppin John’s. The brick-and-mortar store, located on 30 Pinckney Street in downtown Charleston, S.C., opened in 1986. In 1989, the store was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo and was forced to close for a year for repairs. Since Taylor lived at the store, he lost not only business records but also personal materials including his diaries and artwork. Taylor reopened the store in 1990. During this time, Taylor ran a cooking school at the store and wrote several cookbooks, including his first book, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking (1992), as well as The New Southern Cook (1995), The Fearless Frying Cookbook (1997), and Hoppin’ John’s Charleston, Beaufort & Savannah (1997). A prolific author, Taylor wrote primarily about culinary history and the cooking of the South Carolina Lowcountry, but also about his travels, poetry, and fiction. After closing the physical store in 1999 he moved his store online to sell his books and stone-ground grits, cornmeal, and corn flour. He continued to write articles for various publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Journal of Gastronomy, Food & Wine, and Gastronomica. He has also presented as a speaker, cooking instructor, and consultant. In 2018 Taylor received the Amelia Award for lifetime achievement in culinary history from the Culinary Historians of New York. Taylor and his husband Mikel Herrington (1961-) met in 1993, and in 2004 moved to Washington, D.C. where Herrington worked for the Corporation for National Service. As part of Herrington’s work, they spent several years abroad in Bulgaria and China. They married in Washington, D.C. in 2010. As of 2018, Taylor is semi-retired, but continues to run his online store and write at his personal blog.


16.0 linear feet (8 cartons, 1 document box, 4 flat boxes, 3 postcard boxes, 1 oversize paper folder, 8 compact discs, 2 3.5" inch floppy disks, 15 audiocassettes, 1 videocassette)


These papers contain writings, working files, correspondence, art, and photographs documenting the personal and professional life of John Martin Taylor, also known as Hoppin’ John, American food writer and culinary historian of the American South. Topics include Lowcountry cooking, culinary history, food writing, Hoppin' John's, Taylor's culinary bookstore in Charleston, S.C., mail art and his life as a gay/bisexual man. The papers also cover Taylor’s extended residences in Athens, Ga., Charleston, S.C., Genoa, Italy, and Paris, France. Materials also relate to Taylor’s friendships with the members of the band The B-52s, poet Kent Brown, artist Mary Edna Fraser, and culinary historian Karen Hess.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Biographical materials, 1967-2018
  2. Writings, 1972-2018
  3. Working files, 1987-2013
  4. Hoppin' John's store, 1988-2016
  5. Correspondence, 1935-2017
  6. Photographs, 1976-2015
  7. Art, 1955-2018
  8. Writings by others, 1942-2004
  9. Audiovisual materials, circa 1985-2010

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in 2018 by John Martin Taylor.


Further accruals are expected.

Separated Material

Published books originally with the collection have been removed and cataloged separately.

Processing Information

Processed by Rebecca Thayer, November 2018.

Inventory of the John Martin Taylor Papers, 1935-2018
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)