Skip to main content

John T. Ackerson (George Jarrboe) papers

Identifier: MSS 16775

Content Description

This collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, reviews, photographs, a lock of hair, and a scrapbook relating to the life and career of John Thaddeus "Jack" Ackerson, (1898-1975), who published radical antiwar poetry under the name George Jarrboe after his naval service during World War I and II. Ackerson wrote the chapbook "The Unknown Soldier Speaks" and many other pieces of writing under this pseudonym.

The bulk of the collection consists of 500 letters. Most of the correspondence is between Ackerson, his girlfriend and then-wife Katharine Bowen, and his immediate family; 137 are letters written by Ackerson himself. Other correspondents include Frank di Gioia, Agnes Inglis, Robert O. Erisman, James Neill Northe, Masaki Ikeda, F.V. Lamsin, Fernand Jouan, Howard Fast, Mary Minter Miles, Edith Barnard Delano and Harriet T. Hassell among others. Also included are a scrapbook and several letters about Ackerson's poetry and the release and reception of his chapbook, "The Unknown Soldier Speaks", twenty-four manuscripts, seven typescripts, and approximately twenty-five family documents. A 1929 copy of "Unrest" and a 1945 copy of "Anchor with a laurel wreath" were removed and are cataloged separately.


  • Creation: 1822 - 1961


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

John (Jack) Thaddeus Ackerson (1898-1975), was an author antiwar poems.He was a sailor in World War I and II from Hackensack, New Jersey. He entered the war in 1917 as a member of the United States Naval Reserve Force (Seaman Class 4). He was stationed on the USS Christabel, which served on patrol duty off the western coast of France. He was involved in two conflicts with German u-boats. During World War II he became a purser in the merchant marine.

After the war, he published antiwar poetry under the pseudonym George Jarrboe, and authored "The Unknown Soldier Speaks," and "Anchor with a Laurel Wreath." His poetry was published in The New Masses and Unrest: The Rebel Poet's Anthology for 1929 He was involved in radical literary circles.

From the cover of "The Unknown Soldier Speaks," Jarrboe is described as a "manual laborer, travelling salesman, office manager, investigator, and law clerk." Jarrboe dedicated the work collectively to William, Hushka, Eric Carlson, and William Gunn". Jarrboe wrote, "It took the murder of these three comrades to make me realize the inadequacy of this booklet. Bourgeois born and bred, I have been swinging left, and shall proceed further."


1.726 Cubic Feet (3 legal document boxes. 1 drop front box)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased from Lorne Bair by the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia Library on 17 March, 2022.

John T. Ackerson papers (George Jarrboe)
Ellen Welch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States