Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives

   

 

Introduction

Subject Categories

Index

  

Cincinnati History
Library and Archives

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Penn Zeigler
c. 1897-1960
 
  Penn Zeigler was born in Virginia around 1897, the son of Peter Burgess Zeigler and America Spencer Zeigler. When Penn Zeigler was five, his uncle, Cincinnati businessman Major Lee Zeigler, lured the family to Cincinnati. Penn's mother died three years later, leaving his father to raise seven children. They learned to be self sufficient. Penn worked at a variety of jobs from herding cows, to pitting cherries, to working in a glass factory. He was listed as a chauffeur when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917. After serving in France and earning the Croix de Guerre, he was discharged as a sergeant in 1919.  
 
 
Penn Zeigler
Penn Zeiger in his WWI uniform, n.d.
Penn Zeigler Papers, 1919-1978, Mss 644, Box 2, Folder 3
Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center
 
 
Soon after returning home, Penn married Marie Jackson. They had two children, Ralph and Helen. In 1926, Zeigler got a job as a mailman that he kept for 22 years until shoulder problems caused him to retire. At that point, his uncle, Major Zeigler, again became prominent in his life.
 
 
Major Lee Zeigler was born in North Carolina in 1871. He came to Cincinnati as a young man and worked for the gas company. He saved $500 with which he became a coal dealer. As he made more money, he expanded into a moving and storage business that was incorporated in 1919 as the Zeigler-Schaefer Company. He became the most influential businessman in the East End, employing both white and black workers. He was often asked to lend his employees money until payday. This caused him to think about starting a savings and loan. In 1922 he started the first black savings and loan in Cincinnati, Major Federal Savings and Loan. Labor troubles hit his storage business as labor agitators burned all his moving equipment, so Major Zeigler concentrated on his savings and loan company. He also started the Zeigler Realty Company. Major Zeigler died in 1960.
 
 
After retiring from the Post Office, Penn Zeigler went to work for his uncle. He became president of Major Federal Savings and Loan, and he and his son also operated Zeigler Realty.
 
 
At the age of 71, Penn got his first taste of politics when asked to chair a citizens’ committee in Lincoln Heights. He was talked into running for mayor, a seat which he won by a two-to-one landslide. During his four-year term from 1967 to 1971, Lincoln Heights won millions of dollars in federal grants for urban renewal. After the civil unrest of the late 1960s, Penn chose not to run again for mayor.
 
 
 
inaugural address
Page 4 from Penn Zeiger's inaugural address, January 1, 1968
Penn Zeigler Papers, 1919-1978, Mss 644, Box 1, Folder 3
Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center
 
 
Besides his business and political career, Zeigler had many civic accomplishments. In the early 1920s, he became involved in the Boy Scouts of America and earned every award including the “Silver Buffalo,” scouting's highest honor. He was the first African American to serve on Cincinnati’s Dan Beard Region Boy Scout Council. He also served on the boards of the Urban League, the Community Action Commission, the Community Chest Social Action Commission, and was an Episcopal layman at St. Michael and All Angels Church. He died on January 8, 1982.
 
 


 
To learn more about Penn Zeigler, consult the following resources:
 

Penn Zeigler Papers, 1919-1978
Mss 644
This collection contains correspondence and clippings pertaining primarily to Penn Zeigler's term as mayor of Lincoln Heights. There is also material about his work with the Boy Scouts, his military service, Major Lee Zeigler, and the Zeigler-Schaefer Company. For More information, a collection register is available in the Library.   Request slip
 
 
 
Penn Zeigler Photograph Collection
Photo SC#118
Nine photographs of Penn Zeigler, Major Lee Zeigler and other family members are available in this collection. Some photos were used in a Cincinnati Enquirer Magazine article.   Request slip
 
 
 
Rev. James Wesley Jones Papers, 1961-1979
Mss 938
This collection, which primarily pertains to Rev. James W. Jones and his activities, includes some advertisements from Major Federal Savings and Loan. For More information, a collection register is available in the Library.   Request slip
 
 


Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
  • “Still a Dreamer”, Enquirer Magazine, August 27, 1978.
  • Penn Zeigler Papers, 1919-1978, Mss 644, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Penn Zeigler Photograph Collection, Photo SC#118, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.

 
   

Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Mailing address: 250 W. Court Street, Suite 300 East, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Email: library@cincymuseum.org
Copyright © 2004-2017 Cincinnati Museum Center.
All Rights Reserved.
Images not to be reproduced without written authorization.
This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.