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1898-02 The Outing
1927-09 Golden West
1917-05 National Service
1928-03 Tropic Adventures
1918-07 Forest & Stream
1928-09 Secret Service
1924-09 Screenland
1932-04 The Underworld
1926-12 America's Humor
1936-11 Witch's Tales
1927-02 Real Life Stories
1944-08 Bahai World Order
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J. THOMAS WOOD

(1870-1952)

John Thomas Wood was born on July 19, 1870 in Nottingham, England. His father, Thomas Wood, was born in 1836 in England. His mother, Mary Chadburn, was born in 1834 in England. His parents married in 1853 and had three children, Arthur (b.1854), Harriet (b.1856), and John Thomas (b.1870). The family lived at 17 Vicarage Street in Nottingham. The father was a weaver at a cotton mill.

In 1882, when John Thomas Wood was age twelve, the family left England and moved to America. They settled in Brooklyn, where the father worked at a textile factory.

In June of 1888 John Thomas Wood graduated from a Brooklyn public high school, after which he worked in a lithography print shop that supplied advertising to the local newspaper, The Brooklyn Eagle.

In 1891 the parents were granted U.S. citizenship, which legally extended to their children.

In 1892 the most common forms of transportation were trains and horse-drawn carriages, but the newest and most popular sensation was the bicycle. John Thomas Wood joined a local bike club, called the "Kings County Wheelmen," and was hired by The Outing Magazine to travel south of NYC to report on road conditions for adventurous bicyclists. On July 27, 1893 The Camden (NJ) Daily Telegram reported "J. Thomas Wood rode his wheel from NYC to Atlantic City in only two weeks, and he reports that of the entire distance he had to walk only six miles."

On January 22, 1894 in Brooklyn, John Thomas Wood, age twenty-five, married Grace Louise Benham, age eighteen. She was born in 1876 in New York. Her father was James Benham (b.1854), and her mother was Sylvia Bicknell (b.1856). The newlyweds lived with her parents, James and Sylvia Benham, at 218 East 117th Street in the East Harlem section of Manhattan.

The April 1895 issue of The American Newsman included a paragraph on "J. Thomas Wood, one of the best known among the circulation men, is now making a trip through the south for Mr. J.W. Morse, the New York Fashion publisher. Mr. Wood is representing periodicals that at once admits him into the good graces of every wide-awake dealer who cares to be dealt with fairly."

The June 1895 issue of The American Newsman included a letter from "J. Thomas Wood, Circulation Manager of L'Art de la Mode. I have met many dealers who have been victimized by the Paper Pattern fiends and I hope that The American Newsman will keep up the fight against these sharks. Since leaving NYC I have visited twenty-six large size towns, covering territory South to Roanoke, VA, West to Buffalo, North to Toronto, and have encountered all sorts of reports on business. I am now working my way towards NYC."

The December 1895 issue of The American Newsman reported, "The Metropolitan Circulation Bureau, which recently formed in NYC, gives promise of successful and meritorious development. Combined circulation work is the main object of the entire scheme, which will readily commend itself to publishers, if properly carried out. For the general work, wagons will be equipped with large sign boards on each side, on which will be displayed posters or other advertising matter. The wagons will be handled by experienced circulation men, who will canvass the trade routes daily to deliver posters, take orders, secure window displays, and many other features. Mr. J. Thomas Wood, who is in charge of the Bureau has proven himself a versatile and successful circulation man and his knowledge and experience in this line of work, together with his popularity among the trade in general should facilitate his new enterprise."

On March 15, 1896 Mr. & Mrs. John Thomas Wood had their first child, Basil Benham Wood.

The October 1899 issue of Everybody's Magazine included a short story entitled "The Blood of Abel" by Tom Wood.

In the 1900 U.S. Census John Thomas Wood was recorded with his wife and son, living at the home of his in-laws. He identified his occupation as "compositor" for a "publisher," although the name of the newspaper or periodical is not known.

In the 1905 New York State Census he listed his occupation as "lithographer."

On January 30, 1905 his father, Thomas Wood, died in Brooklyn at the age of sixty-nine.

On October 5, 1906 Mr. & Mrs. John Thomas Wood had a second child, Florence Bicknell Wood.

In 1907 the family moved to a larger apartment at 270 East 161st Street in the Bronx.

In 1908 John Thomas Wood was listed in the NYC Business Directory as a newspaper publisher. The name of that newspaper is not known.

In 1909 John Thomas Wood separated from his wife, while she and their two children continued to live in the Bronx. He lived as a "lodger" at the home of William H. Trafton (1857-1926) at 162 West 79th Street in Manhattan. Trafton was a commodities exchange reporter at The New York World. At that time the newspaper was published by Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), who invented the sensational brand of "yellow journalism," and was engaged in an historic circulation battle with William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951).

In 1910 John Thomas Wood formed the Publishers Subscription Exchange of NYC at 1 Madison Avenue, also known as 15 East 23rd Street. In that year's census records, he listed his occupation as a "Magazine Agent in Publishing."

On June 25, 1911 The New York Sun reported that anti-trust charges had been filed by John Thomas Wood against the Periodical Clearing House, a consortium of all the leading magazine publishers, for conspiracy to control the market for magazine subscriptions. His civil suit asked for $100,000 in damages on the ground that the defendants had conspired to ruin his business. Witnesses in support of his case included other sales agents of magazine subscriptions as well as employees of the American News Company (ANC). John Thomas Wood said that for many years he had been in business selling magazine subscriptions and had earned $60,000 in 1910. In one instance, he exhibited a signed contract with The American, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping (all of which were owned by William Randolph Hearst) to pay him 80 cents for every annual subscription, until the Periodical Clearing House passed a new rule that that no sales agent may received more than 5 cents, and that each infraction of this rule would be fined $25, or as much as $500.

On July 26, 1911 The New York Times reported the NY State Supreme Court had ruled against his lawsuit, saying, "A careful reading of the petition has convinced the Court that the plaintiff has not been acting in good faith, but is seeking a license for a fishing excursion to determine whether he has cause for action against certain unnamed parties."

Whether real or imagined, John Thomas Wood was financially ruined. During this contentious trial, John Thomas Wood's wife filed for divorce. She left NYC with their two children and moved to live her widowed mother, Sylvia Benham, in St. Lawrence, NY.

Despite these setbacks, his lawsuit against the Periodical Clearing House did cement an important business relationship with ANC, who were opposed any attempt by magazine publishers to circumvent ANC's monopoly control of distribution. In gratitude, John Thomas Wood was appointed Director of Forest & Stream Magazine, the oldest periodical of outdoor activities, whose contributors included Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), Grover Cleveland (18-19), and George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938). As the Director of Circulation, John Thomas Wood represented the interests of ANC.

In 1917 the NYC Business Directory listed Forest & Stream Publishing Company at 9 East 40th Street. The Managing Editor was William A. Bruette (1872-1952), a newspaperman, and specialist in dog training. His maternal grandfather, William MacKenzie Watt, was an editor of The New York Herald. Bruette oversaw six Department Directors at Forest & Stream, two of whom were "J. T. Wood" and "C. A. Reed," whose full name was Clara Amelia Reed. She would go on to become the second wife of John Thomas Wood. Clara Amelia Reed was born on November 23, 1872 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, of English ancestry, and was a high school graduate. Her father had been a bank clerk, until his murder in 1884, during a foiled bank robbery, after which the orphaned-daughter, age twelve, received a grateful endowment from the bank. By 1917 she had invested a portion of her wealth to become a partial owner of Forest & Stream Magazine.

In 1918, during the Great War, John Thomas Wood, age forty-eight, and father of two, was not selected to serve in the military. His son, Basil Benham Wood, from whom he was estranged, enlisted in the Army and served in France, where he fought in the frontline trenches. He was gassed and subsequently hospitalized, after which he suffered chronic lung damage.

At that same time, another periodical also produced at 9 East 40th Street, and which was also overseen by Managing Editor William A. Bruette was National Service Magazine from the Military Training Publishing Corporation. The intended audience of this magazine was everyone involved in mobilization, which included citizens, suppliers, and government employees. In Statements of Ownership "J. T. Wood" was listed as an "owner" of this periodical, although his actual position was to represent the interests of ANC.

In 1920, at age fifty, John Thomas Wood married Clara Amelia Reed, age forty-seven. They lived in an apartment at 59 West 76th Street, with her widowed mother, Amelia Reed, age eighty-two. The husband and wife worked as a team in the field of publishing for the rest of their lives. They had no children.

Since the turn of the century, nationwide distribution of newspapers and magazines was under monopoly control of ANC (American News Company), a consortium of publishers headed by William Randolph Hearst, whose Circulation Manager was Moe L. Annenberg. During the "roaring twenties" organized crime took over control of ANC in order to expedite their distribution of alcohol. To avoid Federal scrutiny for anti-trust violations, ANC secretly permitted affiliated companies to function as seemingly "independent" distributors, to masquerade as free market competitors. One of these ANC affiliates was Eastern Distributing, founded in 1924 by Paul Sampliner and Warren Angel.

At that time Screenland Magazine had been published in Los Angeles by The Screenland Publishing Company, with editorials by Myron Zobel (1897-1967), a graduate of Harvard College, Class of 1918. The circulation manager was Frank Armer. Screenland Magazine was a motion picture fan magazine marketed as a true product of Hollywood, "Made Where The Movies Are Made." Along with movie reviews, gossip about stars, and publicity stills, Screenland also featured erotic photographs by Edwin Bower Hesser (1893-1962). In 1924 the magazine was taken over by Magazine Builders Incorporated, with Myron Zobel as publisher, and Frank Armer as Treasurer. The executive offices were at 119 West 40th Street in NYC. The treasurer of Magazine Builders Incorporated was Paul Sampliner. In other words, Eastern Distributing owned Screenland Magazine.

In 1924 the executive offices of Screenland Magazine left California and moved to NYC, where it was printed by another ANC affiliate, Tab Printing, owned by Theodore Epstein, and Elmo Press, owned by Harry Donenfeld. Both printing companies were located at the same address, 32 West 22nd Street, and both were in business with mafia figures, Moe L. Annenberg and Frank Costello. At that same time, Frank Armer left Screenland and began to work as a sales representative for Eastern Distributing.

The July 1924 issue of Screenland Magazine. Volume 9 Number 4, listed the publisher as "Myron Zobel Publications at 145 West 57th Street. Myron Zobel, President. Frank Armer, Vice President, Paul H. Sampliner, Treasurer."

The September 1924 issue of Screenland Magazine, Volume 9 Number 6, listed the publisher as Magazine Builders Incorporated at 145 West 57th Street. The company president was suddenly identified as "J. Thomas Wood."

On May 29, 1925 The New York Times reported the police, working in consort with John S. Sumner, Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, had arrested Myron Zobel on charges of producing indecent literature.

On November 18, 1925 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin described Myron Zobel as the "former publisher of Screenland Magazine."

On February 14, 1927 The Film Daily, a "Newspaper of Filmdom," reported "Wood Leaves Screenland. It is understood that J. Thomas Wood, president and general manager of Screenland, has disposed of his holdings in that publication and will organize a company to publish a new fan magazine."

In May of 1927 John Thomas Wood founded Carwood Publishing Company. The company name, Carwood, was derived from the full name of his second wife, Clara Amelia Reed Wood, or "C. A. R. Wood."

The Summer of 1927 edition of the NYC Telephone Directory contained the first listing of Carwood Publishing Company Incorporated at 551 Fifth Ave.

On July 27, 1927 The News Digest, a trade journal of the advertising industry, reported that "Magazine Builders Incorporated of 49 West 45th Street had released a new monthly publication, Real Life Stories. 45-49 West 45th Street was also the address of Eastern Distributing.

On September 7, 1927 The News Digest, reported that "Magazine Builders Incorporated has appointed Middle Class Group Incorporated of New York and Chicago as its national representative. Middle Class Group has been organized for the selling of three magazines published by Magazine Builders, namely Screenland, Real Life Stories, and America's Humor."

On November 8, 1927 The Brooklyn Eagle reported that the "New French Building, 551 Fifth Avenue, had leased office space to J. Thomas Wood." Eastern Distributing handled all of Carwood's periodicals.

On March 1928 Carwood Publishing released the first, of what would ultimately be only six monthly issues, of the pulp magazine Tropical Adventures.

In June of 1928 John Thomas Wood and his wife Clara visited England. They traveled on the Steam Ship Adriatic to Liverpool. They listed their home address as 551 Fifth Avenue, which is the Fred F. French Building, where Carwood Publishing rented a small office space. According to Writer's Digest, "My apologies to Carwood Publishing, but really, since it moved to 551 Fifth Avenue, it is impossible to find the office unless you bribe the elevator operator to let you in on the secret. So note down that manuscripts should be sent to room number 622! Thomas Wood, the publisher, doesn't consider it a good market, as his rates are a half cent or less and he is paying only after publication."

The Summer of 1929 edition of the NYC Telephone Directory no longer included any listing for the Carwood Publishing Company.

In 1929 Forest & Stream, the oldest of the outdoor periodicals, was published by Clayton Magazines.

In 1929 Screenland Magazine was produced by Magazine Builders Incorporated. That same company also produced Real Life Stories, and America's Humor Magazine.

22 West 48th Street. Printing was at the Phelps Publishing Company, in the Myrick Building at 29 Worthington Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. The president of that company was James A. Falconer, although controlling interest in the company was owned by Sherman Bowles, who was affiliated with Warren Angel.

On February 6, 1930 The New York Times reported J. Thomas Wood had rented an apartment at 135 East 50th Street.

In 1930 the U.S. Census, dated April 9, recorded John T. Wood and his wife, Clara A. Wood, in an apartment at 135 East 50th Street. Their occupations were both listed as "Publishers in the publishing industry."

In 1930 Mrs. Clara A. Wood became associated with the NYC centralized Baha'i Publishing Committee. Baha'i was founded by Baha'ullah (1817-1892) in 1844 in Persia as a universalist religion that embraces all faiths and all people. Baha'i emphasizes regular prayer and reading of their sacred texts, as well as biennial publications that chronicle all church accomplishments. Baha'i has no clergy, so administration is handled by members who are elected to serve on committees and assemblies. The Baha'i Publishing Committee produced and sold the literature approved by the National Assembly.

On June 8, 1930 The New York Times reported that Field & Stream Magazine had assumed ownership of Forest & Stream Magazine in order to acquire their competitor's advertisers and subscribers.

The Summer of 1930 edition of the NYC Telephone Directory contained a new listing for the Carwood Publishing Company at 25 West 43rd Street.

On March 28, 1931 The New York Times Business Section reported "These Corporate Name Changes were filed today: The Publishers Fiscal Corporation of Manhattan has changed its name to Clayton Magazines. At the same time the Clayton Magazines Corporation has registered its dissolution.

The October 1931 issue of The Canadian National Revenue Review reported that The Underworld Magazine, from Carwood Publishing Company was a prohibited publication under the provisions of Section 14 and Item 1201, Schedule C of the Customs Tariff."

During the Great Depression most of the publishing industry faced hard times, because they depended on advertising, but pulp magazines only depended on newsstand sales of cheap escapist fiction, which was widely enjoyed by unemployed workers. This made the 1930s the most profitable decade for pulp publishers. As the money poured in, the two owners of Eastern Distributing, Paul Sampliner and Warren Angel, decided to break apart and each start their own distributing companies. Paul Sampliner started Independent News with Harry Donenfeld, while Warren Angel started Kable News with Samuel Campbell.

In 1932 Carwood Publishing produced The Golden West Magazine. Their offices were located at 25 West 43rd Street, and the printing was handled by Phelps.

In 1934 , according to The Author & Journalist, Carwood Publishing, Underworld Magazine and Complete Underworld Novelettes are now published every other month, alternating with each other, instead of monthly and quarterly as heretofore. Plans are still not complete for issuing Golden West Magazine."

November 1936 Witch's Tale, based on a popular radio series written by Alonzo Deen Cole.

The indicia of this and several other Carwood magazines identified the editor as "Tom Chadburn," who was in reality John Thomas Wood, who derived this pen-name by assuming his mother's maiden name "Chadburn."

J. Thomas Wood identified himself as the publisher of National Service Magazine.

The 1937 Baha'i Directory listed the Officers and Committees of the National Spiritual Assembly of the USA, including the Publishing Committee, which consisted of eight members, "Mrs. C. R. Wood, Committee Secretary, residing at 135 East 50th Street, NYC," and "Mr. Thomas Wood."

In 1938 Mrs. Clara A. Wood became Business Manager of the Baha'i Publishing Committee. She retained that position for the rest of her life.

Mr. & Mrs. Wood had become members of the Baha'i Publishing Committee. The Baha'i bookshop in NYC was at 119 West 57th Street. This was also the address of William Mann Clayton's New Fiction Publishing Company, as well as William Randolph Hearts' Avon Book Publishing Company.

The 1940 U.S. Census listed J. Thomas Wood, age sixty-nine, living with his wife Clara Wood, age sixty-seven, in their apartment at 135 East 50th Street. They described their occupations as "Managers of a Wholesale Religious Goods Printing House." They both listed their highest level of education as high school graduates.

In September of 1940 John Thomas Wood and his wife Clara Wood left NYC and moved to Chicago, where they managed the printing house of the National Baha'i Assembly. His official title was "Chief of Publishing," and his wife was "Co-Chief of Publishing." They lived in the Lindencrest Apartments at 506 Fifth Street in Wilmette, IL. One block away from the Baha'i Publishing book store at 401 Greenleaf Avenue. Three blocks away from 100 Linden Avenue the Baha'i House of Worship, and featuring an intricately-carved white stone facade and a spectacular 135-foot dome. where they were building the on the windy shore of Lake Michigan. This was the first Baha'i temple in the world, and the only Baha'i one in the USA. Construction of the temple was scheduled for completion in 1944, in time to celebrate the centennial founding of the religion in 1844. Today there are only six other Baha'i temples in the world, Panama (1967), Germany (1964), Uganda (1962), India (1986), Samoa (1979), and Australia (1961).

In 1946 Clara Amelia (Reed) Wood became a member of the Baha'i European Teaching Committee, a position she held for sixteen years.

John Thomas Wood died in Chicago, at the age of eighty-one on January 22, 1952. His services were officiated by Horace Holley of the National Baha'i Assembly, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery of Skokie, IL.

After his death his wife, Clara Amelia (Reed) Wood, retired from her job as "Co-Chief of Publishing." She became Vice-President of the Wilmette Senior Center, and was an elected member of the Spiritual Assembly that governed the Wilmette Baha'i organization. She lived another ten years until September 24, 1962.

                               © David Saunders 2018

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