James Playsted Wood
1905 - 1983
A successful and prolific US author, editor and educator, he had ancestral connections to the Forest. He wrote both fiction and non-fiction on a wide range of topics, and children's fiction. In 1965 he published The Golden Swan, a children's novel set in the 'Great Forest' during the English Civil War.
early life & CAREER
James was born in New York City on 11th December 1905. His father, William, had been born in the city too though both of his parents (James' paternal grandparents) had emigrated from England around 1863. James' paternal grandfather, also James, had been born in Blakeney on the River Severn side of the Forest of Dean, and was baptised there in 1828. William worked at a dress factory at the time James was born. In 1909 James' sister Edna was born, and in 1910 the family are living in Brooklyn with William's widowed mother Emily, then aged 73 yrs old. In the James' mother, Olive, may have been born in England (her birthplace is recorded variously as both New York and England).
As a young man, between 1922 and 1924 James worked for the Herald-Sun newspaper syndicate and the New York Tribune. He attended the city's prestigious Columbia University, graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in 1927. Around this time he was 'associated with' the New York book and magazine publishing firm Charles Scribner's Sons, and a year later (until 1930) he was working as a copywriter for the McGraw-Hill Book Company that specialised in publishing technical and educational books and journals. James continued with his studies at Columbia University completing his Masters degree in 1933. From around 1930 he had also begun to teach, whilst also working as a book reviewer for the Courier-Journal (Amherst College yearbook, 1938, p24). One of his first teaching posts was at being at the Du Pont Manual Training High School in Louisville, Kentucky where he taught for several years. In 1937 he took up a post at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Today the college archive holds a large collection of his papers.
Amongst James' teaching colleagues at Amherst was the poet Robert Frost who was Professor of English there (on and off) from 1916 to 1938 (returning there and holding a teaching post until he died in 1963). He and James had a shared interest in Gloucestershire. Frost had lived just north of the Forest of Dean, at Little Iddens, in 1914, and was recognised as one of the Dymock Poets, the group of Georgian Poets that had clustered around the village of Dymock before the First World War. James had ancestors buried in two different villages in the Forest, and would go on to set his children's novel, The Golden Swan (1965) there (though in the book it is renamed 'The Great Forest').
wORLD WAR 2
America officially joined the Second World War at the end of 1941, and in 1942 James was drafted from Amherst College into the US military. By 1943 James had joined the US Army Airforce, serving in Washington under General George C. Marshall. He was promoted to Major and was awarded an army commendation medal. It was during his time in Washington that he met and married Elizabeth Craig, herself a teacher (of Latin, French and Greek). With the end of the War James was finally discharged in May 1946.
Page under construction - come back soon to find out more about James Playsted Wood
- A Short Biography of James Playsted Wood (2013) by Marie Brannon. Hand-picked History, blogpost, August 12th, 2013. http://handpickedhistory.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-short-biography-of-james-playsted-wood.html
- James Playsted Wood. Prabook, World Biographical Encyclopedia. https://prabook.com/web/james_playsted.wood/1079364
- Robert Frost at Amherst College. Amherst College, online. https://wwwwww.amherst.edu/library/archives/holdings/frost.amherst.edu/library/archives/holdings/frost
- Robert Frost (1874-1963) Friends of the Dymock Poets, online. https://www.dymockpoets.org.uk/Frost.htm
- James Playsted Wood Biography . Bookrags, online. http://www.bookrags.com/shortguide-lantern-bearer/abouttheauthor.html#gsc.tab=0