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Category: Personal

Who's that man?

We pause in our mobile blogging frenzy to present some biographical information regarding Jarvis A. Wood. They say you should find your niche and stick with it; possibly this is mine. Someone asked, by the by, if I knew who the businessman mentioned in regards to the Sherman Act in Special Delivery 2. I don’t know, but I’ll see what I can dig up.

The following excerpts are from The History of an Advertising Agency, Ralph M. Hower, Harvard University Press, 1949:

p. 79:

In 1888, Ayer took on his staff Jarvis A. Wood, a young man with a gift of ready words, who immediately began to devote much of his time to writing advertisements for Ayer customers.

p. 98-99:

In January, 1898, a step was taken that reduced the burden upon Ayer and McKinney, and promoted a more equable distribution of managerial duties. Two employes of the firm, Jarvis A. Wood and Albert G. Bradford, were advanced to partnership.

Wood had started to work for N. W. Ayer & Son in 1888 as assistant to F. W. Ayer. Genial, friendly, and gifted with a ready flow of words, he was expected to follow Mckinney as the agency’s leading business getter and producer of advertising ideas. His talents, however, lay in other directions. For a number of years he supervised the preparation of copy; his business associates believe that he was the first man to head an agency copy department. Later he was made manager of the large staff of employees and placed in charge of the general routine work of the Philadelphia organization. In that capacity his tact, his fatherly manner, and his complete loyalty enabled Wood to serve the agency well.

In addition to lightening the burden upon the two senior partners, the admission of Bradford and Wood represented the attempt to provide for a continuity of management. It is significant that these two had not been brought in from the outside. Both had been employed in the agency for more than ten years and knew every phase of the work. Like Wallace and Mckinney, neither of then contributed any new capital to the business; each paid for his share out of earnings received after admission to the partnership. Their promotion, like every promotion to top management in N. W. Ayer & Son before or since, was based not on financial interest but on their ability, promise, and experience within the firm, a fact which has given Ayer employees an incentive to put forth their best efforts.

After the admission of the new partners, the responsibilities of the business were divided as follows: McKinney was in charge, as before, of the business getting activities: Bradford handled the buying of space and other dealings with publishers; and Ayer, with Wood as his assistant, exercised a close supervision over operations as a whole.

p. 125:

It is worth noting that none of them could be regarded as a specialist in space buying, and that since the death of Jarvis Wood, there was no member of the firm whose specialty had been the preparation of copy.

Special Delivery 2

This one opens with a picture of Jarvis Wood, along with Jarvis Wood, Jarvis Wood, Jarvis Wood, and Jarvis Wood. They’re gathered around a table working on this issue of Special Delivery. Apparently, photographic trickery is not a new thing. Multiple exposure? Something like that.

(Did you miss the first entry? Read this.)

“The entire editoral staff of the Special Delivery wishes the holder of this copy a Merry Christmas in the good year nineteen thirteen.

“Jarvis A. Wood (signed)

“The Wesley Inn
Wayne, Pennsylvania
Christmastide, nineteen thirteen”

Turn the page.

Special Delivery 1

This Christmas, my mother gave my brother and I complete sets of something that my great-great-grandfather (my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather), Jarvis A. Wood, wrote every Christmas for the last several years of his life.

They’re little booklets in ivory covers, about half the size of a mass market paperback and perhaps forty pages thick. The words “Special Delivery” are embossed on the front, along with hashmarks in later years to mark the volume number.

The first one, which I’m looking at right now, is printed in red and green — mostly green, with lovely use of spot color. Inside the front cover there’s a little sketch of a tag, inscribed “Tag! You’re it!” It’s also signed, by hand, “Uncle J.” Turn the page, and there’s the title page in front of you. A photograph of the author is glued to the left hand page.

If you’ll allow me the liberty, I’d like to share some of his writing with you. I find myself struck by his eloquence, and his turn of phrase. He was a minister, and worked in advertising, so perhaps his skill with the word is not entirely surprising. The year is 1912; it’s Christmas. Turn the page again.

Have yourself a merry

I am enjoying a little post-festivity relaxation; of late, I’ve desired more alone time, so this is working out very well. Mom’s headed back home to beat the storm, and my brother and his wife are relaxing at their place, two doors down from me. Whoops, he’s come up to borrow DVDs and play some Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Sadly, the game does not provide Christmas music; I was hoping, but then again, it’s not as if I ever told my Playstation what the date is.

I am deeply pleased with my gifts this year. My brother got me this coffee table (or at least, that’s what I’m going to use it for); also, a tremendously cool calendar. Be sure to look at the detail shots, and note that it has birthdays for all the major figures in the field.

I think today of all days, Population: One gets pictures. Follow the link to find my brother and his wife (all together: “Awwwww.”); the Christmas tree; and my mother’s clever Lincoln Log set that comes in a ballpoint pen (my gift, and I am smug). They are clickable, if you want the full monty.

Happy holidays.


My grandmother, Zoe Warner Durrell, passed away this morning. I’m going to talk about it a little, because I want to say some things about her and this is a place where I talk about that which is meaningful to me.

It was very peaceful. She had just moved into the home of my Aunt Zoe and Uncle Jeff, leaving her assisted living home; everyone was very happy about that. My father had spent Thanksgiving with them all. Everyone in the family had spent some time with her in the last year or so. She’d been ill since last winter. When my father called me this morning, it was not shocking.

Grandmama was a matriarch in the classic sense. She had always had a firm vision of what the family should be, and let us know when we slipped. Not in a bad way. There’s something to be said for firm guidance, and I am happy to have inherited my concepts of politesse and nobility from her. We’re preppies, albeit rather lapsed ones in my generation. I don’t say this very often, but I am proud of my heritage.

She lived through amazing changes. I am embarassed to admit that I’m not sure of her exact age, but then, it would be wrong to talk of it in public in any case. She’d seen most of the last century. The world never baffled her. In this past year, she’d gotten an email device, which she was happy to use with assistance. It’s easy to forget how much the aged have seen, but Grandmama was not one to be underestimated.

She and Grandpapa lived well and graciously. He was a publisher, originally in New York and then on a smaller scale in Kennebunkport. I know of fewer more noble occupations. I hope to follow in those footsteps, someday. When she moved to North Carolina, after he passed away, she donated her Kennebunkport house to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.

I am told that her memory was slipping, towards the end. It must have been difficult for her. She was exceedingly lucid when I visited her last spring, which is precisely what I would have expected. She was an author, not terribly prolific, but it’s another aspect of her that impressed and influenced me. In any case, she died content and happy that her family was doing well.

I hope that I’ve lived up to her standards. I hope that I continue to do so. I will miss her terribly.


I want to open a movie theater. That’s not a new thing; I’ve fantasized about it for a while. Not a first run theater, or even a first run art house; I want to open up a quirky little theater that shows second run movies of quality (whether that means Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys or Matrix) and retrospectives of directors and actors I like and so on. There’s no evidence this would make money, mind you.

I want to attach a little bookstore to it. With a coffeeshop. Someplace to hang out after the movie, or before the movie, with a good stock of genre books. I sort of want to make it one of those dinner theaters, where you can order a pizza and bring it into the theater and sit on comfy chairs, but I’d have to find out whether that’s anything close to cost-effective.

I think it’d be really cool if you could come in for brunch, order a nice omelette, and eat it in the movie theater at no extra charge. Do an 8 AM and a 10 AM showing of some classic black and white. Or, hm, maybe a program of short flicks would be better.

I’d want one big screen, in the kind of space that you can use for concerts if you want, and one small 35 person screening room.


Morning updates

Saturday morning, I went to the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown with my brother. Not bad, cool atmosphere. The bacon was a touch cold, always a minus. I wasn’t blown away by my omelette. Ben’s pancakes were great — I think it’s more of a sweet breakfast spot, and I’m kind of a savory guy. Good coffee.

This morning I hit the S&S Diner on the advice of many. Didn’t have to wait for a seat, yay! I had an excellent salmon hash and a solid cinnamon roll. Which came with butter. That’s decadence. I dunno if I’d make it a regular thing but the food was damned fine.