Monday, January 22, 2024

Creator: Miriam Woods, Lettering Artist and Book Jacket Designer

Miriam Woods was born on May 10, 1918, in Northampton, Massachusetts, according to her New York, New York marriage license application. Her parents were Charles Woods and Helen O’Shea. 

The Woods family has not yet been found in the 1920 United States Census.

In the 1930 census, lines 67 to 72, Woods was the oldest of four siblings. The family resided in Northampton at 12 Bedford Terrace. Her Irish father was a designer in the gift shop trade.

The Springfield Republican (Massachusetts), January 14, 1940, said Woods “graduated from Northampton high school in 1935 and Mary A. Burnham School for Girls in 1936 ...”

Around 1937, Woods moved to New York City. According to the 1940 census, lines 52 and 53, Woods lived her aunt, Agnes O’Shea, in Manhattan at 69 Tieman Place. 

Woods studied at Cooper Union under George Salter. She graduated in 1940. Woods also studied at Columbia University

Springfield Republican, June 3, 1940

On August 8, 1940, Woods and Robert L. Cheney obtained, in Manhattan, marriage license number 12395. They married on August 10. 

On October 16, 1940, Woods’ husband signed his World War II draft card. They lived in Manhattan at 55 Morton Street. He worked at the Rumford Press. 

The 1940s were busy for Salter. With many of his younger peers in uniform, he often had more commissions than an artist of even his diligence and energy could handle. At times, with permission from the appropriate art directors, he subcontracted jobs to Miriam Woods, his personal assistant, with the clear understanding that her work would always bear her signature.
Bookbinding & Book Production, February 1942, published a photograph of Woods, Salter, Oscar Ogg, Riki Levinson, and Edgar Cirlin. 

In July 1942, Salter became Woods’ uncle when he married Agnes O’Shea.

The Inland Printer published Paul Standard’s “Calligraphy’s Flowering, Decay & Restoration” in its October and November 1944 issues. Woods was mentioned in both. 

Woods’ husband was profiled in American Notes & Queries, May 1947. 
The Gopher Hole Press (72 Barrow Street, New York 14, N.Y.) is under the direction of Robert L. Cheney, printer and typographer. It came into existence in February 1942, with the purchase of a hand-feed Chandler & Price platen press (12 x 18) ... Between major jobs and his own work at Harper & Brothers, Cheney gets a miscellany of assignments typographic book jackets and binding designs. His own work is often supplemented by that of Mrs. Cheney (Miriam Woods), a book jacket designer and calligrapher. 
Publishers Weekly, July 2, 1949, featured the graphic arts work at Cooper Union. Projects by current students was shown. The article also named several alumni: 
Ashley Bryan, illustrator; Donald Burgess, illustrator; Edgard Cirlin, illustrator, book designer, jacket designer; Erica Gorecki Egan, illustrator; Sam Fisher, jacket designer; Betty Karpoff, illustrator; Anne Pracny Kirby, illustrator; Riki Levinson, jacket designer; Meyer Miller, typographer, book designer; Ava Morgan, jacket designer; David Soshensky, jacket designer; Richard Stinely, jacket and book designer; Jean-Yee Wong, illustrator, calligrapher; Miriam Woods, jacket designer.
Three months later, Publishers Weekly, October 15, 1949, reported the Cooper Union alumni exhibit of book designs. 
Fifteen of the younger alumni of Cooper Union Art School, New York, are represented by books, jackets and illustrations in an exhibition called “Contemporary Book Design,” which is being held at Cooper Union Museum, October 10–31, in connection with the school’s 90th anniversary. Designers represented include Jeanyee Wong, Erica Gorecka-Egan, Philip Grushkin, Meyer Miller, Edgard Cirlin, Miriam Woods, Ashley Bryant, David Soshensky, Anne Pracny, Riki Levinson, Donald Burgess, Richard Stinely, Elizabeth Alden Karpoff and Marvin Blick. ...
The 1950 census counted Woods, her husband and son, Douglas (lines 13 to 15), in Manhattan at 72 Barrows Street. Woods was a self-employed book designer for book publishers. 

Bookbinding & Book Production, September 1950, profiled Woods’ husband who was art director at Harper and Brothers. The last paragraph said 
Mrs. Cheney is also active in the graphic arts, being engaged in calligraphy and book jacket designing as a free lance under the name of Miriam Woods. She was graduated from Cooper Union after studying under George Salter.
Bookbinding & Book Production, December 1950, described Woods’ contributions to The Columbia Encyclopedia, Second Edition

Bookbinding & Book Production, April 1951, published the list of the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ “Fifty Books of the Year 1950”. Woods’ and her husband were represented in the exhibition. They were designers of the Harper & Brothers book, Toward Daybreak. Woods’ jacket for The Columbia Encyclopedia was noted. 

Miss Miriam Woods Long Hill Rd., Briarcliff Manor, N. Y. BRiarcliff 6-1745 Calligraphy, jacket designs
When Woods’ marriage ended in divorce, she remarried to Richard Curran in 1961.

The 1979 Magazine Industry Market Place had this listing
Miriam Woods 20 Waterside Plaza. Apt 13A, New York 10010 Tel: 212-685-5039 
Woods was mentioned several times in Paperbacks, U.S.A.: A Graphic History, 1939–1959 (1981). 

Woods passed away on October 3, 1983. The New York Times, November 2, 1983, said 
Miriam Woods Curran, who created book jackets for Harper & Row and other major publishers for more than 30 years, died of cancer last Wednesday at her home in Manhattan.

She was 65 years old.

Mrs. Curran was vice president of the board of the Bellevue Hospital Auxiliary and chairman of the patients’ library committee.

She is survived by her husband, Richard; two sons by a previous marriage, Douglas Cheney of Atlanta and Peter Cheney of Roanoke, Va., and a brother, Charles Woods 3d of Grafton, Wis.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Massachusetts), November 4, 1983, said 
New York, NY.—Miriam Woods Curran, 65, of 20 Waterside Plaza, a native of Northampton, died October 3 of cancer in New York. 

Born May 10, 1918 she was the daughter of the late Charles and Helen Woods. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York in 1940. 

Working as a letterer and calligrapher under the professional name of Miriam Woods she created book jackets for Harper & Row and other book publishers including the cover for the Columbia Encyclopedia. She also designed books for Behrman House Inc. 

She was a vice president of the Bellevue Hospital Auxiliary Board and chairman of the patient’s library committee. 

She is survived by her husband Richard Curran also a native of Northampton; two sons Douglas Cheney of Atlanta, Ga. and Peter Cheney of Roanoke, Va.; a brother Charles Woods III of Grafton, Wis.; and an aunt. 

A memorial exhibition of her work will be held at a time to be announced. Contributions may be made in her memory to the Bellevue Hospital Auxiliary. 

A Selection of Book Jacket, Cover and Map Designs
Most images were found at the Internet Archive.





Further Reading and Viewing
Columbia University Press, 1893–1983, page 74
Print, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Book Jacket Designers

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