Our Landlady

Overview

From January 1890 to February 1891 Baum wrote a column entitled "Our Landlady" that ran regularly in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In all, he wrote forty-eight installments, each treating with practiced naivete the problems facing the brand-new state of South Dakota. Through his fictional landlady, Sairy Ann Bilkins, Baum commented on drought, railroads, suffrage, prairie populism, the Ghost Dance Movement, prohibition, and dozens of other matters. Together, the "Our Landlady" columns constitute a satirical ...
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Overview

From January 1890 to February 1891 Baum wrote a column entitled "Our Landlady" that ran regularly in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In all, he wrote forty-eight installments, each treating with practiced naivete the problems facing the brand-new state of South Dakota. Through his fictional landlady, Sairy Ann Bilkins, Baum commented on drought, railroads, suffrage, prairie populism, the Ghost Dance Movement, prohibition, and dozens of other matters. Together, the "Our Landlady" columns constitute a satirical history of South Dakota's troubled first year. Baum's genius as a fiction writer can be clearly seen in four of his recurring characters. Mrs. Bilkins runs for mayor, alternately feeds and starves her boarders, and keeps track of everybody else's business. She harbors a secret passion for one of her boarders, the cigar-smoking Colonel. She nags Tom, the clerk who habitually fails to pay his rent. She chides the Doctor about the flimflammery of American medicine.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Baum, best known for his writings about a place called Oz, here takes a humorous look at South Dakota life in 1890. The assorted tales of landlady Sairy Ann Bilkins were originally published as a column in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, and several were collected and printed as a single volume in 1941. This, however, is the first complete edition. It additionally includes period illustrations and annotations by scholar Nancy Tystad Koupal.
Great Plains Quarterly
"It is widely known that L. Frank Baum spent several years in South Dakota before moving to Chicago, where he wrote the Oz books that made him famous. . . . Koupal carefully lays out the complexities and ambiguities of Baum’s thinking by providing us with the full texts of Baum’s columns published weekly in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer between January 1890 and February 1891, and by adding her own commentary and a glossary to place these writings in context. Entitled ‘Our Landlady,’ the column described in a generally humorous vein the conversations and activities of four fictional characters—the landlady and three of her regular boarders—and a wide variety of prominent local residents of Aberdeen."—Great Plains Quarterly
Western Historical Quarterly
"Readers will be grateful to Koupal for this amusing and edifying supplement to our understanding of one of the giants of American popular culture."—Western Historical Quarterly
South Dakota History
"Baum’s humor is of the biting kind. . . . Readers of Our Landlady will find the beginnings of Baum’s wonderful world of humor as well as an informative look at life in a prairie state."—South Dakota History
Baum Bugle
"Koupal is an admirable editor. It’s hard to see how the work could be improved."—Baum Bugle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803261563
  • Publisher: UNP - Nebraska Paperback
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 287
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author


Nancy Tystad Koupal is a native of Mitchell, South Dakota, and serves as director of the Research and Publishing Program at the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Biography

Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, Aunt Em -- where would our national psyche be without The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? L. Frank Baum, who created a story with an indelible, sometimes haunting impression on so many people, led a life that had a fairy-tale quality of its own.

Baum was born in 1856 to a family that had made a fortune in the oil business. Because he had a heart condition, his parents arranged for him to be tutored privately at the family’s Syracuse estate, “Roselawn.” As an adult, though, Baum flourished and failed at a dizzying variety of ventures, from writing plays to a stint with his family’s medicinal oil business (where he produced a potion called “Baum’s Castorine”), to managing a general store, to editing the Aberdeen Pioneer in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In 1897, following his mother-in-law’s advice, Baum wrote down the stories that he told his children. The firm of Way & Williams published the stories under the title Mother Goose in Prose, with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish, and Baum’s career as a writer was launched.

With the publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, Baum gained instant success. The book, lavishly produced and featuring voluptuous illustrations by William Wallace Denslow, was the bestselling children’s book of the year. It also set a new standard for children’s literature. As a commentator for the September 8, 1900 New York Times described it, “The crudeness that was characteristic of the oldtime publications...would now be enough to cause the modern child to yell with rage and vigor...” The reviewer praised the book’s sheer entertainment value (its “bright and joyous atmosphere”) and likened it to The Story of the Three Bears for its enduring value. As the film industry emerged in the following years, few books were as manifestly destined for adaptation, and although it took almost four decades for a movie studio to translate Baum’s vision to film, the 1939 film did for the movies what Baum’s book had done for children’s literature: that is, raised the imaginative and technical bar higher than it had been before.

The loss of parents, the inevitable voyage toward independence, the yearning for home -- in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum touched upon a child’s primal experiences while providing a rousing story of adventure. As his health declined, Baum continued the series with 14 more Oz books (his publisher commissioned more by other authors after his death), but none had quite the effect on the reading public that the first one did. Baum died from complications of a stroke in 1919.

Good To Know

Baum founded the National Association of Window Trimmers and published a magazine for the window-trimming trade – he also raised exotic chickens.

Buam was married to Maud Gage, a daughter of the famous women’s rights advocate Matilda Joslyn Gage.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Floyd Akers, Laura Bancroft, George Brooks, Edith Van Dyne, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, Suzanne Metcalf, Louis F. Baum, Lyman Frank Baum (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 15, 1856
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chittenango, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      May 6, 1919
    2. Place of Death:
      Hollywood, California

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