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.
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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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|L. Frank Baum Home
Good to Know
|In Our Other Stores|
|L. Frank Baum Movies
|The Book of the Hamburgs, 1882|
|Our Landlady, 1890|
|Mother Goose in Prose, 1897|
|By the Candelabra's Glare, 1898|
|Father Goose: His Book, 1899|
|The Wizard of Oz, 1900|
|Dot and Tot of Merryland, 1901|
|American Fairy Tales, 1901|
|The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, 1901|
|Animal Fairy Tales, 1901|
|The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, 1902|
|The Magical Monarch of Mo, 1903|
|The Land of Oz, 1904|
|Queen Zixi of IX: Or, the Story of the Magic Cloak, 1905|
|The Woggle-Bug Book, 1905|
|John Dough and the Cherub, 1906|
|Ozma of Oz, 1907|
|Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, 1908|
|The Road to Oz, 1909|
|The Emerald City of Oz, 1910|
|Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan, 1910|
|Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas, 1911|
|The Sea Fairies, 1911|
|Sky Island, 1912|
|The Patchwork Girl of Oz, 1913|
|Tik-Tok of Oz, 1914|
|Little Wizard Stories of Oz, 1914|
|The Scarecrow of Oz, 1915|
|Rinkitink in Oz, 1916|
|The Lost Princess of Oz, 1917|
|Tin Woodman of Oz, 1918|
|The Magic of Oz, 1919|
|Glinda of Oz, 1920|