Images from Oz
'100 Years of Oz January 20, 2000
January 20, 2000
by John Fricke
(CNN) -- For anyone who ever dreamed of visiting Oz, Willard Carroll draws from his private collection of more than 10,000 museum-quality pieces to present an unparalleled view of L. Frank Baum's beloved creations and their influence on popular culture. Organized by decade, this book traces a century of Oz lithography, photography, sheet music, book jackets, stationery, manuscripts, costumes, film props, animation cells, newspaper rotogravure, greeting cards, Halloween masks, theater programs, contracts, maps, advertising fliers, games, toys, puzzles, dolls, and other memorabilia gathered from every corner of the world.
1900s: Down the Yellow Brick Road
When The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeared in 1900, forty-four-year-old L. Frank Baum was the veteran of a dozen careers -- actor, playwright, storekeeper, newspaperman, and traveling salesman among them. Though blessed with intelligence, wit, charm, and presence, he'd achieved only sporadic financial stability. By 1897, with a family to support, he was living in Chicago as the editor of a magazine that encouraged innovative display advertising in department store windows. It was this settled existence, however -- and a burgeoning association with local writers and artists -- that led to the publication of his first children's book, Mother Goose In Prose (1897). Comprised of stories Baum had originally devised as verbal entertainment for his four sons and their friends, the volume boasted illustrations by Maxfield Parrish and ultimately proved to be more an artistic than financial triumph. But Baum had finally found a vocation; it would quickly bring him a success he'd never imagined, an imperishable fame -- and lead directly to the Emerald City.
His next effort, Father Goose: His Book (1899), was a best-selling compilation of nonsense verse for children, prodigiously enhanced by the illustrations of W.W. Denslow. But the real miracle struck as the century turned: among the five Baum titles published in 1900, preeminent even then was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The New York Times found it "bright and joyous" and omnisciently offered, "It will indeed be strange if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story." The first edition was a picturesque novelty with its twenty-four color plates and many line drawings; Denslow's conceptions of the characters and landscapes contributed immeasurably to the book's popularity.
Baum wrote five additional fantasies in the next three years, but the happy die had already, unwittingly been cast. The success of Oz led to its adaptation as a lavish stage extravaganza, produced in Chicago in 1902 prior to a Broadway debut the following January. New York reviews were mixed, but so potent was the power of Baum's creations that the show became an extraordinary hit. One major manifestation of its appeal was the "blizzard of Oz" mail from children who saw the play and/or read the book; all clamored for "more about Oz" from its author. (Unlike the later MGM film treatment, the original Oz story did not present Dorothy's adventures as a dream. The virtual reality of Baum's narrative meant that a sequel was indeed imaginable.)
To answer the requests -- and provide himself with the foundation for what he hoped would be another lucrative musical comedy -- Baum wrote The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). He and Denslow had fallen out over the division of royalties from the stage Wizard, so illustrations for the new title (and all of Baum's subsequent books) were done by John R. Neill. A young Philadelphian, Neill possessed a sweeping flair and whimsicality that brought Oz even more vividly to life.
Baum promoted the new Oz title through a newspaper cartoon series, "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz" (1904-1905), and The Woggle-Bug Book (1905). His subsequent 1905 stage musical was also titled The Woggle-Bug (after a new character in The Marvelous Land ...), but the show was a quick failure.
Nonetheless, Baum persevered; in fact, his literary output for 1905-1907 also included three full-length fantasies and fifteen short stories for children, four novels for adults, and five books for teenagers (the latter just the onset of two dozen "series" titles in all, most of them published under a variety of pseudonyms). No matter how adroit the work, however, he was beset by pleas for "more about Oz" and its Kansas protagonist.
So, Dorothy returned in Ozma of Oz (1907), as she did the following year -- with another familiar friend -- in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. The Road to Oz (1909) continued the pattern; each title was received with enthusiasm by critics and rapture by readers. By 1910, however, Baum wanted to tell "other stories," and he decided to end the series with The Emerald City of Oz. His plot brought Dorothy, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and Toto to Oz as permanent residents and culminated in a magic spell (cast by Glinda the Good) that rendered the entire country invisible to any but the eyes of its own citizens. Baum's penultimate paragraph quoted the poignant note of farewell he "received" from his heroine:
You will never hear anything more about Oz, because we are now cut off forever from all the rest of the world. But Toto and I will always love you and all the other children who love us. -- Dorothy Gale
Copyright © 1999 Willard Carroll
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