Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Patchwork on Film

The Patchwork Girl of Oz was the first feature film produced by the Oz Film Manufacturing Co. It was filmed in 1914, a year after the successful publication of the book of the same name. I believe L. Frank Baum had been looking at using the material in another attempt at a stage musical, but the burgeoning film industry in California drew his attention.
Here I have a set of several stills from the movie, which is readily available on YouTube. These are not from the time of the film itself, but they do seem to be actual publicity shots rather than screen captures. We start with Ojo and Unc Nunkie at home, with no food. The decision is made to set out in search of a better fortune. 

They travel to the home of the Crooked Magician, just as he is finishing a batch of his famous Powder of Life. 
The next still shows a slightly different angle of a pivotal scene from the movie. We see the magician pouring out his precious powder, preparing to use it to bring the Patchwork Girl to life. An accident involving the Liquid of Petrifaction occurs, and Ojo is off on a journey to the Emerald City to try and set things right! Unfortunately, the portion of the film showing the actual coming-to-life of the Patchwork Girl and the resulting accident is missing from the surviving print.
The final still takes place outside the Emerald City, and shows the Royal Army of Oz trying to cope with Ojo and several Munchkins who have journeyed to the city. A troop of female soldiers is in the background as well, a staple of early Oz productions! 
It's an elaborate film, but sadly the Oz Film Manufacturing Co. did not survive the reputation of producing "kiddie films", and ceased production a year later. The studio continued briefly under a different name, before being rented out to other companies and eventually demolished.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Driverless Cars!

Here's an interesting drawing by John R. Neill; this is an unidentified illustration, probably never used. It shows a crowd of winged men, one wearing a crown and another with a bell on his head, watching a man entering what appears to be an early concept for a Scalawagon. Other similar vehicles zoom by in the background.

The Scalawagons were a form of self-driving car, created by Neill for the 1941 Oz book, The Scalawagons of Oz. In the story they are designed by the Wizard of Oz to be used as free transportation - they can fly as well as roll! Neill's illustrations of the cars are eerily similar to the early concepts for Google's driverless cars.

A handwritten caption at the bottom of this drawing reads "Take me to the City Hall." and "Part 3". On the back of the page are several pencil sketches of the same crowned figure, as well as a variation or two of the man running to the car.

 I think this may actually be a drawing intended for an unpublished story by Neill. Over on the John R. Neill Collection website, which features available artwork by the artist, David Maxine shows a drawing titled The Voice of Bong, dated 1939That example features the same crowned leprechaun king, as well as a bell-headed fairy similar to the one seen in this drawing. It's difficult to imagine what exactly the story might have been. Perhaps it ended up being incorporated into Neill's own Oz books?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Story Book

The Wizard of Oz Story Book is one of the publications issued in Great Britain in 1940, at the time of the MGM film premiere in England. Hutchinson, the English publisher, produced a line of books related to the film, most featuring covers adapted from movie stills.

This particular book is an oversize softcover abridgment of the original L. Frank Baum story. It's interesting to note that Baum receives no author's credit on the cover, or for that matter anywhere in the book. On the other hand, W. W. Denslow is prominently mentioned on both the cover and title page! There are a sprinkling of illustrations adapted from Denslow's originals throughout the book. These must have been very tempting for young hands to color!

The dust jacket flaps of the complete version of the book (one variant shown on the left), list the various styles of the story that were available, or upcoming. This story book is #4 at the bottom of the list. Among the assorted adaptations of the book, there were to be a Colouring Book, a Painting Book, and a Picture Book with cut-out characters; creative choices for the marketing of the film!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Marianne and the River Nix

Peter and the Princess was published in 1920 by Reilly and Lee, as an elaborately boxed gift book. The book is a fantasy, by Carl Grabo, telling stories of Peter and the Princess Marianne, who have known each other since before they were born. The stories are charming, along the lines of traditional fairy tales, and the book was clearly an important project for John R. Neill.

This is one of the few books Neill illustrated with a lavish suite of full color illustrations. The other major books with watercolor paintings are Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and The Emerald City of Oz. Full color paintings were done for the dust jacket of The Road to Oz, as well as the covers of Sea Fairies and Tik-Tok of Oz. A cover and two interior paintings were done for Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and he did do full watercolors for the covers of several other books, as well as duotone illustrations for some titles. But full color paintings are generally unusual in his book work, especially by this time period; by 1920, Neill was not illustrating many books other than the annual Oz title, focusing his attention on producing pieces for periodicals.
I've blogged about the book in the past, but today is a little different - this time I'm showing an illustration from the book.  This painting was used as a color plate in Chapter 9, and shows Marianne falling under the enchantment of the River Nix. The Nix has lost his daughter, and when he sees Marianne gazing into the water decides to take her as a replacement, to live with him in the river. She is eventually rescued by Peter, who first has to perform the difficult task of restoring the lost daughter of the Nix.
This is a lovely image, and a great example of the challenges faced by drawings that are now 100 years old. Illustration art can suffer over time - exposure to sun, to damp, rough handling, all can play a part in the survival of original pieces. This painting has had a touch of damp staining, and the board has darkened, possibly through exposure to sunlight or simply from acids in the material. This is why Marianne’s face and other areas seem to have changed their color. If the board were still a light off-white, the image would look rather different. Also, the sky on the left side has been retouched at some point to repair some losses. However, it is still the original art and doesn’t exist in any other form, so it has to be accepted for what it is.

The published version of the painting looks candy colored and bright; this is partly due to printing techniques. The flat, brightly colored inks are not quite the same as the subtler watercolor and gouache used in the original.

The piece seems to have been a family favorite, as it was exhibited along with other examples of Neill's work on several occasions. One example is a 1965 display at the Port Washington Public Library, on Long Island (brochure shown below). Four paintings from Peter and the Princess were included in this exhibition, along with other drawings and sketches by Neill. I would love to know what the condition of this painting was at that time!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Another Tin Man

Today I’m showing a cabinet card photo of the Tin Woodman from The Wizard of Oz. It may not be immediately obvious that that's who it is - the seller simply called it a photo of a sad clown - but it is Nick Chopper in his third act disguise.

By this point in the plot of the 1903 Broadway show, the Scarecrow and Tin Man are on the run from Pastoria, the ruler of Oz. They disguise themselves in white costumes, which would have been quite striking against the purples and lavender tones of the set. The Tin Man is seen in these clothes, possibly belonging to a comic sailor? Chauffeur? In this photo, he appears to be studying some sheet music - perhaps he's brushing up on his song, Must You?
I was uncertain as to the identity of this actor; it doesn’t look like David Montgomery, the original Tin Man, and the photographers imprint of St. Louis seemed to indicate that the photo was taken while touring. So I checked in with David Maxine, to see if he had any theories on the piece. David has been studying the show for many years, and is currently writing a blog, Vintage Broadway, that examines the show from its first inception. After a quick consultation, the opinion was that this is from the later Hurtig & Seamon tour of the show, probably ca.1907, and shows Frank Hayes as the Tin Man.
Hayes is perhaps best remembered for his film work with Keystone Studios, often in films with Mabel Normand and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. He was hired at the studio in 1914 and made dozens of comic shorts, moving into feature films, until his death from pneumonia in 1923.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Thompson at Volland

I’ve blogged about The Perhappsy Chaps in the past, but since that time I’ve acquired a boxed copy of the book. Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote two books which were published by the P. F. Volland Company. This was a publisher who produced a number of decorative children’s books, many in matching boxes. The company was founded in 1908, and continued producing books until 1934. They are probably best known as the publishers of the original Raggedy Ann books, by Johnny Gruelle. On the left is a newspaper advertisement for the series of “Happy Children Books”; the Volland concept for children's stories sounds very similar to L. Frank Baum's ideal - "...books for children must not cause fright, suggest fear, glorify mischief, extenuate malice or condone cruelty."
The Perhappsy Chaps was Thompson's first published book and came out in 1918, the same year as the first Raggedy Ann book. The stories originally appeared on the children’s page of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a weekly newspaper feature written by Thompson. On the right is a blurb that ran in a November 1918 issue of the Ledger, advertising the newly published book version of the poems.

Thompson's second book was The Princess of Cozytown, which wasn't published until 1922. This was a collection of fairy tales by Thompson, some of which had previously been published in St. Nicholas magazine. Apparently the book was already pending publication when she was contracted to continue the Oz series, and had her first Oz book published in 1921.
Both books were designed with matching pictorial boxes, like so many of the Volland publications. The books are colorful and well illustrated, with pictorial endpapers and full color illustrations throughout. The Perhappsy Chaps was illustrated by Arthur Henderson, and The Princess of Cozytown was illustrated by Janet Laura Scott. The overall effect is charming!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Dust Jackets

Recently, I’ve been scanning a number of dust jackets for Mark Terry at Facsimile Dust Jackets. He offers a large line of dust jacket reproductions for numerous books, including the Oz titles. I was able, along with several other collectors, to help fill the gaps so that an entire run of first state Oz jackets are now available.
Although the metallic inks are missing from Emerald City, Road, and Dorothy and the Wizard, the jackets are beautifully restored and very presentable. There are some very rare jackets represented, which are fun to see, and there are other non-Oz Baum and Thompson titles available - on the left is an example of an original Sky Island together with the reproduction.

While a facsimile jacket doesn't add significant value to a book, the way an original jacket does, it does have decorative value. It's particularly nice in cases where the jacket has imagery seen nowhere else in the book. The jackets are clearly marked as facsimiles on the front flaps, and if you wish, it can be a fun way to spruce up a collection. I used a set of Baum firsts to dress up the set of Bradford Exchange facsimiles that I own.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Donahue & Company

In 1913 the Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Co. leased the printing plates of their line of L. Frank Baum books to M. A. Donohue & Co., a discount printer. This was quite a prize for Donahue, as it enabled them to print cheap editions of the popular Baum titles, particularly The Wizard of Oz. These editions also undercut the prices of the new Oz books offered by Reilly & Britton during the same time period. This continued until around 1920, when the arrangement ended.

Donahue was established in 1861 as Cox & Donahue Bookbinders. The name changed to Donahue & Henneberry around 1880, and at some point became Donahue Brothers before landing on M. A. Donahue in 1901. As an interesting side note, W. W. Denslow designed a generic book cover for Donahue & Henneberry, (shown on the left), that was in use for a number of years. The company was based in Chicago and continued into the 1960's.

Pictured at the top of the page are two of the Donahue books, a Wizard and a Dot and Tot, both in dust jackets. The quality of the printing in the books declined during this period. At first it was essentially the same as the Bobbs-Merrill editions, but later printings dropped much of the color used in the interior. Still, Donahue was not shy about promoting their books; an original 1913 ad from Publisher's Weekly is shown on the right.

The publishers are quick to call The Wizard the one "pre-eminently great Juvenile Book" written by L. Frank Baum. They go on to claim that their copies are "the regular $1.50 editions in paper, presswork and binding — Sold to the Trade so they can be sold at 60 cents or less and pay you a good profit." Difficult for a retailer to argue with that!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Patriotic Mr Neill Part 2

A second piece of artwork by John R. Neill accompanied the World War One letters mentioned in my last post. This drawing shows a speaker in front of a large statue of George Washington, with a pillared building loosely sketched in the background.

A government letter from Chalmers Wood, manager of the Speakers Bureau, mentions the
"...very handsome and decorative picture of the Sub-Treasury Steps speaker, which I am going to use for the exhibition of the work of the Speakers' Bureau...It just carries out the idea of what I wanted and should give visitors from upstate a very clear conception of what we can furnish them in the way of speakers."

This particular drawing is set outside of Federal Hall in New York, the first capital building of the USA, where a statue of Washington stands. The drawing is approximately 3 feet tall, good for exhibition purposes!

There are some interesting bits of information in the other letters. There was a Victory Dinner and Dance on Friday February 14th, 1919 at the New Commodore Hotel. A letter dated Feb 25th, from Charles Dana Gibson, thanks Neill for a page in what seems to have been a commemorative book. This was given to Gibson, and presumably contained drawings by the various artists associated with the poster project. Apparently a bust of Gibson was presented as well, but there was a problem. A letter dated March 10th, was sent from the secretary of the committee,
"appealing to the artists associated with the Department of Pictorial Publicity to help us out of our predicament by contributing a small donation - say from two to ten dollars."
The contributions were needed to cover a shortage of funds for the bust, dinner, and dance amounting to $500, which had to be addressed as quickly as possible!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Patriotic Mr. Neill

In 1917 the USA entered the First World War, a move that was not particularly popular with the nation. In order to help sway public opinion, the Division of Pictorial Publicity was formed. The popular artist Charles Dana Gibson was called upon, to help spearhead a campaign encouraging American artists to volunteer their talent in the creation of war-related posters.

As president of the Society of Illustrators, based on New York City, Gibson was well placed to help with the effort. New York was the center of the commercial art world in the USA, so there were plenty of artists to call on for contributions. Among those who answered the call was John R. Neill.

I have a small group of government letters sent to Neill during this period, providing information and occasionally asking for art or thanking him for his work. This painting accompanied the letters, but it’s not immediately clear whether it was used for its intended purpose.
  The painting shows the German Eagle crushing humanity in its talons, while bleeding copiously from the attack of Liberty Loan arrows. In spite of the presence of a 5th Liberty Loan arrow, I think this may have been intended for the 4th drive. The 4th arrow feels the most prominent, and Neill may have included the extra arrow in anticipation of a 5th drive. After all, he wasn't always the most attentive to details in his work!

There was a 5th drive, but that was in 1919 and was called the Victory Loan. The war was over, and help was needed to raise funds for rebuilding. According to one government letter, the theme for that final drive was to be a review of the nation's industries and resources - hardly the subject of this painting!

One of the letters thanks Neill for his contribution for the 4th campaign, so perhaps this is the piece referred to. On the back of the painting is Neill's signature and address, as well as a stamped box, to be filled out for Liberty Loan Window Displays. The presence of this box leads me to think that this artwork may have been used. I believe pieces of this sort were not necessarily intended to be made into posters, but were used in displays around the country. This is a large painting, close to 3 feet tall. Certainly the largest, and perhaps the most unsettling piece of Neill artwork in my collection!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

1907 Mardi Gras Oz

The tradition of formal Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans began in 1856, when a group of businessmen formed the first krewe, or secret society, The Mystick Crewe of Comus. Others followed, and in 1872, Rex was formed, another crewe with its own parades and floats. The Rex parade became a highlight of the Carnival season, due to the beauty of the floats created. 
The theme of the 1907 Rex parade was Classics of Childhood. 20 floats were created, 18 pertaining to this theme as well as a title car and the Rex, King of the Carnival float. Souvenir postcards were made of the individual floats, as well as this folder showing the entire parade. I’ve been unable to find any identifiable photos of these floats, but I keep looking! 

The 20 floats are pictured below, clicking on the image will enlarge it for easier viewing.
While a number of true classics were represented, some of the choices were decidedly more contemporary than others. Among the stories shown was The Wizard of Oz.
The float is firmly based on the original book and W. W. Denslow's illustrations, rather than the popular Broadway show of the period. Featured prominently in front are a pair of Kalidahs, the ferocious creatures with the heads of tigers on the bodies of bears. Behind them are Glinda and The Wicked Witch of the West, with a peek of the back of the Good Witch of the North between them. Next we have one of Glinda's soldiers, and then the Soldier with the Green Whiskers. Above these we see the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Dorothy seems to be missing, although she could be on the other side of the float! The float is decorated with large emeralds and the towers of the Emerald City, along with poppies from the Deadly Poppy Field.
Another story with an L. Frank Baum connection was also shown. Prince Silverwings, written by Edith Ogden Harrison, was published in 1902 and the author worked with Baum on a scenario for a stage production of the story. Nothing came of that, but several of the characters and themes in later Baum books may well have been inspired by this story. The image of this float has some slight damage and creasing due to the original construction of the inexpensive album.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


In 1903 and 1904, W. W. Denslow designed a series of 18 picture books, published by the G.W. Dillingham company. Denslow’s Three Little Kittens is one of the 1904 titles.

Denslow’s take on the traditional nursery rhyme is similar to the style of stories written by L. Frank Baum in Mother Goose in Prose. Denslow was determined to remove any horrors from the tales, and made changes accordingly. In this case there really wasn’t any need of changes, but he did extend the story to include the kittens befriending a rat that they chase into the Glad Lands, where all animals live in peace.

The Glad Lands were previously mentioned in a Christmas cartoon Denslow drew in 1903, which was syndicated in several newspapers. You can click here to read a short blog post I wrote about it several years ago.
Here we have a drawing from this book, used as the interior rear cover, the final image in the book. It’s always interesting to see the difference between the original black & white drawing and the printed color version. The black & white piece is bolder and crisper than the turquoise & orange version seen in the book. But Denslow’s use of color in these books was in itself bold and new, with striking color choices and interesting composition. The block of orange ink in the background of the printed image is simply indicated as a rectangle in the drawing, focusing your eye more firmly on the two characters. In the book, the solid orange rectangle becomes the focus and the characters are secondary.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Pirates on the Aegean

Here’s another example of a W. W. Denslow cover for a Rand McNally novel - in fact, it’s two examples! Written by Richard Henry Savage and published in 1897, A Modern Corsair is a fairly typical adventure novel of the period.

The story centers on fraud in the insurance business; more specifically, in the shipping trade, where shipwrecked freighters could collect large payouts for lost goods. Much of the action takes place in and around Smyrna, and the story is filled with stereotypical Turks, Greeks, and other ethnic types, who are thwarted by our hero, a young American journalist posing as a British lord.

This is a case of Denslow designing two covers - one for the paperback and one for the hardcover. I came across the paperback version and blogged about it several years ago, but only recently found the hardcover. The paperback design focuses on Agathe the Serpent, a woman whose intentions are mysterious and possibly deadly. The hardcover is more sedate, focusing on a wrecked freighter in the foreground. In both cases, one of Denslow’s more elaborate seahorse signatures is featured.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Ever-Changing Wizard

 In 1956, the copyright on The Wizard of Oz expired. This gave Reilly & Lee, the publishers of the rest of the Oz series, their first opportunity to publish their own version of the book. But over the next ten years, their book would change repeatedly!

To start, a new edition of the book was set up with new illustrations by Dale Ulrey. This was a more elaborate Oz book than the publishers had produced in a while. Two-color illustrations, in rust and black, were printed throughout, and the front endpapers sported a full color map of Oz. This map had previously been featured in the 1954 Who’s Who in Oz, but in a slightly different form - and not in color! The book also had a dust jacket designed by Ulrey, featuring the Wizard himself. But by 1959, this jacket was replaced with a new design drawn by Roland Roycraft, who designed jackets for a handful of other Oz titles as well.

Perhaps the wizard wasn’t grabbing enough attention? The new design was quite bright with a hot pink curtain and cartoon-like images of Dorothy and her three friends. The endpaper map was gone, but the color work was still inside - my copy has the same rust and black color scheme of the earlier version. Then, in 1960 the jacket changed again, this time to a design by Dick Martin.

Martin’s Wizard jacket is a clever concept. Not quite as childlike as the Roycraft jacket, this time we have a wraparound design showing Dorothy and friends on the cover - with the same image, shown from behind, on the rear cover. The interior of the book still features Ulrey’s two-color illustrations, but they have now been given four different secondary colors - blue, green, yellow and red - to tie in with the story (more or less), in the same way that the illustrations did in the original 1900 book.

But this cover wasn’t destined to last either - in 1964 the entire book was given another overhaul, and most of the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow (printed in two colors) were restored. Dick Martin was responsible for the redesign, and this time the cover image was printed directly on the cloth of the book, in full color. The design chosen was based on a rare poster by Denslow, advertising the original edition, and a dust jacket was no longer part of the book. (Edit - according to Michael Hearn, the earliest copies of this book were issued with a glassine dust jacket.)

And then a year later the cover changed again! This time it was based on a Denslow drawing of Dorothy being carried from the deadly poppy field, with a white background and spine. The rest of the Baum titles were given new covers as well, creating what’s now known as the “white spine” edition. This final version was the last design used on the book by Reilly & Lee, and remained in use for the next ten years.