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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Design vs Reality

Last week's post showed costume designs by Caroline Siedle for the 1903 Wizard, from the collection of the Schubert Archive. I thought this week it might be interesting to show how some of the actual costumes measured up to the original concepts. The costume drawings are fascinating in their own right, and many have information on the back with names of actors or chorus members, notes concerning fabric choices, even details of construction. This was, of course, before the days of lightweight synthetic fabrics, and the costumes involved a good deal of silk, velvet, and spangles. As always, clicking on an image will enlarge it for better viewing.
 These two designs for Anna Laughlin as Dorothy are both easily recognized with little to no adaptation. The cape and staff on her elaborate Emerald City costume are missing in the photo, but perhaps they were not in use.
Tryxie's first act waitress dress is also straightforward, although in this particular photo she's wearing a cape and no cap. Her Emerald City outfit takes a little more getting used to, as the various accessories of hat, gloves, muff and parasol are missing. But there's still at least one bird on her skirt!

Dashemoff is also easy to compare, although his boots have gone missing and some detailing of the tunic seems to have changed. On the rear of the sketch for the blue first act costume, there is a bold underlined notation of No Boot! It appears that the second act leggings were also discarded in favor of tights. There are some photos of Bessie Wynn in her first act costume with boots - shorter than those in the sketch. In the end, the chance to view legs and ankles seems to have won out!
The Munchkin maidens and youths are particularly faithful to the costume design.
Some chorus members from the third act - the Cooks, who are well realized from the costume drawing, and the Guards. The Guards maintain all the details of the design, though it looks a bit overwhelming on this 1903 chorus girl!

Finally, Cynthia Cynch in her third act costume. Here again, the outfit is immediately recognizable - but it looks as though the headdress of onions may have been discarded for flowers!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Shubert Archive

While in New York City this past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the Shubert Archive. The Archive is a large collection of theater-related material which is not open to the public, but is available for research purposes. A friend secured an appointment and we spent an enjoyable few hours learning about the Shuberts and the various aspects of the collection. The archivist Mark E. Swartz was our guide during the visit - Mr Swartz is also the author of Before the Rainbow, a study of productions of The Wizard of Oz prior to the 1939 film. This book was extremely useful to me when I worked on my toy theater!
 My reason for visiting was to see what material was available concerning the 1903 Wizard of Oz. I was aware that the collection included some of Caroline Siedle's costume designs for the show, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a dozen examples - more than I expected! I've added two other examples I know of to show all the surviving costume designs that I'm aware of. These costume drawings are one of the few tangible things that survive from the creation of the show.
There are a number of other Siedle designs in the collection, including several which are unidentified. I think I helped to classify one of the unknown examples, which I've included in the above lineup - I believe this drawing is for the second act Emerald City outfit worn by Dashemoff Daily, played by Bessie Wynn.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Autographs from Fred and Dave

The role of the Scarecrow, in the original Broadway version of The Wizard of Oz, was Fred Stone's big break and the role with which he would always be identified. He went on to star in many shows, and worked in Hollywood as well. When the MGM film of Oz was being produced in 1938, some fans were disappointed that Fred would not be playing his signature part in the movie. At that time he would have been 55 years old - I've never seen if he ever expressed any regrets over not reprising his role!

David Montgomery was in the same position with the part of the Tin Woodman, but his early death forestalled some of his opportunity to top that famous portrayal. Although the pair appeared in a number of other hit shows of the period, a certain generation would forever identify the duo with these two characters. After the 1939 film, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley took over as the actors best known for these roles.


The photo on the left from 1910 shows Montgomery and Stone in The Old Town, one of the shows that followed Oz. After Montgomery's death in 1917, Stone declared he would not seek a new partner, and he became a solo performer - although there were rumors of his teaming with Frank Moore (an interesting Oz connection, since Moore had starred as the Shaggy Man in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz). In later years he often paired up with one or another of his three daughters - Carol, Paula, and - Dorothy!

 Throughout his life, Fred Stone kept a connection to his famous Scarecrow - he often signed autographs with his own caricature of the character. Although the example below bears the date of 1902, that simply commemorates the start of his years playing the role - this is from the endpaper of his autobiography, published in 1945. Something to be aware of, should a loose page with an early dated autograph turn up!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Letter From Maud

L. Frank Baum received numerous letters from young, and not so young, readers in response to his books. He did his best to personally respond to his fans, especially if they supplied postage. His death in 1919 didn't stop the flow of fan letters that were written to the popular author, and his wife Maud continued to answer the incoming mail. This led to the existence of some seemingly ghostly Baum letters!

Here is an example from 1920 - obviously this wasn't written by Frank, though it bears his bold signature, thanks to a rubber stamp. It congratulates the sender on winning a prize in a contest in the Plain Dealer, and goes on to say "I am glad you like my stories - I have written thirteen Oz books - and many others". It finishes with Baum's usual sign-off of "Ozily Yours".

This was written in January of 1920, when there were still only thirteen titles in the series. Glinda of Oz would be published that summer, bringing Baum's total of full length Oz novels up to fourteen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Denslow Atlases

W. W. Denslow's covers for Rand McNally covered a broad range of subject matter. Novels, reminiscences, travelogues and even atlases were decorated with his work. Here we have a Bible Atlas, written by J. L. Hurlburt, with a cover that was first designed in 1897. This copy is from 1910, showing that this cover design was in use for at least 13 years. The book itself was first published in 1884, and remained in print into the 1950's (possibly later) with varying cover designs.

The cover is a dark teal fabric, stamped in black, burnt sienna, gold and silver. It's an elaborately produced book, with color printing and two large fold out pages.

I've shown another example of a Denslow designed atlas in the past, The World's People and the Countries They Live In.  It also dates from 1897, but the cover style of this book is quite different. Rather than the simplified image used on the Bible Atlas, Denslow has produced a detailed drawing featuring women of various cutures. This book also included color printing.

These two examples provide an interesting contrast of the many styles in which Denslow worked.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Library Bindings

 Library bindings are a specialty niche in the world of Oz collecting. The books were available from the 1940's to the 1960's in sturdy bindings intended to hold up to heavy use. The covers were usually brightly colored, simplified screenprints of the original cover labels. The spines generally featured the title, without the usual pictorial vignette. As expected, these books often show heavy wear from library use. However, the specialty binding was also available to general customers, so copies occasionally turn up that were never used in a library system.

I haven't expanded into this area, but I did recently pick up an example that came my way. This is a library binding of The Land of Oz, featuring the Roland Roycraft dust jacket design, printed in black and orange on turquoise cloth, from 1959. The Roycraft designs were only issued for a short period of time as dust jackets, not as paper labels mounted to the book covers - so it's fun to have a copy with the design imprinted on the actual book! This particular copy bears no evidence of library use, so it presumably was sold to a home user. It's also interesting to note that the cover has been completely redrawn for this use!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Some Sketches

John R. Neill was always a frugal artist. Many of his drawings have sketches on the back, generally for other illustrations he may have been working on at the time. When working on his elaborate illustrations for The Road to Oz in 1909, he made various preparatory sketches and, as was his habit, these sketches were often on the back of finished drawings.

They can vary from very rough, as in this sketch for the Shaggy Man catching the heads of the Scoodlers  -
to more complete, like this drawing for Jack Pumpkinhead at home  -
to variations on the final drawing, as in this version of the Shaggy Man in the Truth Pond -

 In the final version of this drawing, the character's head is in profile rather than full on. Remember that clicking on an image will enlarge it for better viewing. It's always fascinating to see how drawings develop!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Denslow Displays

My post last week about Humpty Dumpty reminded me of this W. W. Denslow related piece.

This photo was published in December 1903, in the Current Books section of The Book-Lover magazine. It's a bit of a mystery, as it's not a standard kind of Denslow image. I think it may be a picture of a store display designed for the sales of Denslow's picture book series. It's a charming piece, and a three dimensional sales tool like this would have been very eye-catching!


The idea isn't too farfetched, and it seems as though it could be related to this other display, for Denslow's Mother Goose. The Mother Goose piece had a clockwork mechanism to make the goose raise and lower her head while her beak opened and closed. I've seen the Mother Goose display in person, some years ago, but who knows if Humpty could still survive!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Humpty Dumpty


Easter is just around the corner, and while out shopping the other week I ran across some brown paper mache eggs. Inspiration struck and I decided to make a pair of Humpty Dumptys - one as drawn by W. W. Denslow, and one based on John R. Neill's interpretation.

Denslow drew Humpty Dumpty for a newspaper comic page, which was later published as one of his series of picture books, by G. W. Dillingham. Neill also drew the egg for a newspaper page, an adaptation from Through the Looking Glass, which became one of the Children's Stories That Never Grow Old.

Denslow's egg is quite jolly, due no doubt to the fact that he has been hard boiled and no longer needs to fear being broken. On the other hand, Neill's version seems rather glum, perhaps grown tired of sitting on his wall!



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Oz at University


Here's a little Oz oddity; this is a dance card from a party thrown by the Beta Kappa of Alpha Phi, on November 25th of 1939. After a bit of research, I've determined that this took place at Denison College in Granville, Ohio.

It's an elaborate little piece, involving several layers of specialty papers - a clear plastic cover with illustration in green ink, over a gold glitter paper with cutout window, a stiff page with corresponding cutout, green paper embossed in silver, striped glassine with silver stars, a printed programme, all bound up with green satin cord and a tassel. The card was produced by Brochon, a Chicago company that seems to have specialized in such things.
1939 was the year that the MGM film opened, three months earlier in August. It's also the year that Franklin Roosevelt caused a stir by moving Thanksgiving up one week, to allow for a longer shopping period before Christmas. This dance would have been held the weekend after Thanksgiving. The change in the date of the holiday caused many schools, including Denison, to cancel Thanksgiving vacations, so perhaps this helped to soften the blow!

The use of the Oz theme was probably inspired by the new film, although the Oz series was certainly far more familiar at that period than it is today.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Letter From the Royal Illustrator/Historian

One of the duties of the Royal Historians of Oz was to respond to the many letters they received from their readers. L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson both spent a good deal of time over correspondence, but there don't seem to be many letters surviving from John R. Neill. Of course he only wrote 3 Oz books, but he did illustrate the series over a period of 38 years and must have received fan mail.
Here's a note he wrote prior to publication of his final Oz title for Reilly & Lee, Lucky Bucky in Oz. He compliments the correspondent on having read 32 Oz books, almost the entire series at that time. He also mentions an incident of three deer that ventured up to his back door; he featured a similar subject on his 1942 Christmas card.

Neill was never one to waste paper; the envelope used bears the return address of the International Information Service, in Washington, DC. Neill has added his own return information beneath this official stamp. Thanks to Cindy Ragni at Wonderful Books of Oz for coming up with this little gem.

A fun coincidence is the name of the recipient, Bobby Jones. The hero of the upcoming book was named Bucky Jones!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Valentines with Billy Bounce

My posts have been few and far between lately, but here's a slightly belated view of a Billy Bounce comic page for Valentine's Day, by W. W. Denslow. This page dates from 1902, and shows some of Denslow's originality in dealing with the layout of the comic for the standard newspaper page. If you click on the image, it will enlarge for reading. And remember - look before you kick!





Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Case of Mistaken Identity!

A while back, (2013) I posted a photo of the Scarecrow and Tin Man from the Broadway Wizard of Oz musical.  I identified them as Fred Stone and David Montgomery, the creators of the roles, but it now seems apparent that this isn't the case.

David Maxine contacted me recently with further information on the identity of the performers, from research he has done on the show. It appears that they are actually George Stone (no relation to Fred!) and Charles Wilkins.

In 1906, the theatrical firm of Hurtig & Seamon acquired the rights to the show, and it toured for three seasons, into 1909. The photo on the left shows the stars of the show. Through comparison, particularly of costume details, it's evident that they are the same subjects in my photo - most likely photographed during the same publicity shoot!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Convention 2017

This past weekend I was at the National Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club. As always, it was an opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones, as well as experience a variety of programming dealing with various aspects of Oz.
This year I did a presentation based on the making of the toy theater I've been working on for the past two years. I spoke about the steps involved in creating the theater and the various scenes of the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical. Below are a few pages of sketches and drawings used to make the different curtains and figures used in the scenes of the show.
I finished with a showing of a simple stop-motion animated version of the show. It's an adaptation based on the script in the Library of Congress, and utilizing bits of music and songs that were in the production - though not necessarily all at the same time! L. Frank Baum makes a cameo appearance at the end of the show. I've never done anything quite like this before, and it was an interesting experience... but I don't think film-making is in my future!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pearls and Pumpkins

 The Pearl and the Pumpkin was one of the most elaborate children's books W.W. Denslow would illustrate. With 16 color plates, two color illustrations throughout the text, a cover label and decorated endpapers, it was nearly as complex as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The book was published by G. W. Dillingham in 1904, four years after The Wizard, and was still in print in 1913 due to Donohue reprints. It was originally intended to pave the way for a 1905 musical extravaganza by Denslow and Paul West, in the style of The Wizard of Oz, but the show was a failure. (Note: As David Maxine points out in his comment below, the show wasn't truly a failure - it just wasn't a smash hit like The Wizard.)

Denslow did produce lovely work for the book. An interesting point is the endpapers. There are two variants, one with the illustration printed in blue and the other printed in black and orange. Priority is uncertain, but the blue endpapers are generally considered earlier. For me, the illustration is easier to see in the single color of blue, than in the more elaborate 2 color version - I find the orange distracting!

There is also a definite variation in the printing of the cover on the two copies I own. In the photo at the top of this post, the copy on the right has the blue endpapers and the printing on the cover and spine is a bright green. The other copy, with the black and orange endpapers, uses a much darker green, almost black in person.