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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fun with Father Goose

In 1900, W. W. Denslow created two Father Goose comic pages. Father Goose, His Book had been a huge hit the year before, and Denslow owned a joint copyright on the characters, together with L. Frank Baum. In some opinions, the success of the book was largely dependent on the artwork; it was certainly a uniquely produced book.

This is the second comic page, from June, presenting Father Goose at the Seashore. The verse is written by Paul West, who would co-author The Pearl and the Pumpkin together with Denslow a few years later. This image has had some quick digital touch-up, as the original is rather rough around the edges!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stone and Montgomery

The New York Public Library has added some more images to its digital archive site - I've mentioned it before on my blog, it's a fun source for a variety of things. Since I last checked in, there are a few new photos featuring Fred Stone and David Montgomery from the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz. On the left is Fred Stone as the Scarecrow, in his third act disguise of an old suit of white clothes and top hat.

This white costume was useful in pulling off the effect of the Scarecrow being dismantled and reassembled, as seen in the poster on the right - it stood out nicely against a black backdrop. This is a traditional bit of stage magic, but very effective! Stone would stand in the dark guard box covered in black fabric - as arms, legs, etc were put in place, portions of the fabric would be removed to reveal the matching limb. I'm sure it was a third act highlight for audiences at the show.
These three photos of Montgomery as the Tin Woodman are quite fun. The first appears to be from the 1902 Chicago run of the show, while the other two are from New York. The central photo was the source for the well known show poster, featuring the Tin Man oiling himself. It also appears to be the basis for Ike Morgan's watercolor of the character.

I'll finish off with two additional shots of the Scarecrow - both showing Fred Stone at his ragamuffin best!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Groucho in Mo

In October 1960, NBC television tried to promote interest and find a sponsor for a version of L. Frank Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo, starring Groucho Marx. Groucho had scored a success earlier in the year with a TV version of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado, and the network felt the time was right for an hour long fantasy story that could possibly develop into a weekly series. With the long running series of Marx Brothers comedies, and Groucho's previous run as the host of You Bet Your Life, the project must have looked like a sure-fire hit.

This is a promotional pamphlet created to try and sell the idea to potential sponsors. For $200,000 you could be the single sponsor of the hour long show! A number of interesting points are brought up; the success of The Wizard of Oz, which had then been shown twice on television, and the high ratings for other TV fantasy productions such as Peter Pan, Cinderella, Babes in Toyland and Pinocchio. Groucho's Q-rating (a scale measuring a performer's popularity) was high, with 93% audience familiarity.

Shirley Temple's Storybook specials are referenced several times, not surprisingly as they were produced by Henry Jaffe Enterprises - the same production team proposing Mo. The script for the initial show was co-written by Frank Gabrielson, who had adapted The Marvelous Land of Oz for Shirley Temple earlier that season. According to the promotional booklet:
 "Integrated into the Gabrielson - (Robert) Dwan script will be elements from MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO teleplays that have been written by Gore Vidal and Joseph Schrank for subsequent use, should this property evolve into a series."
Clearly plans were being made for a ongoing project! (As it happens, David Maxine has a copy of the Gore Vidal script, which apparently reads as a one time story rather than a series). And what would this show be like?
"Enacting the dual role of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO and a modern, henpecked husband with three unmarried daughters and a mischief-minded nine-year-old son, Groucho will be transported from today's world and its problems into the mythical paradise created by Baum."
"...This is a magical land into which Groucho and his family enter when the realities of his frustrating daily existence drive him to seek refuge in fantasy .... "
"Groucho's land of Mo reflects the limitations of the real-life character he portrays. As its Monarch, he transforms Mo into his own private Utopia, complete with cigar trees, money weeds and beautiful blondes, but is unable to dispense with his "family," which accompanies him to his new realm in the slightly more palatable guise of his Queen, three unwed princesses and a brash juvenile court magician."

Hmmm..... it never happened.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Letter From Baum

As a popular children's author, L. Frank Baum received many letters from his young readers. He refers to the volume of correspondence in many of his book introductions, and declares that the letters supply ideas for his stories.

This letter is a recent acquisition, and a nice example of the effort Baum took to respond to his readers. It was written in 1908, in reply to a letter from Master Sam Cleag Field, of Knoxville, Tennesee. Master Field was about 10 years old at the time, and apparently had sent some drawings to L. Frank Baum. It's too bad Sam's letter and drawings don't still exist - I'd love to see them! In his response, Baum writes:
My dear Sam:

I was very glad to get your nice letter, with the pictures you drew, and to know that you like my books.

I think you are very clever to be able to make all my queer characters, and I wish I could see them all. One little boy sent me a Mifkit he had made, the other day, and it looked just like a Mifkit.

If you think best, I won't end the Tin Woodman and the others, but save them to use in another story.

I shall hope to hear from you again, Sam, for to be able to make things must be nicer than just to think them.

Always your friend
L Frank Baum
The letter is on stationary from the Hotel Del Coronado, where Baum was staying at the time. It's dated April 20th, 1908, which was prior to the publication of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (issued in June of that year); the first of three Oz books to be written at Coronado.

I like Baum's promise not to "...end the Tin Woodman and the others...". In the introduction to Dorothy and the Wizard, he mentions his regrets that he knows other stories he would like to write - but the children want Oz. Of course, Baum would attempt to leave Oz behind two years later - but his fans would not let him.

The stationary itself is rather fun, with the nautical logo and a place to write in the noon day's temperature. I picked up an example of the hotel's current stationary, but in comparison I think it lacks some of the charm.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oz Anniversary

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the classic MGM film The Wizard of Oz. When the movie was originally released in 1939, new editions of the original book were published by both the American publisher Bobbs Merrill, and the English publisher Hutchinson. Reilly and Lee, the publishers of the rest of the Oz series but not the first book, also produced new editions of three older titles - Land of Oz, Scarecrow of Oz and Tin Woodman of Oz - clearly hoping to ride the wave of publicity for the movie.
Of all these books, the English edition is the most interesting. The cover and dust jacket have a full color wraparound design featuring a scene from the film, plus there are 8 additional color plates of characters from the movie. These are publicity stills that have been colorized. On the downside, many of the Denslow illustrations have been dropped, and those that remain are printed in black and white.

The American version features a new dust jacket design, with artwork based on Denslow's illustrations. The endpapers are printed in sepia with stills of characters and scenes from the film. The interior is very much the same as the English version, but rather than the color plates of movie characters, there are still 8 two-color plates by Denslow. The English edition does seem to have tried harder!

Reilly and Lee come in a distant third with their efforts - the three titles produced are slightly over-sized with new cover designs by an anonymous artist. While the covers are colorful, I would prefer to have seen what John R. Neill might have come up with for new covers - after all, he had already re-designed several other Oz titles!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Winkie Con

This past weekend was the 50th annual Winkie Con, the longest running Wizard of Oz convention. It was a fun filled weekend, featuring panels and programs on everything from L. Frank Baum's connections to the San Diego area (the site of the convention), to examinations of feminism and masculinity in the Oz books. There was a slew of special guests drawn from artists, writers and actors who all have a special connection to Oz. I even served as a panelist!

An exhibit of costumes worn by Judy Garland during her career, including this one from The Pirate (a favorite of mine), was displayed by collector Michael Siewart.
An Oz costume contest is a traditional part of the convention, and a number of contestants turned out in full regalia.
The Saturday evening program was a recreation of the 1913 stage show The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a production that hasn't been seen in 100 years - the photo below, taken by Atticus Gannaway, shows the cast in action.
An auction of rare and vintage Oz items is also a traditional part of the convention, taking place Saturday morning and afternoon. There were many opportunities to add a new piece to a collection.
On Sunday, an additional event was brunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Baum spent time at this hotel over the course of several years, while working on some of his early Oz books. We also happened to pass the house where Baum and his family lived after leaving the hotel, before they moved to Hollywood. I believe it may be the only L. Frank Baum residence still standing.
At the convention, a new edition of the book Queen Ann in Oz was introduced. This was the first time my partner Irwin and I, illustrators of the story, met the authors Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag (photo below by Jay Davis).  The new edition includes a new story about the kingdom of Oogaboo, and may be purchased through Lulu.com.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Violet Macmillan

Here's a fun little Oz oddity - This is an autograph from Violet MacMillan, one of the stars of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Beneath her signature, she lists three productions she was featured in - "KayBee", "Domino", and what appears to be "Branco". Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any record of these films. There is no date, and no mention of her Oz work; perhaps not surprising, as the Oz films were not successful!
Violet played various roles in the L. Frank Baum films. She was the first actress to play Dorothy in a feature length Oz movie - there were previous short films like the Fairylogue and Radio Plays with Romola Remus in the role, as well as the 1910 Wizard starring a young Bebe Daniels. The Oz Company films were full length productions, and Violet appeared as Dorothy in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. She also played the leading role of the boy Ojo, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and she appeared as Prince Bud in the adaptation of Queen Zixi of Ix, which was renamed The Magic Cloak of Oz.
In her Oz film work, Violet was billed as "the Daintiest Darling of Them All". Throughout her career, she was known as the Cinderella Girl due to the smallness of her feet - during her time on the vaudeville stage, it was an ongoing claim to fame with a number of mentions in newspapers of the day. In 1913, when performing in San Francisco, she lent a shoe to be displayed in a Market Street shoe store where women could attempt fitting it on their own foot.

Even in June of 1922, the Washington Times reported that she won a contest for the smallest feet in New York, and was awarded a pair of golden slippers - it's too bad they weren't silver, that would be very fitting for a Dorothy! Her foot measured 7 5/8" from heel to toe, and she could wear a shoe measured at 6 1/2" long - a 4" inch heel shortened the footprint of the shoe. According to one article, with such small feet she needed to be careful to keep her weight down to 90 pounds.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The White Elephant

The White Elephant was a short-lived monthly magazine of short fiction, published in the late 1890's. It's best remembered by fans of L. Frank Baum for publishing one of Baum's earliest stories, The Suicide of Kairos, in September of 1897. This is a dark tale of the death of a Greek money lender, at the hands of an upstanding bank clerk. There is no moral retribution to the story, it's a simple tale of a means to an end.

The magazine featured very whimsical color covers, with the namesake white elephant prominently displayed in a wide range of activities. It started publication in June of 1896 as Poker Chips, and changed to White Elephant in December of that year. It survived under that name through September of 1897 before folding. I don't think its failure would have been due to dull cover design!

An interior page proudly announces that the magazine has celebrated its second birthday, which seems a bit premature, and invites submissions for future issues. It even gives some writing tips, such as "Quick action and the "get there" quality in a story will assure prompt acceptance" Stories were to be from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length, and humorous stories were in "especial demand". Baum's name and story title are featured on the front cover of what ended up being the final issue, along with the other authors and their tales - perhaps, if it had survived, additional tales by Baum would have been featured. At any rate, I suppose this may have been the first time Baum was on the cover of a nationally available magazine!

The story was reprinted in 1954 in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. A couple minor alterations were made, to delete two remarks by the Greek moneylender concerning his Jewish competitors. This time Baum didn't rate front cover space, but he was in good company - the issue also featured stories by Agatha Christie, Jack London, and Erle Stanley Gardner!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


 John R. Neill created images of a variety of dragons for the Oz books - but I think the most memorable is Quox, the dragon from Tik-Tok of Oz. Quox is a large blue dragon with silver scales, who wears a pearl necklace and locket around his neck. He comes from the other side of the earth, and helps to save the day when our intrepid heroes find themselves at the mercy of the Nome King!

This is an original illustration from Tik-Tok that was used as a header for Chapter 15, The Dragon Defies Danger. Quox is shooting flames from his mouth, after being threatened by the evil Nomes. This is another example of an illustration that was printed with an additional half tone in the book - in my opinion, to the detriment of the image. On the drawing, the background is colored a pale blue indicating the areas intended for shading, but I think the grey printing in the book results in a rather muddied image. An interesting side note - the ink blot that appears to the lower right of Quox in the drawing is present in early printings of the book, but disappeared in the 1960's white cover versions.

There are a number of dragons in the Oz books, from the underground den of Dragonettes, tied by their tails to their cavern walls, to the two-headed dragon in John R. Neill's own Oz stories. But my favorite will always be Quox!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Urfin Jus

Last October, I posted a set of postcards illustrating the Russian version of The Wizard of Oz, written by Alexander Volkov, in which Oz is known as Magic Land. Here's a partial set of cards illustrating one of Volkov's sequels to that story, Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers. I think the creation of an alternate Russian Oz is a fascinating phenomenon!
The cards shown are numbers 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12. I'm not certain if this set ends at 12 - the other series had 16 total. So, there are at least 4 cards missing, and possibly 8 - I'll have to keep my eyes open!
In any case, it's fun to see these interesting characters featured, together with a few old favorites!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jack at Home

The recent Marvel editions of the first six Oz books have been an great opportunity for new readers to discover the Oz series - Eric Shanower and Skottie Young did an excellent job of adapting and illustrating the stories. Unfortunately, the series has ended with The Emerald City of Oz; a logical place to stop, as that is where L. Frank Baum originally ended the series, before returning with additional tales. Perhaps Marvel will do the same, and return at some point!

It has also been an opportunity to acquire artwork of some favorite Oz characters and scenes; I've shown several other examples in previous posts. This is Skottie Young's version of Jack Pumpkinhead at home, from The Road to Oz. John R. Neill's version of this scene has always been one of my favorite Oz illustrations, but I think Skottie's Jack looks great! And you couldn't find a more organic home, tendrils and all...

Another character I've always been fond of is the Braided Man from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. He doesn't play a large role in the story, and we only ever see him once more, briefly, in The Road to Oz. Still, he's a memorable character among the many fascinating people of Oz and its environs. Here he is in all his glory, as envisioned by Skottie Young.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some Children's Bookplates

Bookplates have always been popular as a means of identifying ownership of favorite books. The earliest examples originated in Germany, and date back to the 15th century. They have also been a popular area of collecting over the years.

Some Children's Bookplates, by Wilbur Macey Stone is a fun little book from 1901, consisting of a brief study of some contemporary bookplates for children by various artists. Most notably, the book contains a tipped in example of a plate drawn by W. W. Denslow, for Edna Browning Wilkins. Incidentally, Miss Wilkins' copies of Father Goose, His Book (containing this bookplate), and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz were sold at auction at Bonham's last December.

350 copies of this book were printed, and this is copy 315. There is a small note from the author, dated 1936, tipped inside the cover, to a Mr. & Mrs. Orleans - as well as a bookplate for the House of Orleans. A copy of Father Goose, His Book is currently being offered online at ABE Books with the same Orleans bookplate - they must have been book lovers!

In an article in The Collector from July, 1901,  reviewer W. G. Bowdoin was not very impressed with Denslow's work on this particular plate. The chief complaint was the lack of a "bookish" element, together with a concern that "the average Chicago policeman is not always as courteous as we should like him to be". I couldn't help thinking that this particular reviewer was writing from personal experience, as he also states:

"... and after a man, innocent of the infraction of the law, has been pushed and hauled, if not clubbed, by a policeman such as is portrayed on the Wilkins plate, the most resentful and antagonistic feelings are apt to be aroused by the realism of the drawn subject."

Overall, he clearly felt the subject matter was quite inappropriate! On the other hand, Wilber Macy Stone felt that "this plate quite fulfills the requisites of an ideal child's plate, which is praise enough."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Scraps and Scarecrow!

The past six months or so have been an unusual and surprising sort of golden period for me, in the acquisition of original Oz artwork. A drawing by W. W. Denslow of the Scarecrow and Tinman, pieces by John R. Neill from Marvelous Land of Oz, Road to Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, and this most recent illustration from The Patchwork Girl of Oz, have all found their way into the collection, from a variety of sources. It's a bit overwhelming, but also quite exciting!

This drawing was used as a double page color spread in the published book, and the artwork is quite large at 16" x 24". It's a striking picture of two of the favorite Oz characters, the Scarecrow and Scraps the Patchwork Girl, meeting for the first time. The addition of color in the printing of the book made this a very vibrant image!

This piece popped up quite unexpectedly on eBay recently, much to my surprise. It's a drawing whose existence I've not been aware of although many, if not most, of the illustrations from Patchwork Girl do still survive.