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

Sunday, June 28, 2015


I've been taking a bit of a summer break from blogging - but this weekend was the local annual antiquarian book fair, so I thought a post was in order. There was actually very little of interest for me this year at the fair, but I did find a W. W. Denslow cover variant that I needed.

The King of the Mountains is one of the most picturesque covers Denslow designed for Rand McNally. On the right are two copies of the book in my collection. The first one I bought was rather rough, but I was happy to find a copy of the book. Later, I was able to upgrade to a very nice example, far brighter and cleaner than the first. But, neither of those books had Denslow's signature seahorse on the cover. In fact, most copies I ran across lacked the seahorse.

At the book fair, I ran across an inexpensive copy of the title complete with seahorse. It's even in decent condition, with some minor wear. What interests me, aside from the seahorse signature in the lower right corner, is how much different the color is - the background is a teal fabric, rather than plain blue, and the king's hair and moustache are stamped in a light grey, rather than a bright white. The overall effect is a bit more muted and balanced than the later printings, which altered the subtle colors.

Denslow was creative in his color choices for the Rand McNally book covers, and it's nice to see what the original choices were!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Printing Plate

Here's a bit of an Oz novelty. This is an original printing plate, used by the publishers to print a full page illustration by John R. Neill in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. It's a classic image of Scraps, proclaiming "I hate dignity", while catching a stone she's kicked in the air. For a long time, the original printing plates from the Oz books were assumed to have been lost or destroyed, but in 2013 a series of them came to auction. They had been in the collection of rare book collector Richard Manney, and are the only plates known to have survived.

The plate is engraved in zinc, and the stamped number on the upper right refers to its placement in the book - page 131. In the original printing of the book, the illustration was in full color which would have required additional plates, one for each color. This is the black, or key line plate. When the color printing was dropped, in the 1930's, this would have been the only plate used. With the popularity of the Oz books, new printing plates had to be made as old ones wore out, and the publishers kept the original drawings by John R. Neill for this purpose.

Creating the printing plates appears to have involved quite a bit of hand work, in addition to photo-mechanical etching. In this detail, the circular marks of a grinder, used to clean up the background, can be plainly seen.

This has been very nicely presented in a custom box which provides a space for the plate, as well as a new proof pulled from the plate. There is also a pamphlet containing an essay concerning the Oz illustrations, written by Michael Patrick Hearn. It's fascinating as an integral part of the creation of the Oz books!

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The Wizard of Oz was a huge Broadway hit in 1903, due in part to a fervid publicity campaign. The show ran for many years, often leaving town to tour, but returning for weeks at a time. A major attraction of the show, aside from the comedians Montgomery and Stone as the Tin Man and Scarecrow, were the quantities of chorus girls, in a variety of costumes showing quite a bit of leg! This was true of many shows of the period, and the traditions of casting women in male roles helped to provide opportunities for revealing the female figure in a variety of ways.

These photos are part of a series that were featured in the magazine The Standard & Vanity Fair. This was a weekly theater gossip/girlie magazine, featuring many photos of chorus girls doing provocative things like smoking...or kissing...or fighting...or simply showing off their figures in outrageous costumes! The cover from January 6, 1905 shows a rather bizarre pose of chorus girl Bert Dean riding on the backs of the Cowardly Lion and Imogene the cow... I have to say, Imogene does not look like the healthiest cow I've ever seen.

This issue was published with a string of photos featuring some cast members from The Wizard of Oz. Included were four chorus girls, and the two actors who portrayed Imogene and the Cowardly Lion. The feature was popular enough to be continued in the following two issues of the magazine. The photo above shows the participants as well as a wardrobe man and the show's publicist Harry Townsend. Townsend worked tirelessly to promote the production, as this feature from two years into the run demonstrates.

A number of the photos center around the animal characters. The fact that one of the chorus girls, Alice "Stubby" Ainscoe, had married the Cowardly Lion (Arthur Hill) a year earlier is mentioned several times. Ainscoe and Hill were both with the show from the start, and eventually, when the rights were available for amateur productions, the pair were instrumental in producing a very successful version of the show in Boston. In fact, Hill repeated his performance as the Cowardly Lion!

The costumes worn appear to primarily be those of Munchkin youths and maidens from the show, but the photos were taken at a photographer's studio rather than on the stage of the theater.

This is an excellent example of the real attraction of the magazine - chorus girl Helen Turner, smoking a cigarette with her hair down, in a comparatively skimpy costume. In typical hyperbolic verbiage, she's credited with the "most lengthened limbs on this hemisphere"!

The magazine is filled with similarly arch comments and pictures, but I think this is the most surreal of the photos - Arthur Hill wearing the Cowardly Lion's head, photographing two chorus members! The caption explains that Hill was an enthusiastic amateur photographer - but I think it would be difficult to focus his shot while wearing that head. On the other hand, this might prove to be an interesting way of costuming the lion in a stage production!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Babes in Birdland

While in New York a couple weeks ago, for the antiquarian book fair, I picked up an inexpensive copy of Babes in Birdland. This is the 1911 version of Policeman Bluejay, a book written in 1907 by L. Frank Baum under the pseudonym of  Laura Bancroft. As Bancroft, Baum wrote six small books called the Twinkle Tales, as well as this longer story.

The Twinkle Tales, featuring the characters Twinkle and Chubbins, are nature fairy tales. Most of the Twinkle stories take place in North Dakota and are set among the small animals of the region. Babes in Birdland is an extension of this series and the story takes place among the birds. The stories are cute, but for some reason I've never been as fond of them, and consequently have been slow to acquire them!

The book was reprinted again in 1917, with the same title but yet another cover design, this time crediting Baum as the author. One of these days, I really need to pick up a better copy of this version!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bride's Book

One of John R. Neill's loveliest creations was this bridal book, first published in 1914. It's a book of pages to be filled by the newly wedded couple, as a souvenir of their courtship and marriage. Neill provided headings and a number of illustrations throughout the book, all of which are quite beautifully drawn. This rose and bee were used as endpaper designs.

This is one of my favorite images by Neill, filled with delicate touches of fantasy.
I'd be curious to see what sort of comments this inspired!
And, there's even a classic Neill bunny, out delivering invitations!
 Neill was busy drawing roses in 1914, as that was also the year Tik-Tok of Oz was published, which has a chapter taking place in the Rose Kingdom. In fact, the two books seem to have collided in this illustration from Tik-Tok.

The original artwork for this drawing was pieced together from two separate drawings - one of Tik-Tok, and one of a rose. Perhaps the rose was originally intended for the bride!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Joking with the Tin Man

This is another photo I recently picked up, from the 1903 Wizard of Oz. This a vintage reprint of a well known image of Fred Stone as the Scarecrow, oiling David Montgomery's Tin Man. It's difficult to say when this particular print is from - it was part of the collection of Culver Pictures, a long-time photo service. Judging by the style of a rubber stamping on the back, this print was sent out for use sometime between 1960 and 1963 - but it may have been tucked in their files for much longer.

This pose was also the basis for the cover of A Tin Man's Joke Book, from 1904 (the image shown at right is taken from The Oz Scrapbook). This was a small paperback book, published by J. S. Ogilvie, very possibly without the knowledge of L. Frank Baum. Ogilvie was also the publisher of Pictures From the Wonderful Wizard of Oz - so Oz was familiar territory for the company!

**UPDATE - Apparently there were two separate publishers named Ogilvie - J.S. who published the joke books was based in New York, and George who published the Pictures From the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was based in Chicago.

While looking about on the web, I found an ad for the Ogilvie series of Joke Books. The Tin Man is listed as #46, and #47 is A Scarecrow's Joke Book. I wonder if this image of Fred Stone was used for the cover of that one!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Whirlpool

At the beginning of The Scarecrow of Oz, L. Frank Baum's Oz book for 1915, the characters Trot and Cap'n Bill are captured by a whirlpool while out boating. This incident starts their series of adventures, leading them to the land of Oz.

John R. Neill drew a vivid image of the whirlpool, complete with sea nymph rising from the foam. About a year and a half ago, I drew this up to be made into a stained glass window, and it has finally been produced.
Here are a series of photos showing the procedure for creating the window.
The first step is to draw the full size pattern, or cartoon, for the window. This obviously was based on Neill's illustration. We then color in the cartoon to help differentiate areas of the window - the color scheme isn't always what we intend for the final piece.
We cut and fit the glass, and the face and body pieces are painted and fired in a kiln. Glass paint is actually powdered minerals, mixed together with certain oils, or in this case with water and gum arabic. Each layer of paint is fired before applying the next. This picture shows 3 palettes of paint, and the glass muller which is used to grind and mix the pigment.
After cutting and fitting, each piece of glass is wrapped with a thin copper foil. This will hold the finished window together. 
The copper wrapped pieces are soldered together, the window is cleaned, the lead lines darkened and voila! - a finished window.

This makes a good companion piece to the Polychrome window we created a couple years ago!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Montgomery Ward

Here's another example of work done by W. W. Denslow for Montgomery Ward. This is a pamphlet from 1897 celebrating the 25th anniversary of the mail order company, the first of its kind. On the cover we have Uncle Sam, in the guise of a mailman, collecting an order from a farmer, working in his field - farmers were one of the core customers for the company.

The booklet is quite small, about 3.5" by 6".  As it was a silver anniversary, the cover is a shining metallic silver, printed in blue. The brilliance of the silver can make the delicate drawing difficult to see in bright light!

Denslow provided a number of spot illustrations for the story, which told of the origins of the firm. The drawings are very small and not very well printed, similar in style to newspaper work the artist had done. My favorite is this boy emptying the mailbag of orders for Montgomery Ward!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An Oz Scarf

Wizard of Oz head scarves were among the many items manufactured at the time of the 1939 MGM film. These were produced by Brian Fabrics, and there are three different designs that I'm aware of. This is an example of one, a whimsical pattern filled with Oz imagery. Whenever I see this, it makes me think of a game board!

I had not seen this color scheme before, although another of the same has popped up on eBay. I don't know how many color variations were made for this particular design, but I have seen 3 others so far. 
There are interesting errors in the character vignettes; I like this one in particular, where the Wizard has joined Glinda to greet Dorothy on her arrival!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Passing Show

The Passing Show of 1913 was one of an annual series of elaborate Broadway reviews, that parodied recent shows as well as presenting extravagant new production numbers. The series ran from 1912 to 1926, and was designed to compete with the popular Ziegfield Follies. This is an original stage photo from the production, a fun image that could almost be considered as Oz twice removed.
 One show chosen to lampoon was a hit from the 1912 season, The Lady of the Slipper, which starred Fred Stone and David Montgomery. This was a version of Cinderella, with a score by Victor Herbert. In this version of the story, Cinderella is accompanied to the ball by a pair of attendants, named Punks and Spooks. Punks, played by Montgomery, was a jack o' lantern brought to life, while Spooks was a scarecrow blown in through the window.

Spooks was played by Stone, who took the opportunity to reprise his famous Oz Scarecrow from 10 years earlier. The characters do not remain in these forms for long, being transformed into a coachman and footman. The color images shown here are from a souvenir program for the show, courtesy of Bill Thompson.

The Passing Show opened its first act with a spoof of this story. The top photo shows Freddie Nice, Laura Hamilton and Charles DeHaven as Spooks, Cinderella and Punks. A key sheet of photos from this show is in the New York Public Library's digital archive, and includes this image as well as another from the same segment. It appears that Cinderella's attendants are transformed for the ball, but she remains in her rags!
 The show was large and included in the cast was Grace Kimball, who had played several roles in The Wizard of Oz. Also included was Charlotte Greenwood; she would play Queen Ann of Oogaboo later the same year, in The Tik Tok Man of Oz. The photo on the right shows the actress performing one of her trademark high kicks!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Early Denslow

Here's an early example of advertising work by W. W. Denslow, the original illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is one of a set of postcards depicting several Roman Gods as babies, from 1884. This particular card shows a baby Pluto, complete with metallic gold flame and menacing bat. I think it's my favorite of the series.

These were produced for stores to use, adding their own names and addresses - in this case it was the druggist, Frank Butler. Which immediately makes me think of Annie Oakley - but this Frank Butler was a storekeeper in Bellefontaine, Ohio, not a Wild West Show attraction.

The card doesn't bear a Denslow signature, and is very different from the work he would become known for in later years. Several examples of other cards from this series are currently available from Wonderful Books of Oz.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pastoria and the Lion

Here's a new find - a photo from the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz. This is an original photo that I've never seen before, of two major characters from the show - Pastoria and the Cowardly Lion.

Pastoria is one of several new characters created by L. Frank Baum for the stage version of his story. He is the true ruler of Oz, whose throne was usurped by the Wizard. In the stage story, he is blown back to Oz by the same cyclone that captures Dorothy, and manages to regain his throne.

In this photo Pastoria is wearing a costume from the first act. He's disguised as a circus performer, and posing with the Cowardly Lion. The Lion was played by Arthur Hill (presumably inside the costume), and was nothing like the Bert Lahr tour-de-force in the MGM film. In the stage show, he doesn't speak, and plays a fairly minor role.

This photo is rather small, and looks like a candid shot. It's not one of the usual publicity photos, as it lacks any kind of backdrop and looks as though it may have been taken backstage. It is mounted on heavy paper with handwritten captions, including the date 1903-1904. I don't know where it originated, but it's fun to think that it may have come from the actor's scrapbook, as a record of his role!

Several men played Pastoria (technically he's Pastoria the Second, as noted in the caption) through the run of the show. Judging by the dates, this could be Owen Westford, who was the third actor to play the part - or it could be Arthur Larkin who was touring with the second company of the show.

The two characters can be seen in the center of this picture from the Poppy scene.