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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Electrical Household

Here's a bizarre and whimsical drawing by John R. Neill - an assortment of animated appliances that looks like it could have come right from the land of Oz! According to the work label on the back of the drawing, this illustration was drawn for Pictorial Review, in July of 1914.

In typical Neill fashion, the appliances all have faces and, in many cases, additional limbs. In fact, this kitchen looks like it could be in a suburb of Utensia, the village of kitchen implements visited by Dorothy in the 1910 book The Emerald City of Oz.

The row of eight electrical plugs under the window looks a little dodgy to me, but clearly the modern housekeeper has been freed from much of her labor!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lotta Faust

I recently bought a copy of the January 1905 Theatre magazine. The cover features a lovely color image of Lotta Faust in costume as Tryxie Tryfle, in The Wizard of Oz. Lotta was one of several actresses to play the role during the run of the show, and while she didn't create the part, she was probably the best remembered.

She did score a hit with the song Sammy, and came to public attention in this role. In the photo, she is wearing her second act Emerald City fancy dress, also known as the Sammy dress. The photo is tinted pink for the magazine, but according to Mark Even Swartz, in Oz Before the Rainbow, the dress was actually green which would be in keeping with the Emerald City setting.

This was clearly a popular image of Lotta. I have two different postcard versions of this shot, one printed and the other a photo card. The printed card bears the inscription — "Catherine if this play ever comes to Kingston go to it - Mamie" — a fun testimonial to the popularity of the show.
The magazine doesn't feature any articles on Lotta or the show, she was simply a cover girl for this issue. But there is an ad for the Perforated Music Roll Co. that includes Wizard of Oz Selections.

Publicists seem to have been working hard in 1905 - snippets about various actresses in the show turn up in various magazines. The Standard and Vanity Fair ran this shot with a rather ambivalent blurb concerning the performer -
She went on to appear in other shows before her early death in January 1910. According to newspaper accounts of the time, she was hospitalized for an operation to remove an abscess above her heart. The operation was sucessful, but several days later she succumbed to pneumonia. In May of that year, a memorial benefit was held for her mother and a number of performers of the day made appearances.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Denslow's Picture Books

I just picked up a copy of Denslow's House That Jack Built, one of a series of 18 picture books produced by W. W. Denslow in 1903 - 1904.

 The books were an American take on the English "toy books" that had been produced by well known English illustrators such as Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway.  Around the same time that Denslow was drawing his picture books, L. Leslie Brooke was producing similar stories in England.

Four of the books first appeared in 1902 as a Sunday color supplement in the New York Herald. These were then rewritten in prose and published, along with Denslow's versions of other fairy tales and nursery rhymes. There were new stories as well, including one featuring the Scarecrow and Tin Man. Denslow owned rights to his illustrations of the famous characters, which allowed him to make use of them as he pleased. This was one of the points that led to the breakup of the L. Frank Baum/Denslow collaborations.
The Scarecrow makes a cameo appearance in House That Jack Built, watching a farmer sowing his corn. The original of this illustration has found a good home in the collection of another Oz fan!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Billy Bounce

Billy Bounce was a comic page created by W. W. Denslow in 1901. The strip was innovative in its use of a continuing story line, as well as Denslow's design and use of the space on the page. In 1902 Denslow retired from the strip, and the characters were picked up by Charles W. Kahles who continued the comic until 1906. The example on the left is from the Sunday Press volume Queer Visitors from the Land of Oz, which includes a number of strips by Denslow.

Denslow returned to the character in 1906, in hopes of creating a story that could be turned into a Broadway extravaganza. The result was a rather uninspired book, written in conjunction with Dudley Bragdon.

The character was popular and inspired a variety of merchandise such as pinbacks, cigars, and a toy bank. The bank seems to have been reproduced recently, with an example I picked up shown below on the left. On the right is an advertising cut for the original bank.

While the character is largely forgotten today, an animated cartoon based on the book was created in the 1960's as a pilot for a projected series. The project never took off, but clearly someone had remembered Billy fondly!