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

Monday, March 27, 2023

More Macaronis

 Last summer I posted some postcards, from John R. Neill’s series of comical drawings titled Life Among the Macaronis. Since then I’ve picked up two additional cards in the set.

A Scandal in High Life is an image I've seen before. A dapper Macaroni is shocked to read in the paper that his grandfather was a draper! An added feature of this card is the verse, written by Neill, that tells the story explaining the gentleman's shocked expression; the other cards in the series just have titles. The series of golfing cards I previously posted all used cropped images, and this card has also been cropped from the original 1904 Sunday Magazine page.

In the Studio is a card I haven't run across before. Here we have an artist working away at his easel, painting a cat. But the poor animal has been completely trussed to the stool it sits upon, to prevent escape! Two gentlemen observe the painting process. This drawing includes typical Neill touches in the elaborate wine bottles and small glass. I would assume that this has also been cropped from a larger drawing.

This brings the total so far to five cards in this series. I don’t know if this is the entire set, or if there are more waiting to be discovered!

Sunday, March 12, 2023


The Wogglebug Book is one of L. Frank Baum’s rarer and lesser known efforts. The 1905 book is controversial today due to examples of stereotypical ethnic humor, which was popular at the time. As is often the case, some of the illustrations provide as much offense as the language. However, the story is typical of Baum nonsense, with the title character falling in love with a wildly patterned fabric, and his various attempts to secure it for his own.

The Wogglebug was introduced in the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Baum was clearly fond of the character. The insect is highly magnified and thoroughly educated, which gives him the stature of a man as well as a liking for long words, and a distressing fondness for bad puns. He became the title character in Baum’s attempt to stage the second Oz book, as The Wogglebug. However, the production did not achieve the success of The Wizard of Oz on stage, and faded into obscurity.

The character's activity in the book series is rather limited after this point. As the founder of the College of Art and Athletic Perfection, he presides as Professor Wogglebug. Learning is achieved through the use of school pills, which leaves the students free to concentrate on athletics. Perhaps his debacle on the stage cooled Baum’s enthusiasm for the big insect!

This book was an adjunct to Baum’s 1904 - 1905 Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic page. In a twist on the formula of Americans visiting Oz, in the comic page the Oz inhabitants come to America. The Wogglebug Book continues this theme, with the oversized bug living in a large American city.

In spite of its defects, the large book is quite decorative and illustrated in full color on every page. The drawings were by Ike Morgan, who had previously provided some illustrations for Baum’s earlier title American Fairy Tales. At one time Morgan shared a studio with W. W. Denslow, and there are some similarities in the style of their work. Although the illustrations are printed in color, the original drawings are plain pen & ink. Color was added by the printers, based on indications by the artist. The drawing below still has its original overlay, to help with color placement.

There were two distinct bindings; the first has a green tone to the background of the front cover, and the second is a pale yellow. It’s interesting to note that the blue ink used on the first binding is brighter than that used on the second. This provides much brighter green accents on the Wogglebug’s coat, and a more colorful image.

I blogged about my dislike of paper spines on books a couple weeks ago. This book has a fabric spine, but the covers are stiff paperboard - which, combined with the large format of the book, makes it very prone to deterioration. Most copies found today have covers that have suffered damage in the form of bends, tears, missing chunks and broken corners. Consequently, many have been repaired, as have the two copies shown above.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Another Ozzy Postcard

Here's another postcard relating to the stage producion of The Wizard of Oz, complete with a little portrait of the Scarecrow! This time it's from an actor, on the road with the show. Harry is writing to Helen to let her know he has arrived in Harrisburg, PA, and will be going on as Sir Wiley Gyle in that evening's performance. He has a good opinion of his ability in the role - and hopes others will as well!

 He mentions having finished The Yoke "which they say took three weeks to write". There were two books of this title at that time - one, by Elizabeth Miller, was a pseudo-historical religious romance, and the other, by Hubert Wales, a scandalous novel of syphillis and free love. I wonder which one he read!

This dates from August 24th, 1908, after Hurtig and Seamon took over the Wizard stage production.  I'm not sure who Harry is, as I haven't seen a cast list for these later productions. The tour took a break for the summer, and this would be the first performance since April of that year - so he might have been stepping into the role as understudy, or he might have taken it over for the run.

The show would continue to tour into 1909, but it was starting to wind down. One night stops were the norm, and Harry tells Helen not to write back until he writes again. With so much traveling, it would probably be difficult to receive mail on the road!

Incidentally, the card is addressed to 1261 Madison Ave., NYC. Built in 1900, this is one of the first luxury apartment buildings built in Carnegie Hill. In 1910 it was described as "one of the most select and attractive apartment houses on Madison Avenue". This seems to indicate that Miss Helen James was a woman of some means - or perhaps she simply worked at that address!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Everyone’s a Critic!

It’s always amusing to run across an unsolicited comment about a show - whether favorable or not! I picked up a postcard recently whose author had just seen The Wizard of Oz - but found it “rather tame after Humpty Dumpty”. In general, the author “M” seems more concerned about a money order and an upcoming trip to the dentist.

The card is postmarked February 13, 1905, and was sent from East Orange, New Jersey. According to the note, the Oz performance was seen on Friday night, which would have been February 10. Consequently, according to the performance history assembled by David Maxine on his Vintage Broadway page, the performance of Oz that M attended would have been in Newark, New Jersey, and part of the #1 company tour.

Humpty Dumpty was a popular pantomime first presented in New York in 1868. It was revived over the years, but a new version played at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York for several months in the 1904 - 1905 season, returning for another month in 1906. It was a large show - according to publicity, 800 people were necessary to make it run. 

There was spectacle to spare, in scenes like the Submarine Ballet, a tableau that was said to incorporate 350 people. 
Humpty Dumpty himself was a silent clown, getting in and out of scrapes, played by William C. Schrode. I haven't found a link but I imagine it's possible that he may have been related to Joseph Schrode, who played Imogene the cow during the run of The Wizard of Oz, as well as the Giant Spider in Babes in Toyland
There was a lost Princess, a Demon of Misrule, a man-eating Ogre, and plenty of Pierrots and other commedia characters. For sheer scale it probably did make Oz look a little tame!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Perils of Paper Spines

As a book collector, I've always found paper spines to be completely impractical; especially on children's books, which were never meant to be handled with care! The fragile paper is easily rubbed and torn, and more often than not large chunks will be missing at the top and bottom of the spine; but it was a less expensive alternative to cloth for binding a book, and presumably helped to lower the cost of children's books while raising the profits.

A number of the books illustrated by W.W. Denslow were published in this fashion. His first big success with L. Frank Baum from 1899, Father Goose His Book, was published by George M. Hill in paper covered boards with a paper spine. In spite of the book's huge success, a more enduring binding was never used on any of the later editions, even when publication was taken over by Bobbs Merrill. The example shown above has its full spine, but it’s not at all unusual to find copies of the book like the photo on the left, with several inches gone from either end of the spine, or even the entire spine missing.

The follow up volume, The Songs of Father Goose, was also published in paper covered boards, but did have a sturdier cloth spine - until a new edition was printed by Bobbs Merrill, with a new cover design and paper spine. The paper spine on the copy shown in the photo below has been replaced.
Denslow's hit book from 1901, Denslow's Mother Goose, is another example of this fragile style of binding. Early copies were bound with paper spines, but the publisher McClure seems to have quickly changed this to a much sturdier cloth spine. I wasn't aware of the paper spine version until I stumbled across one recently - the bottom of the spine is missing 2 inches, which I've adjusted in the photo. The small advertising card shows the original cover design with paper spine, with the title printed in black and Denslow's seahorse logo printed in brown - the cloth spine version is simply printed in black.
In 1902, Denslow's Night Before Christmas was published by G. W Dillingham. Once again, the publisher chose to use a binding of paper boards and paper spine. In this case, Denslow’s design for the cover takes advantage of the format, with a large image of Santa in his sleigh that spreads across the spine and rear board. But copies today are rarely found with the spine intact, destroying the concept. The book quickly switched to a cloth binding with a new cover design for later printings.
The last major children's book illustrated by Denslow was also bound in paper boards, with a paper spine. Consequently The Jeweled Toad, from 1907, is another title that is difficult to find with a spine in nice condition. This was also published by Bobbs Merrill - they do seem to have liked their paper bindings!
Fortunately the most famous Baum/Denslow title, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was given the full cloth treatment it deserved in 1900. The same is true of Dot and Tot in Merryland, from 1901. When Dillingham published The Pearl and the Pumpkin in 1904, and Billy Bounce in 1906, they were given full cloth. In 1909, Century published When I Grow Up, bound in cloth. But those early paper spines do add another degree of difficulty to the collecting game!

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Emerald City at the Elks

On October 19th, 1909, the above announcement appeared in the town newspaper of Grand Junction, Colorado. The local Elks Lodge (#575) had decided to stage a new comic opera, titled The Emerald City. This was to be done without regard to expense, and would involve a variety of local talent. Costumes would be hired from Salt Lake City, and the presentation would be held at the local Majestic Theater. Work was already underway on scenery painting, and it was expected to be “the most beautiful and spectacular amateur operetta or comic opera ever attempted by purely local talent”. There would be two performances only, and all would be under the direction of Mr. Archie Bliss.

There are a number of surprising things about this, not least of which is Mr. Archie Bliss. This entire production was his brainchild - he would write the adaptation, choose the costumes, design the scenery and stage the piece; he even performed. And he was only 20 years old.

Archie Bliss was the son of a local merchant, and seems to have been quite a renaissance man. References to his many activities were mentioned frequently in the newspaper; he played the clarinet, gave chalk talks, organized theater productions for schools, threw parties, and was an enthusiastic town booster. He worked as a postal delivery man, married in 1913, and lived in Grand Junction until his death in 1957 (that occurred unexpectedly, while visiting his son in West Virginia).

At any rate, in 1909 Mr. Bliss had decided to write a comic opera based on the Oz books. At that point there were only 5 titles, the most recent, The Road to Oz, having been published in July. The hugely successful Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz had toured the country for the last time in April of that year. (That production had only made its way to Colorado once, in 1904, and didn’t get as far west as Grand Junction). An article from November 13th reveals that Bliss received a letter from L. Frank Baum, who was said to be quite interested in the production.
Baum seems to be under the impression that the performance is to be a presentation of The Wizard of Oz stage production - and there were definite similarities between the two shows. But in the end it couldn’t truly be called the first amateur performance of the famous hit. A description of the upcoming show was published on December 3rd. According to Archie, it was to be “a delicious blend of the Oz books, though founded mainly on The Land of Oz. We have taken the best from each book and woven the whole together with a large number of appropriate songs”. Baum's own attempt at dramatizing The Land of Oz  five years earlier had resulted in The Wogglebug, a short lived disappointment. Archie goes on to describe the basic plot:

So the premise of the show does appear to be a blending of stories. There’s no Dorothy or cyclone, but the Wizard still reigns in the Emerald City. Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse and the Wogglebug have been dispensed with, but Mombi and Tip are main characters. A magic belt comes into play, but there’s no mention of a Nome King. And of course there is that startling announcement at the climax of the show!
On November 2nd a blurb announced that Bliss was traveling, to select costumes for the production. He was visiting “the largest costuming house in the intermountain region, located at Salt Lake City”. Presumably this was Salt Lake Costume, which opened in 1889 and remained in business until 2005. Another article, from December 10, states that the “great array of costumes to be used by the eighty and more people who are to take part in the local production of “The Emerald City” next Monday and Tuesday night, arrived in the city by express from Salt Lake City”.

Not everything could be rented -

So everything moved along smoothly, a cast list of 84 people was published, and rehearsal notices appeared. Finally the show itself was presented, on December 13th. The piece was given an extensive, and enthusiastic, review in the newspaper. The main criticism was the long wait between acts and scenes, due to difficulties in changing scenery on the small stage of the Majestic Theater. However, that problem was vastly improved by the second (and final) performance on December 14th. Each character was praised, and the respective actor complimented on their role.

As to the show itself: The Emerald City consisted of three acts and seven scenes. It opened with a maypole dance; (not unlike the Land of the Munchkins in the pre-Broadway production of the Wizard). Mombi the witch was introduced, and was assisted by seven weird sisters in her number “The Haunts of the Witches”. The Scarecrow spent much of the first act onstage in his Scarecrow pose, before being brought to life. The Tin Man received great praise for his characterization of the role. Miss Margaret Bunting made a “great little Tip”, who ran away to the Emerald City with the Scarecrow and Tin Man to see the Wizard, and “in the final act was turned into a beautiful princess” (a bit of a spoiler for the "startling announcment at the climax of the play"!) Apparently Mombi was also transformed from a witch into a young and beautiful maiden in the final act. The Wizard kept the audience in roars of laughter, Glinda the fairy queen was pleasing, and Robin Goodfellow made an appearance. There was a forge scene with a company of (G)nomes. Archie Bliss himself made an appearance as the Demon, and “made that weird part one of the most fetching of the cast”.

There was a drill, dance and song of little Frost Fairies; there were Forest Fairies; a song for Tip, Scarecrow and Tin Man called “When the Goblins Were at Play”, accompanied by six goblins. Female soldiers led by General Jinjur gave a drill and song at the close of the first act; apparently “General Jinjur and her soldiers immensely pleased every time they appeared”.

And that was just the first act!

The second act opened with the Guardian of the Gate, singing “The Guardian of the Gate”; a song from the pre-Broadway days of The Wizard. Tip, Scarecrow and Tin Woodman sang “When We Get What’s Coming to Us”, another Wizard song. “In the Valley of Ho-Kus Po” was sung by the Wizard, accompanied by chorus members in colonial costumes and hairstyles. The reviewer was greatly impressed by this number.

At the opening of the third act, Jellia Jamb had a song, “Take Me Up With You”, sung while seated in an improvised airship - perhaps some form of the Gump? There is mention of Miss Helen Bunting as a “mechanical figure”  - maybe Tik-Tok made an appearance? A skit was performed of “The Traveler and the Pie”, another standard from the Broadway Wizard. And a finale of “Airs of Nations” was yet another nod to the Broadway hit. G.A.R. veterans and a drum corp passed in review, and the grand finale was an Elks song written by the actor playing the Tin Man, with a display of flags in Elk colors.

Overall, it was a full evening of entertainment and a grand success. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any photographic record of the event. I contacted the Lodge, which is still active today, but their archives have no mention of the production. It seems to have slipped into obscurity.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Anyone for Skittles?

Some years ago Irwin and I visited with Kendra Daniels, a collector and dealer in children's illustration art, at her home. We viewed the amazing collections she and her husband Allan had assembled; and among the collections, I saw my first figurative skittle set. 

Skittles is a form of ninepin bowling, for table top or floor. The sets Kendra collected were made in Europe in the 19th century, and consisted of whimsical collections of paper mache figures in wheeled wagons that relate to the characters. An antique example is shown on the right - in this case, a dog with puppies - from the LiveAuctioneers website.

As the summer drew to a close, I began to look about for a new Oz project and decided to give skittles a try. Most of my projects develop from ideas I've had for a very long time!

I decided that Quox, the dragon from Tik-Tok of Oz, would be a natural as a wagon, since he had seating for passengers attached to his back. For the skittles, I chose the Nome King together with an additional troupe of Nomes. The set needed a kingpin, and Ruggedo seemed like a natural choice! 

Quox wears his pearl necklace and gold locket and, as in the book, there are eggs inside the locket to be used for knocking down the Nomes. Wheels are concealed under the dragon's legs, for rolling across the table or floor, and with the use of mini LEDs his tail lights up and his eyes flash.

On the left, Quox can be seen at the start of his paint job. The Nomes are lined up and finished. All the pieces are molded from paper mache like the antique versions. Below, a video shows the set in action!

Friday, November 4, 2022

Pearls and Pumpkins

 This past weekend Irwin and I visited the Kerlan Collection, at the University of Minnesota, to view the W. W. Denslow materials in their collection. We were accompanied by Brady Schwind, who was doing some research for his Arts of the Imagination Foundation. I’ve been to the Kerlan a number of times over the years, but it’s always fun to revisit and view interesting materials.

Among their Denslow holdings is the publisher’s dummy for The Pearl and the Pumpkin, written by Denslow and Paul West, and published by G. W. Dillingham in 1904. This is a fascinating piece, showing how the layout of the final book was developed. Proofs of illustrations are cut and pasted in place on blank pages, to figure out the spacing and typesetting of the final book. 

In the above image, the dummy title page is shown on the left, and a photo of the final title page is on the right. There's been a change to the credits; rather than "pictures by the Authors", the finished book credits Denslow alone, and stresses his past achievements.

One of the unusual aspects of the dummy is the color scheme used on the illustration proofs. In the final book, the drawings are printed in black and orange. But for this working copy, the illustrations were printed in turquoise and orange. The big difference is that the proof illustrations appear to have three colors, since the areas where the two colors overlap show as a deep olive green. In the published version, the use of black ink instead of turquoise means that the overlapping areas simply look black. It’s a shame the trial colors weren’t used in the final book!

Another interesting point is the endpaper design. In the dummy, Denslow has sketched an illustration of Pearl and Joe, (the pumpkin), surrounded by jack o’lanterns. The published book shows secondary characters with Joe, and Pearl has disappeared! The sketch in the dummy feels considerably livelier to me. The endpapers of the first printing of the book were printed in turquoise, which almost seems to be a holdover from the original turquoise and orange color scheme; but later printings changed to the orange and black inks that are used in the rest of the illustrations.

It was a very appropriate visit for Halloween weekend!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

My Dear Mr. Neill

In August of 1935, John R. Neill received a letter that had been forwarded from the publishers Reilly & Lee. Looking at the envelope, it's clear that the letter did a bit of roundabout traveling! It was from Mrs. Elgood Lufkin of Rye, New York, and read as follows:

   My dear Mr. Neill -

    Mr Lufkin and I ever since we were very small have loved the Oz stories and their illustrations. So much so that now that we are older we have read them all to our children who love them and are as intrigued by them as we were and are.

    In fact we have called our place which we got last year “The Land of Oz”.

    However this is all aside from the point. We were very fortunate in obtaining two of your original water colors - the “Interior of the Scarecrow’s House” and the Scarecrow’s House with Dorothy the Wizard and Uncle Henry coming to pay the Scarecrow a visit. We are terribly anxious to get any others that we could and I wondered if by writing you and explaining a bit how we feel whether you would be willing to sell any to us.

    It would mean a great deal to the children and to us to have some more of your illustrations and I want you to know that they will be highly prized by us.

    Will you drop me a line and let me know whether you will do this for us. Please?

    Always Sincerely,

    Marie Murray Lufkin
    Aug. 8 1935
Once the letter eventually made its way to him, Neill must have replied promptly as another note from Marie, dated September 1st, followed. In this, she offers to send her car and chauffeur to bring Neill to have tea and visit. Or, if that didn’t work -

 …If you do not feel like coming out, if I sent the car would you let the chauffeur bring some out here to me? I couldn’t make out from your letter whether you had any or whether you would be willing to do some illustrations...

The offer of a car and chauffeur indicates that the Lufkins were people of some means; after all, 1935 was not far past the height of the Great Depression. In fact, Elgood Lufkin was the vice president of the Bank of New York. The couple had purchased a farm in Connecticut the previous year, and were hard at work renovating and decorating the house. As it happens, Neill bought a farm in Flanders, New Jersey the following year; most likely, the work of restoring the properties was a common point of interest between them. I particularly like the offer of sending the chauffeur to pick up a selection of artwork to view!

Apparently, there was no response to this letter and the correspondence died. But Marie wasn't ready to give up, and in June of 1936 another letter was forwarded to Neill from Reilly & Lee. She reintroduces herself, and again declares her interest in buying some Oz artwork.

…As I received no reply I took it that you were not interested but even so I am writing again to ask if you have any of the original illustrations for the “Emerald City" besides the exterior & interior of the Scarecrows house as we have those already.

    Please reply one way or the other as I am so anxious to know if we can ever find any for ourselves...

An intriguing side note to the correspondence is the fact that the Lufkins already owned two watercolors from The Emerald City of Oz! How they managed to acquire these drawings is not known, but it does seem to indicate that Oz art could be found in the wild. This time, she did receive a quick reply from Neill and hurried to respond:

 …What a relief receiving your letter! You have no idea how we loved it. From now until you have time to do something for us, I am going to pester you with letters so that you won’t get a chance to lose our address again.

    Your farm at Flanders sounds really magical. Just the way we feel ours is - and you must be the perfect wizard because although you say you are “expected to be a sort of Wizard of Oz without the qualifications,” to us you will always be the real Wizard of Oz, as you have made the stories live for us and our children…

Clearly, having finally won Neill’s attention, Marie wasn’t about to let go! This was to be the start of a relationship that continued until Neill’s death in 1943. The family were fans of Neill, and of the Oz books, and they assembled a unique collection as they befriended the artist. The first Oz book Neill wrote, 1940’s Wonder City of Oz, is even dedicated to the Lufkins.


Monday, August 1, 2022

Oz on Ice?

 Here's a costume design by Anthony Holland (1912 - 2001) for The Wizard of Oz, presumably for the Wizard himself!

Holland was a well known British costume designer, creating his first show in 1933. He also designed sets, and worked with theatres throughout Britain. After the second world war, he worked in London's West End and also became known as a designer for a number of pantomimes and ice shows - popular English entertainment at that time. He retired from designing in 1981.

This is a very traditional looking Wizard with a long white beard and pointed hat, not quite the American huckster of L. Frank Baum's story. It's an attractive design, featuring all twelve zodiac symbols embroidered in green sequins, as well as the sun and moon.

There's no specific notification, but I think this may have been designed for the Tom Arnold adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, an ice show that toured England in the 1960s. As can be seen in the center spread of the program, the costumes were designed by Anthony Holland. Unfortunately, I haven't found any photos of the production itself to see if this costume was actually used. There are several names written on the design, possibly of various performers over the years?

The artist donated a large number of his designs to The Victoria and Albert Museum in 1996.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Denslow's Red Riding Hood

In December 1902, the comic section of The New York Herald published four adaptations of classic stories, rewritten and illustrated by W. W Denslow. These would be the genesis for the series of Denslow's Picture Books for Children, which were published by Charles Dillingham in 1903 and 1904.

Among these first stories was Little Red Riding Hood, adapted in poetic form and revised to eliminate horrors - in this case, Grandma subdues the wolf and he becomes as tame as a pet dog. This idea of eliminating nightmares from stories for children was common to both Denslow and L. Frank Baum; Baum writes of this concept in the introduction to his modern fairy tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As to how successful they were at achieving their goal is another question! 

At any rate, here is an original piece of the artwork from this story. Red Riding Hood is seated in a high chair as the newly domesticated Wolf begs for a treat. Various traces of preliminary pencil work can be seen, which is always an interesting part of viewing original artwork!

The drawing is cut from a larger sheet, and mounted on a backing piece. I seem to remember hearing that some of Denslow’s newspaper comic drawings suffered water damage many years ago, while in the possession of a book dealer. Consequently, what could be salvaged was cut from the various pages for later sale. At least the artwork was not entirely scrapped!