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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here are some pet photos for Christmas — these are pictures of our rescue dogs Muzzy and Pepper. Don't forget your local animal shelters this holiday season, Muzzy and Pepper have lots of orphan animal friends looking for homes.

Muzzy and Pepper are waiting for Santa to arrive. (Incidentally, the stained glass Santa in the window is based on the title page illustration of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.)

Muzzy goes to bed early so Santa will know she is a good dog and leave her lots of treats.

Pepper thinks if she smiles nice for Santa, she will get a new ball for Christmas.
Pepper finds out that what she got from Santa was a gift certificate to have her teeth cleaned by the vet! Merry Christmas from Muzzy and Pepper!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Card

On the left is a John R. Neill family Christmas card from 1927, featuring daughters Natalie and Annrea on skis. This is printed on a standard size piece of buff colored paper, so it seems like more of a Christmas letter than card - but I'm not entirely sure how it was used!

Neill created original family Christmas cards for many years, and it must have been fun to be a recipient. Some of the cards involved hand coloring, others were just black & white. As always, a strong sense of whimsy is present, as can be seen in the present example.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

1000 Books for Children

This past weekend I picked up a little book titled 1000 Books for Children, published by A. C. McClurg. It was written by Penrhyn Coussens, and the fun part is that it was published in 1911. Consequently, many children's books considered classic had not yet been written, and many titles that are now obscure are listed.

L. Frank Baum is represented by Father Goose, and the Oz series. The Oz books are recommended for age 7 to 10, and each title has a small synopsis. The list ends with The Emerald City of Oz which is called out as the final Oz book - which of course it was at that time!

Mother Goose in Prose
is mentioned in the intro- duction, in a discussion of illustrators, and Maxfield Parrish's illustrations are praised. The listing for Father Goose calls out Denslow's illustrations as "very droll", but none of his many picture books made it into the list. The author seemed to consider English picture books to be the best available.

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is described as the best known juvenile of the time, and Anne of Green Gables is mentioned as the best of recent girl's books. It's a fascinating little book, and a real time capsule for children's book enthusiasts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ozmapolitan

The Ozmapolitan was a clever publicity gimmick created in 1904 by Reilly & Britton to advertise the new Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. This newspaper of the Emerald City was a giveaway item, with various articles relating to the new Oz title. Another issue was produced in 1905 to advertise The Wogglebug Book.

The idea doesn't seem to have been used again until the 1920s. The Ozmapolitan was revived to help advertise several of the Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz books of that time period. However, after a few years the paper disappeared once more.

It had another revival in the 1960's, when Reilly & Lee published their final Oz title, Merry Go Round in Oz, and produced the new "white cover" editions of the Oz books. These books are so called because the cover designs were printed in color on sturdy white fabric bindings. Dick Martin redesigned original John R. Neill covers for these books, dropping the contemporary cover designs which were then in use. The back page of the Ozmapolitan shown on the left advertises the new editions, including the short lived version of The Wizard of Oz that used a W. W. Denslow poster design for the cover. The covers shown for Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz are also interesting, as they are not the actual "white cover" editions that were produced, but appear to be mock-ups of the books. It's worth noting that the new editions were 45 cents more expensive than the titles which were not redesigned!

I don't have any of the older issues of the paper, but I do have the 1965 and 1970 versions. I also have the 1986 version printed by the International Wizard of Oz Club to advertise the new Oz book by Dick Martin, The Ozmapolitan of Oz. I've always thought this idea was a lot of fun, and it's unfortunate that more issues were not created!

Hungry Tiger Press has the various papers available as free downloads on their website - http://www.hungrytigerpress.com/tigertreats/ozmapolitan.shtml

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Argosy Magazine

I have several issues of Argosy magazine from 1930, all of which feature John R. Neill ill- ustrations. Argosy was a ten-cent weekly pulp magazine which published a range of action stories - some of these were later published in book form, but without Neill's drawings. Neill illustrated stories in Argosy for several years, with drawings that range from the mundane to the supernatural.

A regular feature of the magazine at this time was an article called The Men Who Make the Argosy. In the issue for November 8th, 1930, Neill is featured in a short autobiographical sketch. This is an interesting article with various bits of information - one of my favorite tidbits is the mention of buying shares in a Mexican silver mine after dreaming of doing so - and then watching the price for silver drop! When I visited Neill's granddaughter a couple years ago, I saw several southwestern drawings that may well have been from this period.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've posted this before but it's appropriate for today. W. W. Denslow created six Thanksgiving postcards in this series, and one of these days I'll get them all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ozzy Merchandise

Over the years, quite a variety of Oz merchandise has been created. A great many of these items have been inspired by the classic 1939 MGM film, which is an area that I don't really collect. However, I do enjoy running across vintage pieces that are not particularly film related, but refer back to the original books. Here are a couple dating back to my own childhood:

The fabric shown on the left was produced in the late 1950s - early 60s, and sold as yardage for customers to use for various purposes. This piece was recently given to me by a friend - his grandmother had used it as a coverlet/bedspread on a child's bed. Dorothy is wearing silver shoes, and the characters certainly aren't based on their movie counterparts - or on any particular book illustrations. I think it's a charming example, and my favorite among the various Oz fabrics that have been produced.

Paint by number pictures have become a popular collectible. I don't collect them myself, but couldn't resist this particular one, which is intriguing. It includes the Sawhorse from The Marvelous Land of Oz and a young boy (possibly Tip?). The characters are a little more generic, particularly Dorothy who looks remarkably like Alice from Wonderland, but the inclusion of a character from a later book is rather unique. This piece seems to date from sometime in the late 60s/early 70s, and the couple examples I've seen have all had the same frame - it must have been included in the kit!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pictorial Review

John R. Neill was only illustrating one Oz book a year, con- sequently the majority of his work appeared in magazine illustrations. Neill illustrated stories in Pictorial Review magazine over a number of years. I recently picked up an issue from February 1926 with a few of his drawings.

For the story shown above, Neill contributed three pieces of two-color artwork. The way his illustrations are used is interesting - particularly the combination of two pieces on the page to the right. The large drawing on the right of the woman handing the man his coat used to be available from the Neill family a few years ago. If anyone reading this blog happened to buy it, here's what it illustrated!

Another drawing pops up further along in the magazine, illustrating a poem . This piece is dropped into the middle of another story, and the drawing is a simpler vignette.

A third use is found even further along, in an article about Abraham Lincoln. Here, two little drawings by Neill are used in conjunction with the photos illustrating the article. These two pieces are unsigned, but they are unmistakably Neill.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Jean Gros

This little guy is a cut-out advertisement from 1928 for a marionette production of the Oz stories. The image shows the Tin Woodman riding the Hungry Tiger, and the Oz series is advertised on the rear, as well as the puppet show. The owner is instructed to "Keep this Lucky "Oz" Picture and use it for a Bookmark".

A second cut-out, featuring the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, was also distributed. The advertisement is for Jean Gros' marionette version of The Magical Land of Oz, which was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. This show would later play at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933. It's a shame that the performance doesn't seem to have been captured on film - I'd love to see it!

The images were taken from the endpapers of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. The original John R. Neill artwork for these endpapers is in the collection of The International Wizard of Oz Club, and can be viewed by looking at the gallery in the Archive section of their lovely redesigned website - http://ozclub.org/Home_Again.html

Jean Gros was a well known puppeteer and showman from Pittsburgh who spent years building up an elaborate traveling marionette show, but lost it all when he attempted to stage a grand opera with puppets, hiding 75 singers behind the curtains. He produced a number of puppet shows based on classic stories, and also designed marionettes for a WPA project in the 1930s. These were used in schools for teaching various subjects - nutrition, safety, history, folklore, etc.

A Time magazine article from 1948 tells of a later business venture, creating parades along the line of those staged by Macy's for Thanksgiving Day. These were to be used by smaller cities and towns or department stores, who could hire Gros and his crew to produce the parade. Apparently a large part of the trick was designing parade balloons which would fit beneath the trolley wires which crossed many city streets!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I used to experiment with marionettes - after some digging in the basement I've managed to locate one of my attempts, a version of Jack Pumpkinhead. I know I have heads for some other characters somewhere - I'll have to keep looking!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 1908

Just in time for Halloween - here's another postcard with an Oz connection, from about 100 years ago. This was produced by the Gibson Art Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Gibson was the oldest American greeting card firm, started in 1850, and was still in business in the 1990s as Gibson Greetings. In 2000 they became part of American Greetings.

The image has clearly been adapted from John R. Neill's illustration for the copyright page of L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Gibson began producing cards in 1907, and Dot/Wiz was the Oz book for 1908, so I would guess that this card might be from that time. The company produced cards until around 1917, so the card may have been produced later in that period, but I think it's an early example.

I find it fascinating that someone went to the trouble to reproduce Neill's Scarecrow drawing - including the club he's holding and the emerald he's sitting on! - rather than coming up with a more generic image. I wonder if it was an intentional Oz reference, or simply drawn by a fan of the books. The artist is unknown, as were many of the Gibson postcard artists. I'm not aware of any other Gibson cards using Oz images in this way - many of their cards were single designs, and this doesn't seem to be part of a series.

The company was a latecomer to the postcard craze of the early 20th century, and certainly did not commit themselves to the concept. Gibson cards were not produced in great quantity, and were not marketed nationwide, so they are among the scarcer and more desirable Halloween postcards.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oz Writing

It's been said that if you scratch an Oz collector, you find an Oz author trying to get out - I think there's a lot of truth to that. About fifteen years ago, my partner and I wrote and illustrated two Oz books which were published by Books of Wonder. Our first attempt in this line was providing illustrations for Queen Ann in Oz, by Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag. We learned quite a bit from this project, and when we were asked if we would like to come up with a story ourselves, decided to give it a try.

Masquerade in Oz was set at Halloween, and grew from an idea to do a story taking place within Ozma's palace in the Emerald City. We came up with the general outline and would discuss ideas while walking our dogs in the evening and then take turns writing, re-writing and adding to what each other wrote. I'll admit that we weren't overly concerned with Oz chronology or canon - it was a lot of fun, and we were enthusiastic. For the illustrations, we both made sketches after which I would do full sized pencil drawings. Once these were ready, Irwin would ink them. The collaboration worked well - but we are used to working with one another during the day in our stained glass studio.

The Lavender Bear of Oz was a shorter book aimed at a younger reader. Bringing L. Frank Baum's Valley of Babies from Dot & Tot of Merryland and Bear Center from Lost Princess of Oz together seemed like a natural combination. Once again we had fun in the process. We originally intended the title of this book to be “Babes in Oz” and did the illustration pictured, but that title was rejected. After digging around, I also found a couple other cover design experiments - both in a different style than the published version.

All in all, it was a fun experience and we were fortunate enough to actually be published. We did write a third story, and who knows - it might get dusted off someday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Silver Shoes

Here's another item with no real Oz connection, other than my own twisted inter- pretation. This is a pair of Buck Rogers Rocket Roller Skates, produced in 1932 by Marx Toys. These are heavy duty skates with great styling - this particular pair is missing its leather straps and key. The reason I'm including them here is because I've always thought they looked as though they could be L. Frank Baum's silver shoes, taken by Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the MGM film the shoes became the ruby slippers. Even the concept of rocket roller skates fits in - maybe that's how Dorothy returned home at the end of the book!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Graphic Oz

There have been a number of Oz comics/graphic novels in recent years. I don't tend to collect these, but do have a set of the graphic novels written and drawn by Eric Shanower. I've mentioned in a past posting that Eric Shanower is my favorite among contemporary Oz illustrators. I have one small original piece of his artwork, aside from drawings in several collector's copies of Oz books published by Hungry Tiger Press.

The portrait of Glinda shown above is from 1985, the period when Shanower's graphic novels of Oz were bring produced. The four novels were reissued in a single volume, Adventures in Oz, in 2006 and are very enjoyable.

This is a small drawing, but nicely detailed - I like the decoration of hearts on the hem of Glinda's dress.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Here she is - after a week of evenings spent figuring, sewing and experimenting, I finished my Patchwork Girl. She is approximately 20" tall, and has a lot of personality - she can be demure and well behaved, or wild and stick her tongue out, in typical Scraps fashion. She has her button eyes (pearl rather than silver), pearl teeth, and golden ears; I didn't quite get to golden fingernails. She can even stand on her own two feet - occasionally!

My aim was to come up with something that would look appropriately old. Years ago, I used to explore making puppets and marionettes and this wasn't much different.

It was an interesting project - After being inspired by a handful of vintage patchwork squares, I quickly learned that my quilt squares were extremely delicate and fragile - patches would disintegrate if not handled carefully. This didn't bother me too much, aside from the difficulties of working with the fabric. My goal was to end up with something that looked like it might have been around for seventy some years, so a few perished patches fit right in. However, if anyone were attempting this for an actual doll, I strongly recommend using new fabric!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Patchwork Girl?

This past weekend was the last of the large antique/flea markets at the local State Fairgrounds. As usual, I took a wander through to see if there were any wonderful finds to be made. I saw a few Oz related items, but what I ended up buying were several small vintage patchwork quilt segments.

Back in February 2008, Antique Doll Magazine featured an interesting article on Patchwork Girl dolls. These appear to have generally been homemade items, and several photos were included of various dolls. So - having run across the raw material, I think I need to make a Patchwork Girl! I'm a fairly crafty person, so I think I can manage it. The fabrics are in somewhat rough shape, but I think that will add to the vintage quality. We'll see how it turns out, and I'll post it here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Here's another book that was a favorite of mine as a kid. I think this was the first version of The Wizard of Oz with actual pop-ups - the Julian Wehr edition had movement, but nothing actually rose from the page. I remember running across this book in a grocery store as a kid, and asking my mother to buy it. It's a simple but surprisingly faithful adaptation of the story, and includes a lot of proper details - silver shoes, separate visits to the wizard, etc. This was part of a series of pop-up books published by Random House, but I've never tried tracking down any other titles - I believe Pinocchio was one.

The book was published in 1968, and the artwork is very original with a strong 60's flair. I particularly like the bird's eye view of the cyclone lifting Dorothy's house - a clever idea. Of course, Kansas looks far more colorful than the bleak grey state describe in the story!

In 2000, Robert Sabuda created an extravagant pop up version of The Wizard of Oz, with images that literally burst from the pages. I still have a sneaking preference for this earlier, simpler 1960's version - probably because I had it as a child. However, Sabuda was clearly influenced by this edition, particularly in his Emerald City pop-up. He included green glasses, so that a secret message can be read - just as this book did!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Moveable Oz

In 1944, the first moveable Oz book was created by Julian Wehr, who designed a number of moveable books with clever paper engineering. The Wizard of Oz was not a pop-up book, but the six animations are subtle and effective. Sliding a tab from left to right creates movement in the image. In the example I've shown, I particularly like Toto's sudden appearance!

The Wehr family has started to reissue a couple of Julian Wehr's books - maybe this title will become available again. Their website is www.wehranimations.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Psychedelic Oz

Here's another childhood relic. This album of The Wizard of Oz, by Tale Spinners for Children, is from sometime around 1969. I've always found this cover design intriguing, because the image really put a 1960's spin on the characters. Dorothy looks like Goldie Hawn in a mini-dress, and the strange proportions of the characters make the whole thing feel very psychedelic! The back of the album cover advertises a number of other story records, but none have the sophisticated cover art of The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Merry Go Round in Oz

Merry Go Round in Oz, published in 1963, was the last of the Oz books published by Reilly & Lee, and the only one published in my lifetime - although I was too young to know anything about it! This was written by the mother and daughter team of Eloise and Lauren McGraw, and illustrated by Dick Martin - his first full length Oz book. In 1989, Dick Martin designed a new cover for the first reprint edition of this book.

By this point in the series, the variety of authors and illustrators involved in creating the books makes the late sequels feel a good deal less cohesive to me. I'll admit to preferring the earlier books, but it's still amazing to see what a long run the original book inspired. This title is the end of the forty book "Oz Canon", the run of books considered by many to be the Oz series. Quite a few titles have been written since, although relatively few have had widespread distribution.

The International Wizard of Oz Club published a second Oz book by the McGraws in 1980, titled The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, again with illustrations by Dick Martin. In 2001, Hungry Tiger Press published The Rundlestone of Oz, which was Eloise McGraw's last book. This was illustrated by Eric Shanower.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Neill Miscellany

Here are a couple odds & ends by John R. Neill. The Girl Graduate was published by Reilly & Britton and intended to be used as a school scrapbook. It's not an uncommon book, but this is the only copy I've run across with the Neill cover. This is taken from a finished watercolor, and is the only illustration he provided for this book. The other copies I've seen are of a later edition with a totally different cover design.

Bob Thorpe, Sky Fighter in the Lafayette Flying Corps is an adventure tale of World War I, with a cover, a couple full page illustrations and a number of small spot drawings by Neill. This was published by Harcourt Brace and Howe in 1919, and seems to be a bit difficult to find - at any rate, I haven't seen very many copies listed.

Another book with a number of illustrations by John R. Neill is From Pillar to Post, by John Kendrick Bangs, and published by The Century Co. Bangs was an author and humorist who traveled extensively on a lecture circuit in the early 1900s. In this book from 1916, he tells a number of stories and what might be called human interest pieces concerning his travels. The stories in the book were originally published as magazine articles.

Neill provided 30 small spot illustrations within the text, but not in his fantasy style. There is one drawing that I particularly like that is a bit more fantastic, with people pressed in books.

The cover and jacket for this book were designed by the Decorative Designers, the same company that designed the floral borders on the Aunt Jane's Nieces series, and Sam Steele covers. I always enjoy finding connections of that sort.