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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Grace Drayton

Here's an original piece of art by Grace Drayton, also known as Grace Weider- seim, the creator of the Campbell Soup kids. This particular piece made me wonder, what if Grace had illustrated Oz? After all, this lion wouldn't look too out of place!

Grace Gebbe was born in 1877, and married her first husband in 1900, becoming Grace Weiderseim. In 1911 she divorced and married again, becoming Grace Drayton. She divorced a second time, in 1923, and died in 1936. She created the Campbell Soup kids, and the Dolly Dingle paper doll series, as well as a number of comics and other illustration work.

Grace was a well established artist. Among her early comic pages was The Turr'ble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo, which was a collaboration with her sister Margaret. I have several pages of this comic from 1910. Each week is a first person narrative by a young child detailing some outrageous adventure, including colorful characters and close shaves. It's written in a childish dialect, which is something I can't stand - but it's a style that seems to have been popular in the day (witness Dorothy's sudden difficulty with language in Ozma of Oz!)

In an episode from Feb. 27th, Grace incorporates some characters from Alice in Wonderland into the strip. While her general style is a bit too cute for my taste, it's fun to imagine her take on some of L. Frank Baum's Oz creations!

Friday, January 28, 2011


This year marks the 100th anniversary of The Sea Fairies, L. Frank Baum's attempt to break away from the Land of Oz and start a new series with the characters Trot and Cap'n Bill. The series only lasted through 2 books, with the main characters finally arriving in Oz in Baum's 1915 book, The Scarecrow of Oz.

Mermaids and life under the sea are the main components of this story, giving John R. Neill many opportunities for striking illustrations. He seems to have enjoyed the subject, as he provided another lovely image of a mermaid in his drawing of the whirlpool that captures Trot and Cap'n Bill's boat in The Scarecrow of Oz.

Off-hand, I don't know of any other Baum stories dealing with mermaids, although a mermaid with a parasol makes a brief appearance during an underwater sequence in the 1914 Oz Film Co. production of His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz.

This book was not a great success, but it did get reprinted over the years and went through several different cover designs. The original cover, which used a metallic gold background, was dropped quickly and replaced with an adaptation of one of the duotone color plates within the book. When Reilly & Lee reprinted this title in 1920, Neill created a new full color cover, shown on the left.

This was the same time period during which he illustrated Peter and the Princess (1920), and close in time to his illustrating Andersen's Fairy Tales (1923). These three titles seem to be the last book covers Neill produced as full watercolor paintings. He used very similar type styles for the titles of Sea Fairies and Andersen's.

In fact, the cover of Andersen's doesn't really seem to particularly apply to any of the stories within that book, but it does bear a striking resemblance to the final illustration from The Sea Fairies!

Friday, January 21, 2011

John Dough

Here's a copy of John Dough and the Cherub from 1930 or so - the rear dust jacket flap lists Oz titles to Yellow Knight, the Oz book published that year. This must have been one of the final printings of this title by the Reilly & Lee company.

When Reilly & Britton changed to Reilly & Lee in 1919, several of the L. Frank Baum books underwent changes in appearance. In particular, early titles that originally had stamped covers were changed to paper labels. The Patchwork Girl was one exception - although it too was changed in the 1930's. In some cases, this required a bit of re-thinking on the publisher's part.

For John Dough, the original cover design (shown above right) was used, but it was changed to a full color paper label pasted to the front of the book, instead of a 3 color stamping. The design from the spine of the book was used on the spine of the jacket but only printed in black; this raises the problem of John's disappearing bow tie! I would have thought, considering that the cover was now full color, the spine could have been colored as well!

This past Christmas I did get around to making some John Dough gingerbread cookies. Unfortunately, I couldn't lay my hands on any Elixir of Life, the special ingredient...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Denslow Possibilities?

Here's another stock cover used by the publishers Donohue & Henneberry for a variety of titles. This cover intrigues me, as it it looks like it could be a W. W. Denslow design - but there's no definite indication. The design uses several common elements seen on Denslow covers - in particular, the band of color across the top and the repetition of a design element, laurel wreaths in this case. This cover was also produced in at least one other color combination. The image isn't signed, and there are aspects that don't look like Denslow to me - but it's fun to speculate and theorize!

This cover was used by Laird & Lee for a set of works by Opie Read. Here again, there are elements that make me think of Denslow, but there's nothing to firmly indicate that this is his work - and it does look a lot like many other stock book covers from the time. Denslow did do work for Laird & Lee, and this particular title has a halftone frontispiece by him - apparently earlier printings contained 4 plates.

Part of the fun of collecting is keeping an eye out for possibilities - these may both be wrong, but they are intriguing!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Generic Denslow

Happy New Year! After a slow start, I'm finally getting around to a new blog posting!

I first saw one of these generic bindings by W. W. Denslow on the Hungry Tiger Talk blog, and of course I started looking for examples. Over the New Year's weekend, I went on an antiquing expedition, and managed to hit the jackpot, finding several copies from several different dealers!

This binding was designed for the Donohue & Henneberry publishing company. The name changed to Donohue Brothers, and finally was shortened to Donohue, the same company that produced cheaper editions of a number of the early L. Frank Baum books. Examples of all three names can be seen on the bindings pictured.

Quite a variety of titles were issued in this cover, in various colors - I have blue, green, brown and grey - and sometimes the same title is seen in different colors. The copies I have are all stamped in red and either black or dark green. It's a fairly elaborate design, compared to some of Denslow's other cover work - I just wish the publisher had stamped the book titles on the front cover, within the box that seems designed to hold a title!