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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 
I'm afraid I've been neglecting my blog for the past few months, but we'll see what the new year brings!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Earlier this year I spent a good deal of time creating centerpieces for the National Oz Convention, in the form of candy containers based on the corn mansion of the Scarecrow. While I was working on  them, I kept thinking that Jack Pumpkinhead's house would also work well in the same style. In fact, I considered making both for the convention but decided, in the interest of sanity, to stick to one design that I had already figured out and knew how to do!

Anyway, once that was over, I began to think about Jack again, and this is the result. I've based the piece on John R. Neill's wonderful illustration showing Jack's house in the 1909 book, The Road to Oz. Once again, this is a candy container - the pumpkin lifts off to reveal a central core for hiding sweets.

 Here you can see the door open, with Jack at home ready for visitors. The process started with an artificial foam pumpkin, which I carved and embellished before making a mold and casting in paper mache. There are still a few details I want to adjust, but the general scheme is finished. There are a number of similarities to the Scarecrow's house, but as Jack designed both, that shouldn't be too surprising!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crossing the Desert

There are certain Oz illustrations that I find iconic - John R. Neill's illustration for Ozma of Oz, of Ozma crossing the deadly desert with her army, is one of these. Unfortunately, the original artwork by Neill seems to have vanished into the mists of time, like so many other original Oz illustrations. I would love to have been able to see this piece!

 I was fortunate several years ago to acquire Michael Herring's version of the same scene, painted for the cover of the DelRey paperback in 1978. This was closely based on the Neill illustration, with some minor changes. In this case the scene was considered memorable enough to represent the entire book!

 I've just picked up another version, Skottie Young's drawing for the Marvel comic of Ozma of Oz. I've been enjoying the Marvel editions, scripted by Eric Shanower and drawn by Young. I'm not really a comic collector, and I haven't been picking up the individual comic books. Instead, I've been buying the hardcover compilations, so seeing the entire story in a fresh light is a pleasant surprise. In my view, Marvel has managed to do something that Reilly & Lee was always half-heartedly attempting - produce an updated version of the Oz books in a format to appeal to today's young readers!

Monday, September 24, 2012

John R. Neill Poster

John R. Neill created a wide variety of artwork for various uses - story illustration, advertising, magazine covers, etc. I've also seen artwork created for posters, but until recently I had never run across an actual example of a Neill-designed poster.

I still haven't seen one in person, but Michael Hearn drew my attention to this piece. It was designed by Neill in 1919, as part of a series of posters created by various artists for the Methodist Centenary. This was a movement by the Methodist Episcopal church to raise $100,000,000 for "world up-building" and missionary work.

An article in Printers Ink from early 1919 states that 200,000 posters in 20 different designs would be produced - one design to be posted each week for 20 consecutive weeks. The head of the poster department was E.W. Willing, who apparently started the Sunday department of the Philadelphia North American newspaper - which also employed Neill on different occasions. Perhaps that connection helps explain how Neill was selected for one of the 20 artists!

I haven't managed to lay my hands on one of these yet, but I'll keep watching!

(I should mention, after thinking about it, that I'm aware of 2 posters created by Neill for the Oz series, one for Marvelous Land and one for Ozma. I believe these were found in the Baum family scrapbooks, and both have been reprinted in The Oz Scrapbook.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Off to the Brandywine

This week an art transport company stopped by, and picked up a piece of artwork by John R. Neill to take to the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. An exhibition is opening on September 8th called Picturing Poe, and it will feature works by various illustrators for the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. The show will run until November 15. My piece is from the Reilly Britton edition of The Raven and Other Poems, published in 1910.

The Brandywine is always worth a visit, and it's encouraging to see Neill included in a museum show featuring a number of his contemporaries, as well as more recent artists. I'm afraid his talents tend to be overlooked!

Other artists mentioned in the exhibit include Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Aubrey Beardsley and Barry Moser. Further information can be found on the museum exhibitions page (here).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Convention Centerpieces

Late last year I agreed to take on a project for this year's National Convention. This consisted of making a dozen table centerpieces for the Friday night dinner. The idea began when co-chairperson Jane Albright ran across a large styrofoam ear of corn last fall. After she mentioned the idea that it could be a good start for a centerpiece, based on the corncob mansion of the Scarecrow, I was inspired and offered to take on the project.

My inspiration was the color plate by John R. Neill, found in The Emerald City of Oz. I did make some changes in the arrangement of the windows and the top of the house, but otherwise attempted to stay true to Neill's concept.
I had the idea of creating something along the lines of an old fashioned German candy container - a paper mache piece that would open to reveal a surprise inside. Starting with the styrofoam corn, I carved windows and doors then added window frames and shutters. This was then used to create a rubber mold, as I needed to make a dozen finished pieces.

The base, bottom of the corn and topper were also cast in paper. Stairs were created from balsa, and all parts were painted and glittered to add sparkle. I discovered metallic crepe paper online, which made excellent husks, and a couple garlands of artificial flowers were pulled apart, painted and glittered to add more color and interest to the base.

The final touch was to add Oz characters, taken from the Oz Toy Book, reduced in size and glittered. Add a bag of candy to the interior of each one and voila! A centerpiece!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I've finally attended an Oz convention - This past weekend was the National Convention for the International Wizard of Oz Club, held in Holland, Michigan. It was a fun weekend of presentations, food, and entertainment. There were tributes to both Judy Garland and Ray Bolger, as well as an appearance by Margaret Pellegrini - one of only three Munchkins from the MGM film who is still with us. There was the traditional auction, presenting opportunities to add to collections, and a dramatization of Tamawaca Folks, a lesser known work by L.Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum's summer home, The Sign of the Goose, was located nearby on Lake Macatawa. The Baum family spent several summers there, until Baum's bankruptcy forced the sale of the house. Unfortunately the home is long gone, but early conventioneers had a chance to visit the site where the house once stood.

Additional presentations covered a trip through various castles of Oz, Baum's time in Macatawa, and a biography of Matilda Gage - Baum's mother-in-law, and one of the leading lights for women's suffrage. Robert Baum shared anecdotes relating to the various homes where his great-grandfather lived, and there were tributes to both Sky Island (Baum's book for 1912) and Denslow Island (W. W. Denslow's Bermuda retreat).

There was a sing-along, a show & tell, and several vendors had tables offering Oz wares. Craft tables offered convention-goers the opportunity to create their own souvenirs of the weekend - like this decoupage ornament featuring the Hammerheads from The Wizard of Oz! All in all, everyone appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Next year the National Convention is merging with the Winkie Convention - it should be quite a time!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

S2 Atelier Poster

This is an interesting idea - a reconstruction of one of the original posters for the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz. This was done in 1998 by the S2 Atelier, based in New York at that time and now in Las Vegas.

The process consisted of an artist re-drawing the original image on lithographic plates - so the end result is a true lithograph print, as the original poster would have been. This means a much sharper, crisper image than is seen in a digital print.

The poster is an impressive 27 x 43, and quite striking - I have a feeling the chances of my finding an original one are slim, so this makes a nice substitute!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


This is another fun little item with a slight Oz connection - sometimes these things are hard to resist!

This is a creamer from the Uplifters social club. The Uplifters was founded by a group of businessmen in the Los Angeles area. L. Frank Baum was one of the original members and was quite active in the group, writing several plays for the members to perform and contributing a few poems and pieces that were published in Songs of Spring, a compilation of poetry from some of the early club dinners. The Oz Film Manufacturing Company had financial backing from some of the prominent club members. The first Uplifters dinner was held in 1913.

The club name has been engraved or stamped on the side of the creamer. I don't know a specific date for this piece, but the lack of a date code indicates that it's earlier than 1928. That was the year Reed & Barton began to use date codes on their silver-plate. It could easily be from the early 1920's, when the group built a clubhouse in Rustic Canyon. The club continued, with many well known members, until it disbanded in 1947.

This particular creamer may well date from after Baum's involvement with the club as he died in 1919 - but there's always a chance it might be from some of the earlier dinners!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Richardson's Book

Here's an unusual book that doesn't turn up very often - this is a copy of  Book of Drawings by Fred Richardson from 1899. It's a lovely collection of artwork done by Frederick Richardson for the Chicago Daily News newspaper. Richardson was the illustrator for L. Frank Baum's Queen Zixi of Ix, and the original printing of A Kidnapped Santa Claus, as well as many other children's classics.

This seems to be his earliest book - it's a compilation of newspaper drawings  and features a range of artwork from editorial cartoon to lovely fantasy images. Just like W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill, Richardson started as a newspaper artist - it seems to be a common beginning for many of the great illustrators of the period!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Always Looking...

A couple weeks ago was the 22nd annual Twin Cities Book Fair. I've managed to hit every one, as I'm a firm believer in getting out to look for interesting items in person, when the opportunity arises - over the years I've picked up a number of good pieces. This year just helped to confirm that it pays to keep your eyes open at book fairs and antique stores, as well as on the internet - the prize was a Reilly & Britton dust jacket for The Patchwork Girl of Oz, from 1913!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Happy 4th of July!

Once again, it's the time of year for Oz conventions! In California, the Winkie Convention is being held July 27 - 29 in Pacific Grove. This year's theme is Sky Island, celebrating its 100th birthday, as well as the 121st birthday of Ruth Plumly Thompson. More information can be found here, and a Winkie Con tribute page can be seen here.

This year I'll be attending the National Convention being held August 17 - 19 in Holland, Michigan. I've been working on a project for the convention over the past several months, and will actually make it to the event! More info on the National Convention can be found here - celebrating Oz-related islands, castles and homes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Exciting Art!

There was an auction today at Sotheby's in New York, and two of the lots were lovely pieces of original Oz artwork by John R. Neill. Sad to say, I didn't win either piece, but they are quite exciting to see!

Both are drawings used in L. Frank Baum's The Scarecrow of Oz, from 1915. These are the only known surviving pieces from Scarecrow, and until they turned up at auction I believe their existence was unknown. Both are color plate drawings which were watercolored after publication.

One drawing shows Blinkie the witch being carried away by a band of Orks. This is a fun image of the old crone, clearly taken by surprise as she flies over the chimney below. It's been very nicely watercolored, and closely matches the colors used in printing the plate in the book.

The other drawing was used as the book's frontispiece. In this, the Scarecrow is about to be burned at the stake, while a band of Orks is seen in the distance, flying in to save the day! This has also been colored nicely, but with some interesting differences from the printed plate.

The overall background tone seems to be more golden than the pink tone seen in the book. Also, the Scarecrow is a bit different - there are tones of pink and blue in his face, and his hat and boots are both in blue. In fact, he's colored to match Baum's original description of the Scarecrow.

In the book, the hat band and boot tops are red, while the hat itself is yellow. This is the standard coloring used on the Scarecrow since The Patchwork Girl of Oz. An interesting point is the hatband, which Neill shaded heavily with black ink in the drawing - this has been removed by the printer in order to add the brighter red. In fact, the Scarecrow has been brightened up all around!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Baum by any other name...

1906 was a busy year for L. Frank Baum. In addition to his major fantasy work of the year, John Dough and the Cherub, he published ten books written under various pseudonyms for a variety of audiences!

As Laura Bancroft, the six volume series of short Twinkle Tales - I'm showing Prince Mudturtle - which were later compiled into a single volume, Twinkle and Chubbins.

As Schuyler Staunton, Daughters of Destiny - a novel for adults, and the second title written under this name.

As Suzanne Metcalf, Annabel - aimed for the teen market.

As Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald, Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea - later reprinted as part of the Boy Fortune Hunters series, under the new pseudonym Floyd Akers - again, for the teen market.

And, as Edith Van Dyne, Aunt Jane's Nieces. The Aunt Jane books were nearly as popular as the Oz books and became another important series for Baum. The second title, Aunt Jane's Niece's Abroad, has a 1906 copyright but was published in 1907.

Aside from all this excitement, he and his wife also took an extended tour abroad - the first and only time Baum traveled overseas. That's quite a year!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I filled one of the gaps in my collection of books by L. Frank Baum this week, by picking up a copy of the first edition of Annabel, from 1906. I've been keeping an eye out for this title for quite a while, and when this copy popped up on eBay at the don't-blink-now price of $13, I was thrilled to be able to add it to the bookcase!

Annabel was Baum's first pseudonymous novel for young adults, written under the name Suzanne Metcalf. I already had a copy of the 1912 second edition, which was issued with a new cover design, different interior art, and a new spelling of the author's first name (Susanne rather than Suzanne). I blogged about that copy a couple years ago.

One of the fun elements of the first edition is the cover label, which is die-cut in the shape of a bow. An interesting point that I hadn't realized, is that the paper stock used for this label is the same heavily textured paper used five years later on the cover label of The Sea Fairies. Annabel seems to have held up better than many copies I've seen of Sea Fairies, which tend to suffer from heavy rubbing of the cover label.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Under the Ban

It's been a while since I've had a Rand McNally book with a cover by W. W. Denslow to feature. Here's Under the Ban, a South Carolina romance from 1898. I think this is one of Denslow's most streamlined and graphic covers!

This is the third variation of this cover that I'm aware of. It is a later printing of the design - two earlier versions (seen below, courtesy of Cindy Ragni) carry Denslow's hippocampus signature at the bottom of the woman's skirt, and use gold ink on the title, author's name, the woman's hair, and her bow. What appears to be the earliest version also features a blue background at the top of the cover, where the book title appears, and carries the design to the rear cover.

On the copy I'm showing, the seahorse is gone and the author's name is now stamped in white ink, along with the woman's hair and bow. Also, the rear cover is blank. I'm quite surprised by how difficult these titles can be to find, when they clearly went through a number of printings!

As it happens, I've also run across another Denslow cover, this time a paperback. This one is "There Is No Devil", and it features a cover design that could easily double as a poster for the book. This is one of a number of titles published in paperback by Rand McNally that don't seem to exist in hardcover versions with Denslow covers.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Scarecrow Postcard

Here's a souvenir postcard of Fred Stone as the Scarecrow in the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz. This is one of a series of photo cards that were produced for the show. This example was posted in July 1906, which would have been after the end of Fred Stone's run as the Scarecrow (his final performance was May 19), but in the midst of the postcard craze.

Picture postcards seem to have begun being used in the 1870s, but the golden era was from the 1890s until the first World War. The sudden drop in popularity was due to the fact that the majority of picture cards sold in America at this time were printed in Germany. Consequently, the war effectively ended the supply of finely printed cards. The reverse side of this example states that it was printed in Germany.

It was illegal to write on the address side of a postcard before March, 1907. This meant that messages had to be written over the decorative side, which can create some very difficult to read cards!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Wonder City Dragonette

Earlier this month I attended the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. There are always fascinating things to be seen at the Fair, many with amazing prices, and the experience is very enjoyable and a lot of fun.
At any rate, I didn't come away empty handed. This is the half-title page from The Wonder City of Oz, the first Oz book to be written as well as illustrated by John R. Neill. I've been considering this drawing for some time, and have finally added it to my collection.

Neill created a half-title drawing for most of the Oz books he illustrated. Off-hand, I know of four that still exist - Road to Oz, Patchwork Girl, Tik Tok  and Wonder City. In this case, the drawing features the two headed Dragonette, who appears briefly in the story. I think this creature bears a strong resemblance to some of the creations of Dr. Seuss!

One of the reasons this drawing has fascinated me is the wonderful inscription by Neill:
Dear Children - The question is - Were the pictures made for the story, or was the story made for the pictures?
This is signed with his initials and address. As anyone familiar with the publishing history of Wonder City knows, this is actually a pretty legitimate question - the book was heavily edited and rewritten before publication, without Neill's input, and a number of the drawings were adjusted and reworked to fit the new story additions.

This same basic sentiment was used in the Author's Note published in the book, which was headed with a different illustration. I'm not quite certain why Neill would have written the lines on the half title - perhaps he had a moment of inspiration and didn't want to forget it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Montgomery & Stone Sing!

I've just received an original Victor recording of Montgomery & Stone performing "Travel, Travel Little Star", a comic number the duo performed in The Old Town. This show was the first to be presented at the Globe theater, now called the Lunt-Fontanne, on Broadway in 1910, and the recording dates from that time. On the left is an image I found online of the sheet music for this number.

Apparently, Montgomery & Stone only made 3 recordings. These numbers are an opportunity to get a sense of what the performers style was like, and the material could have been as easily lifted from The Wizard of Oz as any of their other shows. All three songs are available on the two-disc set of vintage recordings from The Wizard of Oz, released by Hungry Tiger Press. They can also be found online.

Here's a little video of the record playing- not much to watch, but fun to listen to! It's easy to see the duo as precursors to Abbott and Costello, with the bit of "who's on first" style cross-talk dialogue. The lyric for the song even includes the classic "man with a wooden leg named Smith" bit - in this case, a Sheriff with a wooden leg named Jim!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Neill Newspapers

Here are a couple more early newspaper pages by John R. Neill, published in the Philadelphia North American in 1902.

The first is a simple carousel scene, with ink paints at the bottom of the page. These can be used with a damp brush for coloring the image - less messy than pulling out the paint pots! Another of this style of page can be seen on the Hungry Tiger Press blog here.

This particular page was to be used for a painting contest that the paper was running. There seem to have been contests every week in the comics - another good example is the "What Did the Woggle Bug Say" contest which ran with the Queer Visitors From the Land of Oz comics in 1904 - 1905.

The second page is a variation on this painting idea. For this, you just use a damp brush on the images themselves and the moistened ink colors the page. Some of the blue ink color can be seen on the cat and one of the figures.

This page is also interesting as a very clear example of the ethnic stereotypes that were so common and accepted at the turn of the last century - of course many are still with us, although perhaps not always depicted quite so graphically in the Sunday paper!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spoolicles in Oz

I've really been neglecting my blog this year - but I'm afraid that's bound to happen from time to time!

Here's an endpaper image from The Gnome King of Oz  that I've always liked. As usual with John R. Neill's endpaper drawings, this doesn't illustrate any specific part of the story - it's just a fun image to catch the reader's interest. It's also appropriate for the book as part of the story takes place in the kingdom of Patch, where much sewing and mending takes place.

The idea of spool toys just feels right for Oz, in my opinion. Something easily made from common objects, just like Scraps or Jack Pumpkinhead, and put to a new use. As a kid I would make vehicles with spool wheels, and even a wind up tank that really ran (involving a rubber band, a sliver of soap, a matchstick and a spool). Of course these were still the days of common wooden spools - something of a rarity now!

Personally, I'd prefer spool cars to the Scala- wagons that Neill came up with for Ozian transport in his own stories. But Neill didn't forget the idea of spool toys in Oz - his original cover sketch for The Runaway in Oz  features Scraps pedaling away on her spoolicle, which we are told is her favorite mode of transport. This was the inspiration for the handsome cover design by Eric Shanower, who illustrated and also edited the 1995 publication of this final Oz tale by John R. Neill.