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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Once again, the Oz characters celebrate a holiday! Be sure to click the image for a larger view.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Stocking Series

Here is one of Reilly & Britton's special publications - the Christmas Stocking Series, packed in a cardboard Christmas trunk! This is a rather delicate item that doesn't turn up very often - especially with its lid! The books in the trunk are traditional titles such as Fairy Tales from Grimm, Fairy Tales from Anderson, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and The Night Before Christmas. But in this package we also find the much more recent stories of Little Black Sambo and Peter Rabbit - a pair of American piracies of newer English tales.

These six books have a rather tenuous connection to Baum - he contributed a preface with the history of the Christmas Stocking, used in each volume. The series was first published in 1905, and they seem to have been popular little books as they went through several printing states and styles of packaging. They were still being published when Reilly & Britton became Reilly & Lee in 1919.

The cardboard trunk is a whimsical addition, with its various labels for the Jack Frost Transfer Co. and Hollywreath Inn, etc. This particular set is from ca. 1913 when the trunk first appeared. When first printed, the books were available in a special little bookcase. Personally, I prefer the trunk!

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Oz Lamp

Quite some time ago - about 2 1/2 years in fact -  I blogged about the idea of combining a Tiffany Studios' Poppy lamp design with W. W. Denslow's characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I've always found the design of the flowers on the lamp pattern to be very reminiscent of Denslow's illustrations in the book. I've done it at long last, and here's the result.

The idea was to keep the characters on one side of the lamp, so it could be enjoyed as either a Tiffany Poppy, or as an Oz lamp. The idea works pretty well!

Here are the drowsy Lion and Dorothy, as well as the wide awake Scarecrow and Tin Woodman. Dorothy is based on an illustration from the deadly poppy field chapter of the book, while her companions are taken from the endpaper design for the second edition, published in 1903.

The other side of the lamp is the classic Tiffany Studios Poppy design, without any additions. The Poppy lamp was originally designed around 1900 by Clara Driscoll, who supervised the design of quite a few of the floral Tiffany shades. The base was made at our studio, in conjunction with a glass blower and bronze foundry, and is styled after a number of Tiffany glass bases.

This year has been a busy one for Oz-inspired glass - here's a preview of another upcoming project:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blown Away

Blown Away is an odd little book published in 1897, three years before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The interesting thing about it is that the heroines, two young girls named Beatrice and Jessie, are transported by cyclone to a strange land, where they meet a variety of unusual creatures and people. It was written by the well-known English actor Richard Mansfield, who spent a good deal of his later life in America, until his death in Connecticut in 1907; I wonder if L. Frank Baum, being involved in theater much of his life, ever met Mansfield?

The two men were contemporaries, Baum born in 1856 and Mansfield in 1857. Mansfield began his career performing Gilbert & Sullivan roles with the D'oyly Carte Opera Company. He gained renown for his role as the title character(s) in Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and became a highly praised Shakespearean actor.

Unfortunately, the book is not particularly good and, like so many of the period, owes a large debt to the Alice books of Lewis Carroll. If anyone cares to attempt it, the text can be read online here. The cleverest part is the wonderful Art Nouveau binding which, when opened flat, forms a nearly symmetrical image showing both girls being swept up in the wind!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

An Ozzy Thanksgiving story from 1904 - if you click on the image and expand it, you might almost be able to read it!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Utopia Americana

Utopia Americana is the first critical study of the Oz books, published in 1929. It was written by Edward Wagenknecht, a professor at the University of Washington from 1925 to 1943, and published in chapbook form. This was ten years after Baum's death, but the series was still very popular, with Ruth Plumly Thompson working as the Royal Historian of Oz.

Wagenknecht was born in Chicago in 1900, the year Wonderful Wizard was published, and lived a long life, passing away in 2004. This study puts forward the importance of fantasy works, and argues that fairy tales are in fact the highest form of literature. While admitting that Baum's books are not necessarily the best written, they deserve attention as popular literature with a distinctly American flavor. There is so much inventiveness in the stories that they can't be ignored. The study ends with a letter Wagenknecht received from Baum in 1919, two months before the author's death.
Back in the late 70's, I happened to be in Seattle and visited the university bookstore. I was amazed to find a full shelf filled with multiple copies of hardcover, white edition Oz books; at the time, I had been struggling to assemble a set of Rand McNally paperbacks, and the series was not easy to find - certainly not in hardcover! Perhaps the association with Wagenknecht had a far-reaching effect...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Gun-Toting Scarecrow

A while back I posted a recently acquired original publicity photo for the later run of the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, featuring George Stone and Charles Wilkins as the Scarecrow and Tin Man, with the Tin Man using a pistol to hold a stuffed bear at bay.

Apparently, the Tin Man wasn't the only one to threaten stuffed toys. Here's a magazine image showing the Scarecrow staring down the barrel of a rifle at another poor stuffed beast!

This picture was part of a 1911 article by Fred Stone, published in the Hampton Columbian magazine. The story was titled The Scarecrow's Polar Bear Hunt, and details a trip taken by Fred to the Arctic in order to hunt polar bears. Of course Fred didn't actually travel in his Scarecrow character, it was a straight-forward big game hunt. Although the story is written with a humorous edge, the actual hunt sounds rather brutal and repulsive to my taste - the full article can be read here.

The cover of the magazine featured a color photo of Stone in full Scarecrow costume with a shotgun. This is an image that I managed to more or less reconstruct from a very rough example offered in an auction on eBay some time ago.

Incidentally, on the subject of the Scarecrow and guns - don't forget that in the 1939 MGM film, the Scarecrow carries a revolver with him when heading to search for the Wicked Witch of the West!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Charles Livingston Bull

Animal Fairy Tales was a series of stories by L. Frank Baum, published in The Delineator magazine in 1905. In his stories, Baum introduced the concept of animal fairies, guardians of wildlife creatures. These tales were illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull, a prolific American artist who provided illustrations for many books by various authors, including works by Jack London, as well as posters and magazine pieces.

Baum had hoped to have a book version of the tales published, and worked to prepare the material as his health declined. However, this did not happen as he'd hoped. Reilly & Lee did publish one of the stories as a small book in the 1950's - Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies. Finally in 1969 the International Wizard of Oz Club published a book edition of the stories with new illustrations by Dick Martin - this book is available here at the club website. In 1992 Books of Wonder also published the tales, from the original magazine pages with the illustrations of Charles Livingston Bull.

Bull (1874 - 1932) was an excellent choice as illustrator for the series. He worked as a taxidermy apprentice at the age of 16, and went on to become chief taxidermist at the National Museum in Washington, D.C. Eventually he decided to pursue an illustration career, and was quite successful.The artist was well known for his atmospheric and decorative depictions of wildlife, both in monochrome and full color.

I don't know if any of the original art for the Animal Fairy Tales series survives. I've recently picked up a piece of the artist's work, unidentified as far as any publication is concerned. This is a typical example of the artist's monochromatic style.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


In 1904, John R. Neill was tapped to illustrate the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. Apparently he was busy with other projects at the time, and hesitated to accept the job - but fortunately, he had second thoughts. He would continue as official Oz illustrator until his death in 1943.

In 1900 L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow had scored a hit as author and illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but sadly that relationship had soured, due in part to disagreements over profits from the hit Broadway production of the book. In illustrating this second title, Neill deliberately used a simpler, bolder style of drawing to help transition from the well known illustrations of Denslow. His images are far more poster-like than his work in later Oz titles.

This is the original drawing for a color plate in the book, showing the creation of Jack Pumpkinhead by the boy Tip. This piece has suffered obvious damage over the past 100+ years, but it's currently being restored to a more stable state. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence among vintage illustration art!

The Land of Oz was the only Oz title other than the Wizard that I read when I was quite young, and it's always held a special place for me in the series. Part of that was due to the wonderful and plentiful illustrations in the book - they really gave me a sense of what Oz was, and looked like. Consequently, I'm thrilled to have a piece from the book!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Russian Postcards

A while back, I posted a Russian Oz postcard showing Strasheela, the Scarecrow. Since then, I've gradually managed to get what appears to be an entire set of 16 cards, which follow the Russian version of the story of The Wizard of Oz. The set was originally sold in an illustrated folder, which I found through Wonderful Books of Oz - Cindy also currently has several of the individual cards available. Be sure to click on the image for a better view of the cards!
The cards appear to have been issued in two styles - with an overall amber tone, and a lighter, brighter version. According to the Russian seller, the amber variety are from 1956, while the brighter versions are from 1962. In the set I have pictured above, the Emerald City card (#12) is of the brighter variety - it's quite a difference!

*After posting the above, I learned a bit more from David Maxine about this series. It seems more likely that the varying colors of the cards may be due to an aging varnish finish on the cards, rather than different printing choices and dates. Also, the 1956 date doesn't seem likely as these illustrations weren't used until 1959!*

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New York Public Library

I was just in New York for a couple days, and visited an exhibit currently on display at the New York Public Library. It is titled The A B C of It: Why Children's Books Matter, and I enjoyed viewing the variety of material that was being shown from the library's collection. Among other things there were:

3 original illustrations by W. W. Denslow for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As always, original art is fascinating to view, for the chance of seeing the thought and changes that occurred in the drawing process. The central image of the Tin Woodman is particularly nice; in the original book, the drawing was published with text printed over the background ( which was printed in pale blue), and consequently the details of the trees were far less visible.
The original stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh. Poor Eeyore is pretty heavily patched, and rumor has it that Roo fell victim to a dog in the distant past!
P. L. Traver's parrot handled umbrella, and the wooden doll that inspired Mary Poppins. (The Poppins costume was a later addition to the doll!)
Four of John Tenniel's original pencil illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The drawings were reversed when they were engraved onto woodblocks for printing.
It's always great fun to see pieces of this sort, the elements that go into and inspire classic children's books.The show runs through March 23rd, 2014.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blue Bell Inn

At the Blue Bell Inn features another of W. W. Denslow's cover designs for Rand McNally, from 1898.

Denslow created quite a few covers for the publisher this year, and I find them interesting in that they show off a few different general styles - those done more or less in fine line,  those with crests, and those in his bolder poster style. 
What I think of as the bolder poster style can be seen in the examples above. These all have larger blocks of color, and striking imagery.
 Examples of the crest style can be seen above. These all feature coats of arms, or other armorial designs and are, on the whole, a bit less interesting.
The finer drawing style is shown above. These are titles that, at first glance, don't necessarily catch my eye as Denslow designs. I also have not seen any examples of these particular titles bearing the Denslow seahorse.

These are only a few of the Rand McNally covers from 1898, but they are an interesting sampling - Denslow did enjoy variety!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ozma of Oz, 1964

The Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis is well known nationwide, and is particularly known by Oz fans for their lavish 1981 production of The Marvelous Land of Oz. This show was filmed and released on video, and can be seen on YouTube. But in 1964 there was an earlier Oz production by a forerunner to CTC, The Moppet Players: Ozma of Oz.

This show was reviewed by Ruth Berman in a 1964 Baum Bugle, in the Oz Behind the Footlights section. I've always been intrigued as to what this production might have been like, and recently ran across photos on the CTC Alumni Archive blog. This is a blog featuring photos, sound clips and video clips from productions at the theater over the years.

According to Ruth's review, the show was very faithful to the book. From the photos, it appears that the Tin Woodman was left out of the story, and there is no sign of the Hungry Tiger or Cowardly Lion. The photo at the top of the page shows the Queen of Ev and her son, Tik-Tok, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Ozma (in a strange choice of costume - all blue and black, including the poppies in her hair!), and Billina the hen.

Above, Dorothy and Billina are trapped on a rocky hill by the Wheelers. On the left, Ozma confronts Princess Langwi- dere, who has shut Dorothy up in a tower. Below, Princess Langwidere is seen changing heads with the help of her maid, Nanda.

There are more photos on the theater blog. The Children's Theater Company split away from The Moppet Players not long after this time, and the show is clearly simpler than the productions that CTC became known for. But it is fun to see documentation of this play!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The End of an Era

This is a letter, dated September 10th, 1943, to John R. Neill from Reilly & Lee, the publishers of the Oz books. The letter is written by Margery Peterson, secretary to Frank O'Donnell, the president of the company; she states that they have not yet received the new Oz manuscript, and laments the fact that a new Oz book will probably not be published that year.

I find this letter rather poignant for two reasons. First, this means the tradition of a new Oz book every year was coming to an end after a 30 year run. From 1913 through 1942, a new title had been published each year. The next book in the series would not be published until 1946, and several more titles were added sporadically after that.

More importantly, Neill died nine days later, on September 19th, 1943, leaving a void in the Ozzy universe. Starting in 1904, he illustrated 35 Oz books, not counting the Little Wizard series and other L. Frank Baum fantasies. His artwork was an indelible part of Oz, and after working for so many years with Baum and his successor, Ruth Plumly Thompson, he took over authorship of the Oz series. Three books were published with Neill as author and illustrator, and while these titles tend to rank low on the scales of favorite Oz books, the tradition of a new story each year was upheld. This year is the 70th anniversary of his death.

The book in question was The Runaway in Oz, which didn't receive commercial publication until 1995, when it was edited and illustrated by Eric Shanower.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ozzy Advertising

Here are Montgomery and Stone, as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, in an ad that ran in Playbill in 1936. Clearly The Wizard of Oz still held great nostalgic value for audiences of the day, even though it had opened on Broadway over 30 years earlier. In fact, not only was it remembered fondly, it was a reference point being used to help sell advertising in Playbill !

This particular program was for the show The White Horse Inn, a musical comedy/operetta set in Austria. It starred William Gaxton, a popular Broadway star and Kitty Carlisle, who had recently returned from Hollywood after starring in (among other things) the Marx Brother's A Night at the Opera. Among the boys of the chorus was Alfred Drake, who would become another celebrated star!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Original Prices

Lately I've been looking at the original pricing of the Oz books - it's trivial but interesting!

1900: Wonderful Wizard - $1.50
This was an elaborate children's book, with 24 inserted color plates and color used throughout the book. The price was a little higher than the $1.25 average at the time, but it sounds like a bargain to me!
1904 - 1916: Marvelous Land through Rinkitink - $1.25
The earlier titles had 16 color plates or color throughout the book, while titles after 1913 were standardized with 12 color plates. So, while the price stayed the same, there was a definite cutback in printing costs.

1917:  Lost Princess - $1.35
This was a price increase as America entered World War I. This was also the period when sales of the Oz books began to climb, after a few slack years.
1918 - 1919: Tin Woodman and Magic - $1.50
Another increase along with the end of World War I.
1920 - 1924:  Glinda through Grampa - $2.00
This period was a height of Oz popularity, and the books achieved the highest prices charged prior to 1950. The jump to $2.00 in 1920 was a substantial increase, and this price can be seen on the dustjacket spines of other Oz books published that year. In fact, it's an easy way to date a jacketed book to 1920!
1925 - 1930: Lost King through Yellow Knight - $1.60
A considerable price drop from the previous titles, even before the start of the Great Depression in 1929. I have 2 non-Oz titles by Baum from 1930, both of which are priced at $1.00 - John Dough and Sea Fairies. Clearly the less familiar titles were fading as Oz continued.
1931 - 1932: Pirates and Purple Prince - $1.75
A price raise in the midst of the Great Depression - but not for long!
1933 - 1942: Ojo through Lucky Bucky $1.50
This is the longest period with one price, and the lowest price for the books since 1919!  Color plates were dropped after Wishing Horse in 1935, which would have affected printing costs.
1946: Magical Mimics - $1.75
1949: Shaggy Man - $2.00
1951: Hidden Valley - $2.50
1963: Merry Go Round - $3.95 - all older titles were priced @ $3.50
As the series continued, prices increased regularly. Still, over a 63 year span, prices stayed relatively level!