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

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.