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

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Driverless Cars!

Here's an interesting drawing by John R. Neill; this is an unidentified illustration, probably never used. It shows a crowd of winged men, one wearing a crown and another with a bell on his head, watching a man entering what appears to be an early concept for a Scalawagon. Other similar vehicles zoom by in the background.

The Scalawagons were a form of self-driving car, created by Neill for the 1941 Oz book, The Scalawagons of Oz. In the story they are designed by the Wizard of Oz to be used as free transportation - they can fly as well as roll! Neill's illustrations of the cars are eerily similar to the early concepts for Google's driverless cars.

A handwritten caption at the bottom of this drawing reads "Take me to the City Hall." and "Part 3". On the back of the page are several pencil sketches of the same crowned figure, as well as a variation or two of the man running to the car.

 I think this may actually be a drawing intended for an unpublished story by Neill. Over on the John R. Neill Collection website, which features available artwork by the artist, David Maxine shows a drawing titled The Voice of Bong, dated 1939That example features the same crowned leprechaun king, as well as a bell-headed fairy similar to the one seen in this drawing. It's difficult to imagine what exactly the story might have been. Perhaps it ended up being incorporated into Neill's own Oz books?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Story Book

The Wizard of Oz Story Book is one of the publications issued in Great Britain in 1940, at the time of the MGM film premiere in England. Hutchinson, the English publisher, produced a line of books related to the film, most featuring covers adapted from movie stills.

This particular book is an oversize softcover abridgment of the original L. Frank Baum story. It's interesting to note that Baum receives no author's credit on the cover, or for that matter anywhere in the book. On the other hand, W. W. Denslow is prominently mentioned on both the cover and title page! There are a sprinkling of illustrations adapted from Denslow's originals throughout the book. These must have been very tempting for young hands to color!

The dust jacket flaps of the complete version of the book (one variant shown on the left), list the various styles of the story that were available, or upcoming. This story book is #4 at the bottom of the list. Among the assorted adaptations of the book, there were to be a Colouring Book, a Painting Book, and a Picture Book with cut-out characters; creative choices for the marketing of the film!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Marianne and the River Nix

Peter and the Princess was published in 1920 by Reilly and Lee, as an elaborately boxed gift book. The book is a fantasy, by Carl Grabo, telling stories of Peter and the Princess Marianne, who have known each other since before they were born. The stories are charming, along the lines of traditional fairy tales, and the book was clearly an important project for John R. Neill.

This is one of the few books Neill illustrated with a lavish suite of full color illustrations. The other major books with watercolor paintings are Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and The Emerald City of Oz. Full color paintings were done for the dust jacket of The Road to Oz, as well as the covers of Sea Fairies and Tik-Tok of Oz. A cover and two interior paintings were done for Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and he did do full watercolors for the covers of several other books, as well as duotone illustrations for some titles. But full color paintings are generally unusual in his book work, especially by this time period; by 1920, Neill was not illustrating many books other than the annual Oz title, focusing his attention on producing pieces for periodicals.
I've blogged about the book in the past, but today is a little different - this time I'm showing an illustration from the book.  This painting was used as a color plate in Chapter 9, and shows Marianne falling under the enchantment of the River Nix. The Nix has lost his daughter, and when he sees Marianne gazing into the water decides to take her as a replacement, to live with him in the river. She is eventually rescued by Peter, who first has to perform the difficult task of restoring the lost daughter of the Nix.
This is a lovely image, and a great example of the challenges faced by drawings that are now 100 years old. Illustration art can suffer over time - exposure to sun, to damp, rough handling, all can play a part in the survival of original pieces. This painting has had a touch of damp staining, and the board has darkened, possibly through exposure to sunlight or simply from acids in the material. This is why Marianne’s face and other areas seem to have changed their color. If the board were still a light off-white, the image would look rather different. Also, the sky on the left side has been retouched at some point to repair some losses. However, it is still the original art and doesn’t exist in any other form, so it has to be accepted for what it is.

The published version of the painting looks candy colored and bright; this is partly due to printing techniques. The flat, brightly colored inks are not quite the same as the subtler watercolor and gouache used in the original.

The piece seems to have been a family favorite, as it was exhibited along with other examples of Neill's work on several occasions. One example is a 1965 display at the Port Washington Public Library, on Long Island (brochure shown below). Four paintings from Peter and the Princess were included in this exhibition, along with other drawings and sketches by Neill. I would love to know what the condition of this painting was at that time!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Another Tin Man

Today I’m showing a cabinet card photo of the Tin Woodman from The Wizard of Oz. It may not be immediately obvious that that's who it is - the seller simply called it a photo of a sad clown - but it is Nick Chopper in his third act disguise.

By this point in the plot of the 1903 Broadway show, the Scarecrow and Tin Man are on the run from Pastoria, the ruler of Oz. They disguise themselves in white costumes, which would have been quite striking against the purples and lavender tones of the set. The Tin Man is seen in these clothes, possibly belonging to a comic sailor? Chauffeur? In this photo, he appears to be studying some sheet music - perhaps he's brushing up on his song, Must You?
I was uncertain as to the identity of this actor; it doesn’t look like David Montgomery, the original Tin Man, and the photographers imprint of St. Louis seemed to indicate that the photo was taken while touring. So I checked in with David Maxine, to see if he had any theories on the piece. David has been studying the show for many years, and is currently writing a blog, Vintage Broadway, that examines the show from its first inception. After a quick consultation, the opinion was that this is from the later Hurtig & Seamon tour of the show, probably ca.1907, and shows Frank Hayes as the Tin Man.
Hayes is perhaps best remembered for his film work with Keystone Studios, often in films with Mabel Normand and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. He was hired at the studio in 1914 and made dozens of comic shorts, moving into feature films, until his death from pneumonia in 1923.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Thompson at Volland

I’ve blogged about The Perhappsy Chaps in the past, but since that time I’ve acquired a boxed copy of the book. Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote two books which were published by the P. F. Volland Company. This was a publisher who produced a number of decorative children’s books, many in matching boxes. The company was founded in 1908, and continued producing books until 1934. They are probably best known as the publishers of the original Raggedy Ann books, by Johnny Gruelle. On the left is a newspaper advertisement for the series of “Happy Children Books”; the Volland concept for children's stories sounds very similar to L. Frank Baum's ideal - "...books for children must not cause fright, suggest fear, glorify mischief, extenuate malice or condone cruelty."
The Perhappsy Chaps was Thompson's first published book and came out in 1918, the same year as the first Raggedy Ann book. The stories originally appeared on the children’s page of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a weekly newspaper feature written by Thompson. On the right is a blurb that ran in a November 1918 issue of the Ledger, advertising the newly published book version of the poems.

Thompson's second book was The Princess of Cozytown, which wasn't published until 1922. This was a collection of fairy tales by Thompson, some of which had previously been published in St. Nicholas magazine. Apparently the book was already pending publication when she was contracted to continue the Oz series, and had her first Oz book published in 1921.
Both books were designed with matching pictorial boxes, like so many of the Volland publications. The books are colorful and well illustrated, with pictorial endpapers and full color illustrations throughout. The Perhappsy Chaps was illustrated by Arthur Henderson, and The Princess of Cozytown was illustrated by Janet Laura Scott. The overall effect is charming!