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

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Christmas in July

Reilly & Britton published The Christmas Stocking Series in 1905, and it proved to be a popular item. The series of six small books continued in print into the 1920s, utilizing several different packaging formats. I recently picked up one of the early variations.

This particular version  pairs two of the books together in a titled box. The books were published with red, burgundy, green, or blue cloth spines and back covers - these copies have the blue cloth. 

The series is of interest to Oz fans because of the introduction, written by L. Frank Baum and used in each small book. This short essay tells the origin of the Christmas stocking, and was written specifically for this series. It was well promoted in publicity for the books, and provided a good selling point.

Another later variation, ca. 1913, was the steamer trunk box; I've shown this before but here it is again for comparison. All six titles were housed in a fanciful cardboard trunk, covered in whimsical travel labels. The bindings of the books had changed by this time, to red boards with a green holly design. This packaging remained in use into the 1920s.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Not Just Kid's Stuff!

An interesting auction ended today; two original drawings by W. W. Denslow, used as color plates in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, were sold by Bradford's Auction Gallery, located in Sun City, Arizona.

Artwork from Wonderful Wizard is rarely sold, and the full page drawings used as color plates are more or less unheard of; but in the course of a little over a year, three have now turned up!

One example is in private hands, and was identified on Brady Schwind's Lost Art of Oz blog - https://www.lostartofoz.com/lost-art-of-oz-blog/lost-art-found 

The two that sold today were in the estate of a collector in Arizona; it's fascinating to see where unknown art pops up, and I can't help wondering where the drawings were prior to being in that collection. I'm afraid they didn't come this way - while I did put in a bid, I had no expectations of winning the auction!

A number of drawings from the first Oz book are in the collection of the New York Public Library, but there are still many that are unaccounted for, and could possibly be in unknown locations. But be prepared - if you hope to buy an example of Denslow's work from Wonderful Wizard, you'll need deep pockets; the final bids on todays pieces do not include the 25% buyer's premium that gets added to the total! 

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

3 by Denslow

It’s been quite a while since I’ve shown a Rand McNally title with cover art by W. W. Denslow, and here I have three! 
 
The first is Hernani the Jew, written by A. N. Homer and published in 1897. This is a classic example of Denslow’s “shield” style of cover design, using some basic elements found in a number of his other covers.
The story concerns the marital misunderstandings of Hernani, a wealthy banker, and his wife. The setting is Poland, with the backdrop of the unsuccessful January Uprising of 1863. The red and white eagle, emblem of Poland, is the main feature of the cover, together with a pair of torches and a sword and crown on the spine. On the rear cover, we see a profile of Sara, the wife of Hernani. The story is one of loss, both of country and wealth, while Poland was under the control of Russia. It ends on a happier note, but is rather depressing overall.

The next is My Invisible Partner, by Thomas S. Denison and published in 1898. This is a sparser style of design, with elements scattered across the front and rear covers, and featuring some very Ozzy looking poppies!

This is billed as a story of the supernatural, and primarily takes place in New Mexico, with detours to Michigan. It’s a tale of mining life, romance and murder, with a main character who is subjected to several out-of-body experiences, and a mystery solved by the discovery of an unknown twin. 

Finally we have A Daughter of Cuba, by Helen M. Bowen, published in 1898. This title combines a shield design with a landscape, including a poison ring on the rear cover.

Events take place during the Cuban revolution of 1897, leading up to the entrance of America into the Spanish American war. The daughter of a wealthy planter is committed to the Cuban cause, and inspires others to join her campaign. Bandits, a lost heir, an American journalist and of course that poison ring all play parts in the story.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Macaronis


 Life Among the Macaronis was a series of comical drawings created by John R. Neill, and published in The Sunday Magazine, a syndicated Sunday newspaper supplement used by a variety of papers around the country. The magazine was in circulation from 1904 through 1916, using a small title change depending on what city and paper it supplemented. Neill seems to have contributed around the period of 1904 - 1906.

This example was the rear cover of the May 15th, 1904 issue, not long before the publication of Neill's first Oz work in The Marvelous Land of Oz. The series of limericks were written by Neill, to accompany his humorous drawings. Postcards of the characters were also produced; here are three examples, distributed by the Boston Sunday Post, showing cropped versions of the characters seen above:

The individual cards have been titled “Off for the links”, “A terrific drive”, and “A disaster on the links”. The extra space at the right of each card was for jotting a short message - the back of early postcards was reserved for an address, no additional writing.

Neill seems to have been fond of his Macaronis; he used the same elongated figures over a number of years, as seen in a 1901 single panel Christmas cartoon.

 
They also bear a strong resemblance to the Soldier with the Green Whiskers in 1904's The Marvelous Land of Oz, and the Hilanders in John Dough and the Cherub, from 1906 -
 Here's an undated original drawing by Neill, of a musical Macaroni puffing on a horn and surrounded by other whimsical wind instruments. This piece is inscribed "To my old friend M. L. Stein", over the artist's signature.

A Macaroni was a late 18th century fop or dandy, an overly elegant figure extravagant in clothing and manner. This helps explain the traditional lyric from Yankee Doodle Dandy - "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni"!



Monday, April 25, 2022

The Girl from Up There

 
In 1903 the vaudeville team of Montgomery & Stone achieved Broadway stardom in The Wizard of Oz. But it wasn’t their first time on Broadway; in 1901, they were featured in The Girl from Up There, starring Edna May, book and lyrics by Hugh Morton and music by Gustave Kerker; one of the many musical comedies to grace Broadway during that time. 
 

The story begins in Polaria, near the North Pole, where a young lady has been frozen in ice for 500 years. She is freed by an explorer with an "electric knife", but in order to stay alive she must drink from the golden cup of Odin within 90 days. The cup was last known to be in the possession of pirates. David Montgomery & Fred Stone made a hit as the pirates (Solomon Scarlet and Christopher Grunt) who befriend the heroine.

 

Prior to that time, the pair had built a solid reputation as blackface comedians in vaudeville. When Charles Frohman hired them for the new show, he insisted they should put blackface behind them, and perform in “straight makeup”. This proved to be a success, and after the run of The Girl From Up There, the duo switched to their new routine. They took the successful new act to London, prior to returning to the USA and stardom in The Wizard of Oz.

Edna May gained recognition in The Belle of New York, which ran moderately on Broadway before having a surprisingly successful run in London. While American critics were very much split concerning the talents of Miss May, she conquered London and was declared a star. She was then presented by Charles Frohman as star of his new show, originally announced as The Golden Cup. Perhaps he had some misgivings about her abilities, as he collected a very strong supporting cast to back up his new diva. As star, she collected the princely sum of $500 a week, a far cry from her $15 chorus days. In spite of this, the American critics weren't convinced by Edna in her new role, and a transfer of the show to London was not particularly successful; much was made of Edna appearing on stage in boys clothing for the first time, but even that novelty failed to save the show. However, Edna continued as a favorite of the British stage - as well as a popular subject for postcards! She married a millionaire in 1907 and retired from the theater. When her husband died in 1917, she inherited five million dollars.
There are a number of minor L. Frank Baum/Oz connections with this show, aside from the presence of Montgomery & Stone. The drawings in this post are taken from the souvenir album of the production, which was published by R. H. Russell - publishers of Baum’s A New Wonderland. The drawings are by Archie Gunn, who would go on to design costumes for Baum’s show The Wogglebug. Julian Mitchell directed the piece, and the costumes of the show were designed by Caroline Siedle, both of whom performed the same jobs for The Wizard of Oz

See the comments for a closer connection between Edna May and L. Frank Baum!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Here We Go Again!

Over on LiveAuctioneers, our favorite forgers (Rhyton Galleries) have listed a new crop of fake John R. Neill drawings. But there has finally been a change! These pieces are listed as “John R. Neill (manner of)”, or “John R. Neill (in the style of)”. This is certainly a step in the right direction; past listings included the “manner of” information in the body of the description, but it was not stated outright in the listing title. 

While I’d prefer the pieces not be listed at all, as they are blatant forgery attempts complete with signatures, at least they are now a little less misleading. There also seems to be a new player in the field - Zipriani Galleries, based in Lima, Peru(!). I can only assume this is another outpost of whoever is behind Rhyton, as the drawing offered appears to be done by the same hand on similar paper, and the other offerings from the gallery are dubious at best.

I first became aware of these drawings in 2020. I purchased the first piece I saw offered, in spite of knowing it to be false, as I thought it would be an interesting curiosity. Overall, there have now been 11 examples listed by the gallery. The various drawings can be seen below, starting with the current offerings.

The drawing of the smoking man was previously offered but didn’t sell. Unfortunately, that one is still listed simply as “John R. Neill”. The others are new pieces; the Scarecrow drawing is taken from The Scarecrow of Oz, but the original drawing included other characters and was created for the cover of The Oz Toy Book. The drawing of women with pistols was offered by the Neill family several years ago, and the original of the third piece was used in The Bride, Her Wedding Book. This last piece is the one being offered out of Peru. As usual, these have all been given false signatures.

Here we have a drawing from Scarecrow of Oz, a magazine illustration for The Man Who Murdered a Fairy, and an unpublished piece. These drawings show more ambition on the part of the forger - they are considerably more elaborate than the earlier copies of drawings from Wonder City of Oz.

These were the first pieces to pop up - three drawings from Wonder City of Oz, and one from Tik-Tok of Oz. I’ve blogged several times in the past about this problem, as the drawings are good enough to fool an unsuspecting buyer - and they have! I’ll continue to keep an ongoing log of the pieces that turn up.

Be sure to exercise caution if you are considering purchasing a drawing by John R. Neill and have no knowledge of its background!


Friday, March 25, 2022

Figures from Oz

Back in October of 2020, I showed the start of a new project; toy figures of characters from the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz. Over the past year and a half, I’ve continued to work with this idea, and now have 14 examples - 11 main characters and 3 chorus girl Poppies. It’s been a fun and entertaining way to pass the time during a pandemic!

 
The figures are built from paper mache, dowels, and various scraps of wood and heavy cardboard. They're based on photos and costume designs from the show, although they aren't really portraits of the performers. The actors were lavishly dressed, and creating miniature versions has been challenging; some are more successful than others, but it's been quite a learning experience!

I started with the familiar characters of Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion and Dorothy - then adding her cow Imogene, and the Poppies. After that I decided to continue on with the less familiar characters: Locasta (the good witch of the north), the Wizard, Cynthia Cynch (the lady lunatic), Sir Dashemoff Daily ( the poet laureate), Tryxie Tryfle (engaged to Pastoria), and Pastoria (the true ruler of Oz).

The characters are in stationary poses, but they do move. Each one has a mechanism built in to help them wobble, sway or nod, adding some motion to the mix!

Edit: After posting this, I finished one more character - the Snow Queen, summoned by Locasta to save Dorothy from the Poppies -