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

Monday, July 18, 2022

Denslow's Red Riding Hood

In December 1902, the comic section of The New York Herald published four adaptations of classic stories, rewritten and illustrated by W. W Denslow. These would be the genesis for the series of Denslow's Picture Books for Children, which were published by Charles Dillingham in 1903 and 1904.

Among these first stories was Little Red Riding Hood, adapted in poetic form and revised to eliminate horrors - in this case, Grandma subdues the wolf and he becomes as tame as a pet dog. This idea of eliminating nightmares from stories for children was common to both Denslow and L. Frank Baum; Baum writes of this concept in the introduction to his modern fairy tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As to how successful they were at achieving their goal is another question! 

At any rate, here is an original piece of the artwork from this story. Red Riding Hood is seated in a high chair as the newly domesticated Wolf begs for a treat. Various traces of preliminary pencil work can be seen, which is always an interesting part of viewing original artwork!

The drawing is cut from a larger sheet, and mounted on a backing piece. I seem to remember hearing that some of Denslow’s newspaper comic drawings suffered water damage many years ago, while in the possession of a book dealer. Consequently, what could be salvaged was cut from the various pages for later sale. At least the artwork was not entirely scrapped!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Publicity, Publicity!

The 1903 production of The Wizard of Oz made stars of Fred Stone and David Montgomery, and their performances certainly deserve credit for a great deal of the success of the show. But there were also performers behind the scenes, working tirelessly to promote the Broadway smash, and keep it steadily in the public eye.

Townsend Walsh (1872 - 1935) was the business manager of the show, and the man responsible for promotion and publicity. He worked closely with Fred Hamlin, the producer, and John Flaherty, manager of the Majestic Theatre. The image above shows Walsh shaking hands with Fred Stone as the Scarecrow; this was used in a souvenir album of the show, indicating the importance of Walsh's work.

Here are two examples of letters sent to help in promoting the show, already a striking success. The first is dated April 8, 1903 and written by Walsh, to the dramatic editor of an unnamed paper. In a very straightforward way, he offers free tickets in exchange for printing a notice concerning The Wizard of Oz. The editor is offered free tickets for the rest of the season, which seems a rather generous offer.

The second is a little later, July 17th 1903, and written by Flaherty. Once again, a free viewing of the show is offered in exchange for printing an article about the production. However, the terms aren't quite so generous - rather than being offered free tickets for the rest of the season, a single performance is offered, with the exclusion of Saturday nights and Souvenir performances.
Clearly the show was doing good business, so seats might as well be saved for ticket buyers!

This second letter is addressed to the editor of the Times in Haverstraw, NY. I think this may be the Rockland County Times, which did publish a blurb on the show two weeks later, on August 1st. Whether this is the article mentioned in the letter, I do not know - but it's a possibility!

The New York Public Library holds an archive of material that belonged to Walsh, including the lovely little Denslow drawing of the Scarecrow shown below. I haven't viewed the archive, but it might be an interesting future project!

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.