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

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!

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