Authors: L. Frank Baum

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Mother Goose in Prose, 1897

Father Goose, His Book, 1899

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900

Dot and Tot in Merryland, 1901

The Marvelous Land of Oz, 1904

Ozma of Oz, 1907

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, 1908

The Road to Oz, 1909

The Emerald City of Oz, 1910

The Patchwork Girl of Oz, 1913

The Scarecrow of Oz, 1915

Glinda of Oz, 1920

Drama:

The Maid of Arran, pr. 1881 (as Louis F. Baum; adaptation of William Black’s novel A Princess of Thule)

The Wizard of Oz, pr. 1902 (adaptation of his novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

The Woggle-Bug, pr., pb. 1905 (adaptation of his novel The Marvelous Land of Oz)

The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, pr. 1908 (film and slide show)

The Tik-Tok Man, pr. 1913

Nonfiction:

The Book of the Hamburgs, 1886

The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors, 1900

Biography

Lyman Frank Baum (bahm or bawm) is best known as the creator of the marvelous land of Oz, a utopian fantasy realm chronicled in a series of children’s books beginning with the publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. Baum’s Oz series comprises the first fully developed fantasy world created by an American author. In turn, Baum’s works construct a uniquely American version of the standard fairy tale.{$I[A]Baum, L. Frank}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Baum, L. Frank}{$I[tim]1856;Baum, L. Frank}

Baum was the seventh of nine children born to German immigrants Benjamin and Cynthia Baum. Baum’s father was a Methodist circuit rider, and the family immigrated to the United States to avoid religious persecution. His father was also a cooper and, eventually, found fortune in the oil skimming business. From his father’s wealth Baum gained the freedom to pursue all of his interests, from Hamburg chickens to philately, writing, and theater.

Baum, who suffered from heart trouble his entire life, was schooled at home except for a brief stint in a military boarding school. For his fourteenth birthday, his parents bought him a small, foot-powered printing press. Within a year, in May, 1871, Frank and his brother Harry had begun publishing a neighborhood newspaper, The Rose Lawn Home Journal. In 1872 Frank began publishing The Stamp Collector, and a year later he and Thomas G. Alford began publishing The Empire.

Baum always had two vocational loves: writing and theater. When he wrote his first play, The Maid of Arran, a melodrama based on A Princess of Thule (1877) by Scottish novelist William Black, his father financed the production of the play. Baum’s father tried to indulge his son’s love of the theater by purchasing a small chain of theaters; the elder Baum hoped his son would make a career of managing them. Instead, the younger Baum turned the management of the chain over to a bookkeeper, who quickly mismanaged the theaters into bankruptcy.

The business failures and his father’s death in 1887 pushed Baum and his wife, Maud, to head west to the Dakota Territory. Baum continued to foster his loves of writing and acting. He opened a store, Baum’s Bazaar, the front porch of which served as a stage where he would tell elaborate stories to his children and other children from the neighborhood. When the store failed, Baum took over the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, in which he wrote editorials ranging from vehement support for women’s suffrage to advocating the “extermination of the [Sioux] Indians.” The paper was bankrupt by 1891, so he and his family headed back to Chicago.

While finding enough work to keep his family afloat, Baum continued to tell stories to children. Finally, his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, convinced him to submit some of his prose versions of nursery rhymes to a publisher. Way and Williams teamed Baum with illustrators Maxfield Parrish and William Warren Denslow. Together they produced Mother Goose in Prose and Father Goose, His Book. The financial success of these works led Baum to begin the collaborations with Denslow that would result in Oz.

Denslow and Baum’s collaboration on Father Goose, His Book marked one of the first commercially successful uses of color illustrations in American publishing. They chose to continue that theme in their next work, in which the color of the plates would refer to geographic regions within their fantastic realm; for instance, the color blue was used to color illustrations of Munchkin Country. Publishers balked at the cost of this plan, but the pair persevered. George M. Hill eventually took a chance and published the book in the fall of 1900. The working title, “The Emerald City,” was changed because of the publisher’s superstition about books with jewels in the title. As a result, the book was published under the title The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

In the introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum wrote: “The time has come for a series of wonder tales in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale.” With Oz, Baum created a utopia that, for the first time, urged American children to see the wonders of the world around them. Also for the first time, a fairyland was constructed from American ideals and materials. Dorothy and her friends began their journey toward becoming an integral part of the American consciousness in 1900.

Baum would publish fourteen Oz books before his death in 1919. Baum’s wife turned the series over to Ruth Plumly Thompson, who produced another eighteen volumes of the history of the land of Oz. Baum wrote many other books, including the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series targeted at teenage girls (under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne). Although many other of Baum’s works were as financially successful as the Oz works, none would have the same lasting impact on the American psyche.

After Baum’s death, radio and stage adaptations of the play, along with Plumly Thompson’s new volumes, kept Oz alive. In 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released its film adaptation The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. Television’s annual showings of the film have made it an American classic, and it was named a national treasure under the National Film Preservation Act of 1988. The centennial of the first Oz book was celebrated in 2000, and the popularity and importance of the wonderland created by the stories of L. Frank Baum are showing no sign of fading with age.

BibliographyBaum, Frank Joslyn, and Russell P. MacFall. To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum, Royal Historian of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1961. Cowritten by Baum’s son, this work provides a unique insight into the private histories of Baum and Oz. Perpetuates some of the more mythic aspects of the Baum legend.Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This edition of Baum’s most significant work is prefaced with a history of the author as well as cultural and literary analysis of Baum and Oz.Carpenter, Angelica Shirley, and Jean Shirley. L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications, 1991. A detailed history of Baum’s life and works and their continuing impact.Gardner, Martin, and Russell B. Nye. The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1957. Gardner and Nye provide a scholarly and literary study of the history and legacy of Baum and his writing.Harmetz, Alijean. The Making of “The Wizard of Oz.” New York: Knopf, 1977. Harmetz explores the making of the film The Wizard of Oz and how the film turned Oz into an American pop-culture icon.Rahn, Suzanne. “The Wizard of Oz”: Shaping an Imaginary World. Boston: Twayne, 1998. Rahn examines the development and appeal of Baum’s literary creations.Rogers, Katherine M. L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. A good companion to the Oz series that demonstrates how Baum animated his progressive ideals in the persons of Dorothy and company.
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