After being transported by a cyclone to the land of Oz, Dorothy and her dog are befriended by a scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion, who accompany her to the Emerald City to look for a wizard who can help Dorothy return home to Kansas. e Scarecrow, Aunt Em where would our national psyche be without The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? L. Frank Baum, who created a story with an indelible, sometimes haunting impression on so many people, led a life that had a fairy-tale quality of its own.
Baum was born in 1856 to a family that had made a fortune in the oil business. Because he had a heart condition, his parents arranged for him to be tutored privately at the familys Syracuse estate, "Roselawn." As an adult, though, Baum flourished and failed at a dizzying variety of ventures, from writing plays to a stint with his familys medicinal oil business (where he produced a potion called "Baums Castorine"), to managing a general store, to editing the Aberdeen Pioneer in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In 1897, following his mother-in-laws advice, Baum wrote down the stories that he told his children.
The firm of Way & Williams published the stories under the title Mother Goose in Prose, with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish, and Baums career as a writer was launched. With the publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, Baum gained instant success. The book, lavishly produced and featuring voluptuous illustrations by William Wallace Denslow, was the bestselling childrens book of the year.
It also set a new standard for childrens literature. As a commentator for the September 8, 1900 New York Times described it, "The crudeness that was characteristic of the oldtime publications... would now be enough to cause the modern child to yell with rage and vigor..." The reviewer praised the books sheer entertainment value (its "bright and joyous atmosphere") and likened it to The Story of the Three Bears for its enduring value. As the film industry emerged in the following years, few books were as manifestly destined for adaptation, and although it took almost four decades for a movie studio to translate Baums vision to film, the 1939 film did for the movies what Baums book had done for childrens literature that is, raised the imaginative and technical bar higher than it had been before.
The loss of parents, the inevitable voyage toward independence, the yearning for home in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum touched upon a childs primal experiences while providing a rousing story of adventure. As his health declined, Baum continued the series with 14 more Oz books (his publisher commissioned more by other authors after his death), but none had quite the effect on the reading public that the first one did. Baum died from complications of a stroke in 1919.
Good To Know Baum founded the National Association of Window Trimmers and published a magazine for the window-trimming trade he also raised exotic chickens. Buam was married to Maud Gage, a daughter of the famous womens rights advocate Matilda Joslyn Gage.