L. Frank Baum

From Academic Kids

Lyman Frank Baum (May 15, 1856May 6, 1919) was an American author and the creator of one of the most beloved classics of children's literature, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

L. Frank Baum
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L. Frank Baum
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Baum's childhood and early life

Frank was born in Chittenango, New York, the seventh of nine children born to Cynthia Stanton and Benjamin Ward Baum, only five of whom survived into adulthood. He was named "Lyman" after his father's brother, but always disliked this name, and preferred to go by "Frank". Benjamin Baum was a wealthy businessman, who had made his fortune in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. Frank grew up on his parent's expansive estate, Rose Lawn, which he always remembered fondly as a sort of paradise. As a young child Frank was tutored at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12 he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy. Frank was a sickly child given to daydreaming, and his parents may have thought he needed toughening up. But after two utterly miserable years at the Military Academy, following an incident described as a heart attack, he was allowed to return home.

Frank started writing at an early age, perhaps due to an early fascination with printing. His father bought him a cheap printing press, and together with his younger brother, Harry Clay Baum (who had always been close to Frank), produced The Rose Lawn Home Journal. The brothers published several issues of the journal, and were even able to sell ads in the paper. By the time he was 17 Baum had established a second amateur journal, The Stamp Collector, printed an 11 page pamphlet Baum's Complete Stamp Dealers' Directory, and started a stamp dealership with his friends.

At about the same time Frank entered his lifetime infatuation with theater and the performing arts, a devotion which would time after time led him to failure and near-bankruptcy. His first such failure occurred at age 18, when a local theatrical company duped him into replenishing their stock of costumes, with the promise of leading roles that never came his way. Disillusioned, Baum left the theatretemporarilyand went to work as a clerk in his brother-in-law's dry goods company in Syracuse.

At the age of 20, Baum took on a new vocation: the breeding of fancy poultry, which was a national craze at the time. He specialized in raising a particular breed of poultry, the Hamburg chicken. In 1880 he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record, and in 1886, when Baum was 30 years old, his first book was published: The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Baum could never stay away from the stage long. He continued to take roles in plays, under the stage name of Louis F. Baum. In 1880 his father made him manager of a string of theaters that he owned, and Baum set about writing plays and gathering a company to act in them. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama based on a popular novel, proved a great success. Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it, and acted in the leading role.

He married Maud Gage, daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, the famous women's suffrage activist.

The South Dakota years

Frank and Maud later moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he opened a store, "Baum's Bazaar". His habit of giving out wares on credit led to the eventual bankrupting of the store, so Baum turned to editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where he wrote a famous column, "Our Landlady". Baum's description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota.

Baum becomes an author

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Baum_poster_1b.jpg
Promotional Poster for Baum's "Popular Books For Children", 1901.

Later, Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and thirteen other novels based on the places and people of the Land of Oz. Several times during the development of the series, he declared that he had written his last Oz book and devoted himself to other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands, including The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, The Adventures of Father Goose, and Queen Zixi of Ix. However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, and the failure of his new books, he returned to the series each time. All of his novels have fallen into public domain in most jurisdictions, and many are available through Project Gutenberg. His final book, Glinda of Oz was published after his death in 1919 but the Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books. Baum was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.

Baum made use of several pseudonyms for some of his other, non-Oz books. They include:

  • Edith Van Dyne (the Aunt Jane's Nieces series)
  • Laura Bancroft (Twinkle and Chubbins, Policeman Bluejay)
  • Floyd Akers (the Sam Steele series)
  • Suzanne Metcalf (Annabel)
  • Schuyler Staunton (Daughters of Destiny)
  • John Estes Cooke
  • Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald

Miscellaneous anecdotes

  • According to one urban legend about Baum, when the wardrobe department of MGM began to buy costumes for the movie version of The Wizard of Oz (1939 movie), they purchased second hand clothes from rummage sales around Hollywood. Actor Frank Morgan who played the Wizard, was given one such second-hand overcoat to wear, and he happened to notice that the lining of the coat had a label saying, "Property of L. Frank Baum". In early publicity for the movie, MGM emphasized that this was a true story. Soon after the movie was released, the coat was taken to Baum's wife, who confirmed that it had been his.[1] (http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/ozcoat.htm)
  • The name Oz for the travellers destination was alleged to have been inspired by the labels on the author's filing cabinet: A-N, O-Z (transmitted on BBC Radio 4 around 2003).

Baum's politics

During the events leading up to the Wounded Knee Massacre, Baum wrote a racist editorial for the Saturday Pioneer stating that the Native Americans (whom he de-humanised as "whining curs") should be completely annihilated. After the Massacre (during which, according to official figures, 153 Indians out of a village of 350including 230 women and childrenwere directly killed, with an unknown number of others later dying as a result of their forced displacement) he wrote a second editorial repeating his earlier opinion and criticizing the government for not taking even harsher measures: "wipe these... untamable creatures from the face of the earth". It should be noted that these editorials are the only known occasion on which Baum expressed such views, and that he wrote them when his own fortunes were declining. Some of Baum's work as a children's author, including two of his Oz books, have been criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes about African Americans.

A common misconception is that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written as a parable on populism in the sense of Bimetallism. Nothing in Baum's biography or style supports this notion, though there are some suggestive parallels between the book and certain historic figures.

Select bibliography of non-Oz books

External links

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The books | The authors (Baum | Thompson | McGraw | Volkov) | The illustrators (Denslow | Neill)
The film adaptations (The Wizard of Oz | The Wiz | Return to Oz)
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de:L. Frank Baum eo:L. Frank BAUM he:ליימן פרנק באום pl:L. Frank Baum ru:Баум, Лаймен Фрэнк sv:L. Frank Baum

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