L. Frank Baum
Royal Historian of Oz

Lyman Frank Baum is born on 15 May in Chittennango, NY (near Syracuse). His father is a barrel maker, who subsequently goes into the oil business and becomes wealthy.

As a young boy and then teenager he starts up several newspapers and a magazine. In his late teens he becomes interested in the theater, and his father gives him a number of theaters and operas in New York and Pennsylvania to manage.

Writes and publishes a successful musical play, "The Maid of Arran".

Marries Maud Gage. Her mother is a leading figure in the Women's Rights Movement of the time, and a close associate of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Baum's father dies and the family fortunes wane. A number of Maud's family have moved to the Dakota Territory, so Frank, Maud, and children join them in Aberdeen (South Dakota). For several years he operates a store, "Baum's Bazaar." It falls victim to hard times in 1890, so he turns to running the local weekly newspaper, "The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer."

When the newspaper fails, Frank and family move to Chicago where he takes a job as a reporter for the "Evening Post." To make ends meet he also works as a traveling salesman for a china company. He develops characters and situation outlines while on these trips to help him with story telling to his children when back at home.

Teamed with illustrator Maxfield Parrish, he publishes his first childrens book, "Mother Goose in Prose". It becomes a modest success and allows him to end his traveling job, which has been difficult for his health.

Teamed with illustrator William Wallace Denslow, he publishes "Father Goose, His Book." It is an instant success becoming the best selling childrens book of the year.

The Baum-Denslow team produce another best seller, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Having produced the nation's best selling childrens book for two years running, Baum's reputation as a writer is firmly established.

Baum and Denslow team up with Paul Tietjens and Julien Mitchell to produce an "adultized" version of the Wizard of Oz as a musical extravaganza stage play. It becomes a major hit, touring the nation, and having a 293 night run on Broadway (1902 through 1911).

Baum continues to write childrens books under his own and various pen names. Begins the Oz series with the first sequel in 1904, "The Marvelous Land of Oz."

Baum produces a traveling film show, a combination of theater and motion picture, titled "Fairylogue and Radio-Plays". It is very expensive to produce and stage, and being for children it is not profitable, so it closes by the end of the year. (The film is subsequently released in 1910 by Selig as four short movies.

Frank Baum and his family move to Hollywood, California. (His home there becomes known as "Ozcot".) He continues to write and publish childrens books.

With several business associates, Baum forms the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Their studio is located next to the Universal Film Company. They make a number of films based on the Oz books, but the movie audiences judge them to be for children and the films are not successful. At this early stage of the motion picture industry a children's market has not yet developed. In effect, Baum was before his time! So the Oz Film Manufacturing Company was sold to Universal.

In failing health, Baum continues to write more childrens books, include one Oz story each year.

L. Frank Baum dies on 5 May, leaving America bereft of its most beloved storyteller of the time. His last book, "Glinda of Oz," is posthumously published in 1920.


Baum, Frank J. and Russell P. McFall. To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz. Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1961.
Carpenter, Angelica Shirley and Jean Shirley. L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1992.
Hearn, Michael Patrick. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1973.
various. Baum Bugle. International Wizard of Oz Club, various articles in various issues.
See also for biographical films on L. Frank Baum.

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