By John Fricke

Above: More than sixty years ago, Ozian artist and archivist Dick Martin recreated W. W. Denslow’s original pictorial conceptions of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in this holiday illustration for THE BAUM BUGLE, periodical of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. ( It appeared as the cover of the Christmas 1959 issue; the Club was then only two years old, and Dick’s artwork (whether original or adapted) quickly became a brightening feature of many editions of the journal. Only someone with his coalescence of gifts, amazing collection, and knowledge of L. Frank Baum’s output could have so-correctly and fascinatingly drawn the spine lettering of the first or early editions of all of those books — each and every one of them written by Chittenango’s own L. Frank Baum.


As they sing in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 film of THE WIZARD OF OZ: “Ha Ha Ha! Ho Ho Ho! And a couple of Tra-la-lahs!” We’re actually trimming down the phrase – just for the moment – to concentrate on the “Ho Ho Ho!” aspect of E. Y. (Yip) Harburg’s lyric; it’s a ho-ho-hopeful and happy means of celebrating the holidays here with you. Oz and December have been associated in a number of ways over the years: a new Oz book was a highly anticipated annual gift for several decades, and from 1959-1962 (and, again, later on), a nationwide telecast of MGM’s musical motion picture was a sure and gleeful bet that it was The Most Ozziest Time of the Year! (Okay, that’s not the way the song goes, and the new phrase isn’t even grammatically correct. But remember: This is Oz – and if it’s not fun, we’re doing it wrong. 😊 )

THE BAUM BUGLE cover art shown above harks back to the early days of The International Wizard of Oz Club. In that era, the three magazines per year were categorized by the publication dates April, August, and Christmas. (After a decade or so, the more general — and generally realized — nomenclature became Spring, Autumn, and Winter.) The first issues of Justin G. Schiller’s fanzine, published in 1957 and 1958 when he was in his early teens, were primarily amateurly-typed mimeographed pages. When commercial artist Dick Martin began to draw and design cover art for the BUGLE in 1959, the publication took on a more Ozzy sheen. Then, in summer 1961 as Justin prepared to head off to college, Dick and Fred Meyer took over most editorial and design duties for the magazine; this was in many ways a natural extension of Dick’s professional work at that time.  A rabid collector and historian, he was ever more immersed in Oz illustrative endeavors and research, and often specifically employed by Oz book publishers, Reilly & Lee. As can be seen above (and below), the Oz Club was beyond fortunate to have him, too! [Note: In case there are any bibliographers or fledgling Baumians in the crowd, the books being holiday-hoisted in the picture “up top” include – working south — THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ (1904), THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1902), TIK-TOK OF OZ (1914), THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO (1903), SKY ISLAND (1912), A NEW WONDERLAND (1900), PHOEBE DARING (1912), THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900), DOT AND TOT OF MERRYLAND (1901), OZMA OF OZ (1907), BABES IN BIRDLAND (1917), AMERICAN FAIRY TALES (1901), GLINDA OF OZ (1920), and LITTLE WIZARD STORIES OF OZ (1914).]



For the Christmas 1964 BUGLE, Dick compiled a wrap-around cover (just above), using several of the Walt McDougall drawings from the December 18, 1904, installment of QUEER VISITORS FROM THE LAND OF OZ. This was a twenty-seven week, full-page, “Sunday funnies” newspaper series of Baum short stories, in which he recounted the adventures of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Woggle-Bug, Sawhorse, and Jack Pumpkinhead, as they and the flying Gump visited the United States. Not at all coincidentally, those six characters were among the principal protagonists of Baum’s second Oz title, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, which had come off the press that autumn. The weekly comic feature was of immense help in heralding the book.

Along their Ozzy way, the voyagers naturally visited Dorothy on the Gale farm in Kansas (near Topeka). They also made a holiday side-excursion to the Laughing Valley to see Santa Claus, taking along scores of tiny toy images of themselves for him to distribute to boys and girls on his Christmas Eve travels. Dick’s selections from McDougall’s illustrations bedecked that BUGLE’s frontage, depicting the visitors from Oz as they created each “mini-me”; carried their armloads of gifts to Santa; and arrived “just in time” to catch him in a moment of leisure before he began his annual trek.

No need to squint! For easier reading, the content of the poem shown above is reprinted below. 😊  It’s one of several written especially for THE BAUM BUGLE by Ruth Plumly Thompson, Baum’s successor as “Royal Historian of Oz.” Ms. Thompson’s contributions to the Oz series are extraordinary; she wrote a book a year from 1921 through 1939, plus two additional titles published by the Oz Club itself in the 1970s. “RPT” was an indefatigable champion of children, their reading, and their love of Oz. As a result, she was an early member of the Oz Club and occasionally contributed new verse or nonfiction articles to its publication. This was the second of her December holiday-related submissions, and in addition to the reprint here, it’s also shown above as it appeared in the Christmas 1961 BUGLE – simply so as to share another Dick Martin original drawing!


from Ruth Plumly Thompson

At Christmas time, I’d love to be

The Wiz of Oz, instead of me.

His Christmas shopping is no chore.

No hurrying from store to store.

He fills his pipe with magic snuff,

Wishing powder – plus other stuff?

Then he lights her up and take a puff –

Not long, not short, but short enough.

And when the piney smoke subsides,

Boxes and boxes with gifts inside

Come tumbling down, a monster pile,

All tied & tagged in grandest style

Presents for everyone – think of that!

From Ozma down to her proud glass cat.

I do know a magic word or two,

More magic still when I say them to YOU:

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to you all!

Finally, to tie it all together, here’s one more illustration. As represented in the sketch at the top of the blog, Frank Baum wrote a full-length book about [THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF] SANTA CLAUS. It’s one of his most charming and incandescent fantasies, and his ever-active mind managed to create an entirely original back-story for the merry old soul. It can’t be done justice in a summary, but the saga begins when Claus is a wee babe and traces his progress through the invention of toys, the establishment of the Christmas tree, and his magical, once-a-year-day waft around the world. Naturally, Baum then had a certain claim on the spry old legend and, seven years later, included him as The MOST Special Guest at Princess Ozma’s birthday party in THE ROAD TO OZ (1909). That celebration was pictured in detail by the Imperial Illustrator of Oz, John R. Neill, who provided art for more official Oz books than one else. THE ROAD TO OZ, however, was the only book of the first twenty-eight in the series that didn’t include some color textual illustrations. Compensation would arrive in 1939, however, when Rand McNally published a much-abridged version of the story to coincide with the launch of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ film. One of their staff artists colored a number of Neill’s black-and-white THE ROAD TO OZ drawings, and above you’ll see Santa – that jolly old soul – as he leads a toast to Ozma for her natal day. (Dedicated Ozophiles may wish to closely examine the attendant coterie and try to spot the Shaggy Man, the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, John Dough the Gingerbread Man, the Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead among those at the table.)

At this time, a toast from Santa seems as fitting a finale to the 2020 blogs as anything might be. May I please also offer the same sort of very good and sincere cheer to all of you reading here? It continues to be a privilege for me to celebrate the magic of Baum’s incomparable creation and characters with those who drop by each month — perhaps especially when this year’s months have brought so many challenges to virtually everyone. Certainly, there’s never been a better time to try once again to share in some of the written and illustrative joys that have sprung from the imaginative genius of L. Frank Baum, “RPT,” W. W. Denslow, John R. Neill, Dick Martin . . . .

And so many others.

May your holidays and new year be permeated with the love that is embodied in every Oz book – and in the very best part of all of us.


[Note: In 2009, ALL the color Oz comic pages by Baum and McDougall – plus those by Denslow  — were reprinted in full color for the first time since 1904-05 in a deluxe, hardcover, oversize (16×18 inches) volume, QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. This extraordinary assemblage from Sunday Press also includes brief biographies of the authors/illustrators, a concise history of amazing Oz comic books, appreciations by noted Oz scholars — and more. Visit for information; it’s a collectible no Oz fan should be without.]




By: John Fricke

L. Frank Baum’s “Little Wizard Stories” of Oz first appeared as six separate children’s books – bound in paper-covered boards — in 1913. The next year, his publishers brought them together in a single volume, LITTLE WIZARD STORIES OF OZ, although that omnibus edition (shown above) was slowly allowed to go out of print. Four of the individual stories were reprinted again in 1932 (boxed, with jigsaw puzzles of some of the John R. Neill art) and in 1933-34 (as give-away, promotional items in conjunction with Jell-O’s NBC Oz radio series). Finally, all six turned up, coupled two to a book, at the time MGM released THE WIZARD OF OZ movie in 1939. Thereafter, however, Baum’s LITTLE WIZARD STORIES became preeminent collectors’ items – whether individually or collectively – until republished in 1985 by Schocken Books and in 1994 by Books of Wonder.

In the coming weeks (as in past weeks, months, and years), there are any number of Oz-related treasures that are going to be professionally auctioned, sold via eBay, or privately exchanged. Much-appreciated communications from fellow fans have heralded this news: Soon to come on the market, in one manner or another, is a beautiful first edition copy of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900); a “screen-worn” Margaret Hamilton Wicked-Witch-of-the-West hat from the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer WIZARD OF OZ movie; a set reference still of the “Jitter Bug Forest” from that motion picture . . . and on and on. Fascination with such items – and countless others – dates back six decades or more; among the earliest press attention paid to an Oz auction purchase was that for another first edition copy of THE WIZARD, sold in 1965. The buyer? Mrs. Bert (Cowardly Lion) Lahr, who sought the volume as a surprise gift for him for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. She paid $625 at New York’s Parke-Bernet Galleries, which certainly now seems an all-time bargain!

Beyond receiving news about the forthcoming sales, I’ve also been Ozzified of late while digging through several bookcases here in relation to work of my own. In the process, I coincidentally touched on (literally and figuratively) some of the material I amassed during my preteen and teen years. Although I’ve not collected, per se, since then, the Ozzy resonance of the items that popped up — and the attendant memories – have served as the inspiration (if you’ll please forgive the word!) for this month’s blog. I hope you’ll indulge me; it’s basically and mostly all about thanksgiving for some of the people and pleasures encountered on a very personal Yellow Brick Road.

I was deeply steeped in all things Oz and all things Judy by the time I was seven or eight. My cup “ranneth” over with the escalating discoveries that Oz was a full series of books; that “Royal Historian” L. Frank Baum wrote other fantasies, musicals, and novels; that MGM’s Dorothy Gale had made many other movies and many other recordings. And etc. My passion had found me, and I was set for life — and love.

Above: This 1957 book provided my first in-depth introduction to L. Frank Baum, his lifetime, his legacy, and his output. The library copy I regularly “checked out” from 1958-61, however, had no dust jacket; the institution had removed it before putting the book into circulation. Their action, however minor, proved a most frustrating situation for this kid: the interior text acknowledgments referenced “the poster reproduced on the jacket.” (I mean . . . if it was an Oz poster, I was immeasurably interested!) As a result – and after the passage of more than forty years — there was certainly a major, retroactive reaction of delight when I was finally able to purchase my own used copy of THE WIZARD OF OZ AND WHO HE WAS from fellow enthusiast Scott Cummings at OZ-Stravaganza! in Chittenango. THAT copy was intact, as you can see above, and the poster from 1900 was worth waiting to see.

I was a library kid in Milwaukee, WI, from prekindergarten on; I finally got my own card in early 1958 (#58-6143!), and by that summer, I’d forsaken the local branch institution when I discovered that the “downtown” Central Library had thousands of additional books and publications. It was a ninety-minute round-trip on the bus through the city of Milwaukee to get there, but I was allowed to go by myself, once a week, beginning at age seven. (1958 was a different time.) One of my first treasured “finds” in the Central Library card catalog was the book, THE WIZARD OF OZ AND WHO HE WAS. It had been published a year earlier by the Michigan State University Press and included the full text of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, an appreciation of Baum and Oz by Pulitzer Prize winner Russel B. Nye (Chairman of the MSU English Department), and a twenty-three-page Baum biography by the estimable Martin Gardner. I galloped to the appropriate bookcase to find it, and as a result, I had my first “in quantity” dose of basic Baum and Oz information. I repeatedly devoured that book; for several years, it was only on the library shelf for a few days at a time between my constant withdrawals. (Among the new and exciting bits of knowledge it offered, I especially appreciated the wondrous definitions and examples of “annotation” and “bibliography”!)

Above: Circa 1960 or thereabouts, Milwaukee’s Renaissance Book Shop on Wisconsin Avenue supplied this unique – at the time – Oz discovery: a piece of sheet music that had apparently slipped under the radar of many major collectors back then.

I also began to explore a couple of used book and record stores, across the street and in the next block from the Central Library. One day, I was – per custom — burrowing through foot-tall stacks of sheet music, looking for song sheets that pictured and publicized Judy Garland and her movies. Out of the blue, I found “The Discovery of Oz the Terrible,” a 1932 piano piece by Irene Rodgers and one of six in her TALES FROM THE LAND OF OZ series. Though it contained only two pages of music, I couldn’t read or play, anyway – and all that mattered was that the cover was Ozzy! A few years later, I shared news of this (I assumed) “collectible” with the friendly hierarchy of The International Wizard of Oz Club. My recollection is that none of them had heard of it, and I was twelve-year-old proud that I could share something with them, after all they’d already shared with me.

And that’s a most special Ozian segue. I’d joined the Oz Club in summer 1962 at age eleven, thereby becoming pen pals with other fans and collectors. Every one of them was older than I and yet wholeheartedly encouraging, generous, and supportive of my equal (if unequally informed) zeal. The Club also afforded awareness of book sellers and search services. Through one of the most esteemed and reputable of these, my parents were able to purchase – for five dollars — a well-worn, missing-one-color-plate, BUT first edition copy of Baum’s “borderland of Oz” fantasy, THE SEA FAIRIES. I received it for my twelfth birthday:

Thanks to personable book dealer Alla T. Ford, I possessed THE SEA FAIRIES, my first “first edition” L. Frank Baum book. Others would follow – and later be eventually sold – but I’ve retained this one, just . . . because. Somewhere, I still have Alla’s business card which accompanied the book when it arrived; ever the businesswoman, it included her added, scrawled (and honest) proclamation, “I have largest Baum stock!”

In 1963, I attended my first of many annual Oz Club Conventions, with their accompanying auctions and sales tables. Money was saved year-round for the travel, hotel, OzCon costs – and the chance to purchase things that never turned up in Milwaukee! At perhaps my second or third convention, the genuine highlight for me came with the availability of a pressbook for MGM’s 1955 theatrical rerelease of THE WIZARD OF OZ. I forget now what I bid to win it, but I was jubilant to own such a “studio-connected” item of memorabilia.

Above: The front and rear covers of MGM’s 1955 OZ reissue pressbook, sent to theater managers to supply ad and story copy for their local newspapers; show them samples of the posters they could order for display at their venues; and offer promotional ideas to help them “sell” the film to potential customers. The 1955 OZ rerelease tied in with Judy Garland’s Academy Award nomination as “Best Actress” for A STAR IS BORN earlier that year. As a result, MGM “starred” her and increased the size of her billing for this go-round of OZ, using primarily photos of a more mature Judy rather than anything from her Dorothy Gale era.

There’s another fond memory and OzCon auction souvenir that I’ve retained to this day. One of my initial “in person” Club member friends was Martha Liehe, a Denver, CO, schoolteacher in her thirties, whose first convention in 1963 was also mine. In fact, my mom and I were on the same train from Chicago as Martha and her three children, and all of us were met by Club secretary Fred M. Meyer as we disembarked in North Judson, Indiana. When he greeted the Liehes, I assumed her eldest son – also twelve – must have been the Oz fan, and I instantly initiated conversation. He very nicely passed me along to his mom, and she and I were compatriots ever after! Two years later, the auction bidding at the 1965 convention got intense when it came to a first edition/second state of Baum’s rare compilation book of six short tales, the LITTLE WIZARD STORIES OF OZ. I was down to my last ten dollars and had to drop out there; Martha jumped to $12.50 and won the volume. Later that afternoon, she showed it to me. There were two handwritten vintage notices at the front of the book: one on the half-title page (“To Paul from Mina and George. Xmas 1915”) and another on the “This Book Belongs To” page (“Donald Paul Conley/Bellevue, Pa/12-25-15”). On the verso of the free front endpaper, however, a new inscription had been added, just fifty years later. It read, “For John Fricke from Martha Liehe with happy memories of the ’65 Convention.” (The cover of that book, of course, may be seen at the top of the blog.) I cherish that volume. and although she left us several years back, I thank you, Martha — as I profusely did at the time; when we visited at future 1960s conventions; when I was able to spend a couple of hours with you in Denver in 1968; and when so many of us OzCon veterans reconvened for the Club’s thirtieth anniversary in 1987. 😊)

I close with a personal memory and gratitude. When I arrived home from college for my 1969 freshman year Christmas break, my mom couldn’t wait to take me aside. My eight-year-old sister had discovered an Oz-related gift for me as her present; she’d managed to save six dollars to purchase it, and my mom wanted to insure that – whether or not I already had the item – I would make a major fuss over it on Christmas morning. As mom explained, Patty was beyond thrilled and so exhilarated to have found it and to have been able to afford it. Well, as it turned out, my “major fuss” was sincere; I didn’t have it and didn’t even know it existed! To this day, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ READ & HEAR BOOK & RECORD SET (above!) retains a special space on the shelf here, including as it does seven 33 1/3 long-playing records on which theatrical legends George Rose and Mildred Dunnock read the entire Baum text of the first Oz book. The package also includes a paperback (more-or-less) facsimile of THE WIZARD first edition.  So, I was able to be genuinely surprised and enraptured, and both Patty and I were – in our own ways — completely fulfilled by that gift. (Incidentally, I mentioned all of this to her as I was preparing this article. She had NO recollection whatsoever of her munificence, nor any residual pride in what she purveyed. I told her that I recalled enough for both of us and displayed the set to her to indicate it’s been venerated ever since.)

Thus, being honest:  I’ve never bid anywhere from $12,000 to $2 million on a pair of ruby slippers, or bought a Munchkin soldier jacket, or obtained a Baum autograph, or “collected” in the accepted manner . . .  not since those decades ago when I was very young.  Just by having read this, however, I think you’ll be able to understand why the joy of “what’s here” is so warming — and about as emotionally overwhelming as I can handle.

Many thanks for letting me share – and here’s hoping that all of you have managed to feel blessed in some magical manner this Thanksgiving.



By John Fricke

Above: A famous – if here colorized – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer still, taken in December 1938 on the set of the “Munchkinland” production number for THE WIZARD OF OZ. Coroner Meinhardt Raabe (holding the Certificate of Death and standing to Judy Garland’s right) has just averred that the Wicked Witch of the East is “not only merely dead; she’s really, most sincerely dead.” His fellow Munchkins are celebratory; Dorothy Gale (Judy) remains a trifle nonplussed. As a curious coincidence, the date of death for the WWE is given on the scroll as May 6, 1938 – nineteen years to the day after OZ author L. Frank Baum passed away in Hollywood, CA.

If we’re personally acquainted, or if you’ve read past blogs or other writing I’ve been fortunate to do, you may remember that my personal lifelong fascination with all-things-Oz was launched when I was one of the billions who first saw THE WIZARD OF OZ movie on TV. The story, performers, songs, and magic quite quickly swept me into a 24/7 concentration on the Oz books, the histories of L. Frank Baum and the others who wrote or illustrated the series, their supplementary work, Judy Garland’s career, the film output of MGM, and the great popular songbook stemming from Broadway and Hollywood.  Across the last six decades (plus!), none of that has changed; in fact, these passions long ago — and blessedly — became a career.  😊

My first real writing began when I was asked to submit brief Oz news summaries and Oz Convention reports to THE BAUM BUGLE, magazine of The International Wizard of Oz Club (  Then, as I wrote elsewhere a couple of months ago, it was Club Secretary Fred Meyer who suggested — circa 1965 — that I research and prepare a “making of the MGM OZ movie” feature for the film’s thirtieth anniversary. This gave me several teenage years to do what investigative and archival work I could manage from my Milwaukee, WI, home and nearby resources. After solid help from a number of people, the article finally appeared in the Autumn 1969 BUGLE. Surprisingly, this was the first time a back-story history about that already-legendary motion picture had ever been published.

There were many intriguing (whether major or minor) bits of information that turned up in the course of exploring the OZ saga. One of a local nature came when I looked at the Milwaukee newspapers for the original OZ movie ads from August 1939. The film played at a prestigious “downtown” theater on the main drag — Wisconsin Avenue — and the press noted that the venue’s accompanying “live” vaudeville show included an appearance by “Meinhardt Raabe, Munchkin Coroner, courtesy the Oscar Mayer Wiener Company.” I duly noted this fact in the BUGLE article, while privately wondering: Was this really one of the movie actors? What did hot dogs have to do with it? And how the heck do you pronounce that last name?

Above: This rare reference photo of final – or near-final — make-up, hair, and costume styles for four MGM Munchkins was taken on the Metro lot in December 1938. Two townsmen flank Coroner Meinhardt Raabe and Mayor Charley Becker

Fade out, autumn 1969. Fade in on a profile of local celebrity “Robbie” (THAT was the pronunciation) in the PHILADELPHIA EVENING BULLETIN in February 1973, which discussed Meinhardt’s multi-careers as pilot, horticulturist, teacher’s aide for handicapped students, a long tenure as “Little Oscar” (in the “wienermobile!) for Oscar Mayer, and the Coroner role in MGM’s OZ. Around that same time in the early 1970s, Raabe – as he preferred to be called – read a brief newspaper notice about a forthcoming “Munchkin Convention” in the Phillie vicinity; thinking this must be some sort of off-shoot of the Little People of America organization, he casually stopped by. He found instead the annual regional gathering of Oz Club members, who were termed “Munchkins” because they lived and/or were meeting in the Eastern section of the United States. (The Munchkin Country forms the eastern quadrant of the actual Land of Oz.) If there was initial astonishment on both sides, Meinhardt quickly became a most welcome semi-regular speaker and/or “drop-in” at subsequent Club events.

It was at one of those OzCons in the late 1970s or early 1980s that I was fortunate to meet him: My First Munchkin! By then, he knew of some of the OZ movie journalism I’d done, but what gave us an immediate and then strengthening bond was the fact that we were both from Wisconsin. In 1988, he sat for a long audio-tape interview about the film, many quotes from which were utilized in the text of the first book I wrote, THE WIZARD OF OZ: THE OFFICIAL 50th ANNIVERSARY PICTORIAL HISTORY (New York: Warner Books, 1989). Even prior to the nationwide celebrations that “golden” year, Raabe and his wife, Marie, were among the earliest little people to travel the Oz festival circuit, and the fiftieth birthday of the motion picture in 1989 saw us reunite in (among other locales) New York, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, and the MGM/UA Home Video office building — across the street from the vintage MGM studios in Culver City, CA.

The massive New York City whoopla that August centered around Macy’s in Herald Square; does anyone else remember how that department store jubilantly turned itself into the Land of Oz for three weeks? As a respite from the hoo-hah, Meinhardt and Marie were among the Munchkin guests at a wine-and-cheese party that Christopher O’Brien and I gave here in our apartment for my parents, who’d come to town for the book launch, media, and all. Whatever you may have heard over the years about jaded New Yorkers, please just realize that the sight of several Ozzy little people in the lobby, elevators, and corridors of a Times Square-neighborhood apartment building was enough to stop residential traffic. Meinhardt had to offer his Coroner speech several times – which he was ever-delighted to do – to appease (and thrill) the throngs.

Above: The Munchkins pose with the bus that trundled them from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to the 1993 Indiana Oz Festival; all the interview and location videography for the WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE MUNCHKINS documentary was achieved there over the next three days. From left: Karl Slover, Margaret Pellegrini, Betty Tanner, Marcella Kranzler, Anna Mitchell Cucksey, Olive Wayne, Marie and Meinhardt Raabe, Lewis Croft (hidden), Myrna Swensen, Jerry Maren, Clarence Swensen, Elizabeth Maren, and Nels Nelson. Note: Marcella, Anna, Olive, Marie, Myrna, and Elizabeth were “Munchkins by Marriage.”]


Thanks to the work I did on the 50th ANNIVERSARY BOOK and VHS OZ tape, I was able to meet and get to know nearly twenty of the surviving Munchkins in the space of just those next couple of years. Meinhardt, however (and as noted), was the first — by a long shot! — and in early 1990, he suggested me as a possible participant to those in charge of the annual Wizard of Oz Festival (now officially OZ-Stravaganza!) in Chittenango, NY. I had dreamed of going there, to Baum’s birthplace, since I was a preteen; it was Raabe’s recommendation that finally brought me to town, and I’ve been back for all but two of the last thirty jubilees.  I am forever grateful to him for the trust and bond that made him feel I would be worthy.

Across the next nineteen years, there were countless other festivals, conventions, appearances, and interviews – most shared with Meinhardt and a raft of additional Munchkins, but several that he and I did one-on-one. His memories were clear, intact, honest, and appreciative; there’s no question he was proud of many aspects of his life and career, but he (like all those involved in MGM’s movie) came to realize that participation in THE WIZARD OF OZ was something unique and ever-more important in the history of popular culture.

An early highlight of our association came when Raabe and others of the little people attended (as always) the Chesterton, IN, festival in September 1993 — and all eight on hand agreed to participate on-camera with me in WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE MUNCHKINS, a seventy-seven-minute home video documentary. Though the production itself wasn’t lavish, it providentially captured — for posterity! — Meinhardt, Lewis Croft, Jerry Maren, Nels Nelson, Margaret Pellegrini, Karl Slover, Clarence Swensen, and Betty Tanner in top form as they recounted their individual chronicles, Oz and otherwise. At one point in the final edit, Raabe discussed his “most treasured possession” (even some fifty-five years later), and the camera tracked up on the image of a personally autographed photo he was given on the OZ set: “To Meinhardt, a perfect Coroner and person, too, love from Judy.”

Above: The one-hundred-fiftieth birthday anniversary of “Royal Historian of Oz,” L. Frank Baum, led to several days of merriment and music at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, May 2006. Standing in the rear, left and right, are Robert and wife Clare Baum, here in costume (as Frank and wife Maud Baum) for their entertaining presentation about the origins of the author’s inspirations. Robert is the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. Standing in front, from left: Margaret Pellegrini, Karl Slover, Jerry Maren, Ruth Duccini, Clarence Swensen, Mickey Carroll, and Meinhardt Raabe. Kneeling at left is Donna Stewart Hardway, whose claim to have been one of approximately ten little girls who “filled in” during the Munchkinland sequence of the MGM film has since been disputed.

The last few years of his life were challenging for Raabe. He lost his treasured, caring, and ever-patient Marie in a 1997 automobile accident (in which he, too, was injured) — this just short of their fifty-first wedding anniversary. Once physically and emotionally recovered, however, Meinhardt returned to the Oz circuit, and across the next eleven years, he took part in several extraordinary and one-of-a-kind Munchkin events:

  • the 2005 publication of his lavish, gorgeously illustrated, hard-cover, “coffee-table” autobiography, MEMORIES OF A MUNCHKIN, assembled with and for him by Lieutenant Daniel Kinske, U.S.N. (New York: Back Stage Books);
  • the May 2006 one-hundred-and-fiftieth-birthday anniversary celebration for L. Frank Baum at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse;
  • the November 21, 2007, triumph when the OZ Munchkins received their “star” on The Hollywood Walk of Fame;
  • and the September 2009 New York City festivities for THE WIZARD OF OZ film’s seventieth anniversary.

I was honored to emcee and otherwise participate in the second and fourth of these, and the latter covered three full days.  There was boundless joy as people watched the surviving Munchkins arrive at Tavern on the Green, pose together in the basket of a huge hot air balloon in the parking lot, and then walk a “yellow brick carpet” into the restaurant itself for a by-invitation-only party. There was equal jubilation in the unconditional surrender of the varied, greater-New-York-area media (including National Public Radio) during a wearying day-long press event. The unexpected highlight, however, came during a Saturday morning screening of THE WIZARD OF OZ at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. The ever-diverse Oz and NYC community came out in force; their age range was the customary fetal-to-fatal cross-section of all ages; and famous Broadway, Hollywood, and television types dotted the audience. They’d come to see the film; they didn’t realize they’d also receive introductory comments from Judy Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft. As a result, the emotional temperature in the auditorium kept rising. When I stepped out, and when the crowd realized I was introducing – onstage and in person – a surprise appearance by five surviving Munchkins, the applause, cheering, and hootin’ and hollerin’ were deafening.

Ah, blasé New York!

Above: The Munchkins arrive at Hollywood’s legendary Chinese Theatre for a screening of OZ in November 2007; they would receive their star on the Walk of Fame the next day. From left: Ruth Duccini, Meinhardt Raabe (whose Coroner hat “recreation” apparently took a beating in transit!), Elizabeth and Jerry Maren, and Clarence and Myrna Swensen, with Mickey Carroll behind them.

Believe it or not, and despite all of their appearances elsewhere in the country (and, for Margaret, Australia, too), the Munchkins had never before done a public event in Manhattan. So, they sat in chairs onstage at Avery Fisher, and I had each one recount a favorite anecdote or sing one of their bits from the film. Meinhardt’s recitation of the Coroner’s couplet was, of course, a show-stopper, and that 2009 mini-tour pretty much marked the end of his Oz journeys.

There’s a brief, surviving NEWSWEEK-produced video session with the Munchkins that was done at the very tail-end of the NYC press day in 2009. Meinhardt had just turned ninety-four, and he and the others managed the rigorous schedule with great elan until this very last taping. At that point, they were all ready to call it a day; the bright lights required for the taping bothered them, and they’d already been working for eight hours. (Meanwhile, Lorna and I were cheerleading them off-camera, as NEWSWEEK hadn’t provided anyone to ask questions of the five stars!)  But the tape is fun to see for anyone who knew the Munchkins at their best – and well enough to know when they were determined to go home. 😊 At one point, Raabe – to everyone’s amusement, including his own when later told about it! — complacently fell asleep on-camera. Yet, each of them leapt into action with suitable quotes and responses when prompted, professionals to the very end. Here is that brief video:

Ruth, Margaret, Karl, and Jerry managed a few more rounds of appearances in succeeding years, but as noted above, that trip to New York was one of the very last “Oz HurrOz” for Meinhardt. He died the following April 9th in Florida and “returned” to his beloved Wisconsin for final services and his resting place.

Above: There’s a wondrous little story to the exclusive illustration on the front of the dust jacket for Meinhardt’s beautifully conceived and executed autobiography. Co-author Lieutenant Kinske brought the Munchkin Coroner (and a carefully, classily recreated copy of his costume and hat) from his Florida home to New York City, specifically so that he could pose for the legendary entertainment caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Kinske commissioned the cover portrait for the book, as did the cited “more than 50 NEW works of art” by other artists and cartoonists.

Raabe’s remarkable personal and professional accomplishments and strengths are beautifully detailed in MEMORIES OF A MUNCHKIN, which may be heartily recommended to any Oz or movie fan. For me, the joy of his indefatigable spirit and his desire to “work the circuit” are prime memories; he’d frequently, invariably, take me aside at any gathering to ask if I knew of any upcoming events to which he might be invited or at which he could guest and sell his autographed photos. Some of us used to privately – but jokingly and affectionately – refer to him as “the mercenary Munchkin.” But we knew his heart was very much into meeting the people, especially children, and he never missed an opportunity to share his OZ recollections with those who wanted to hear them.

And “mercenary”?

Well, yes.

And when he died, Meinhardt Raabe left one million dollars to Bethesda Lutheran Ministries, an organization in his hometown of Watertown, WI, that supports developmentally disabled adults.

I grew to love many Munchkins across the years – but Meinhardt was my first. And his fellow Wisconsin native wanted to salute him here, so I thank you for reading!

Above: The Way We WOZ! This picture was taken during a major Munchkin reunion at the 1990 Liberal, KS, Oz festival. From left: Ruth Duccini, Marie and Meinhardt Raabe, Fern Formica and Margaret Pellegrini (seemingly acting as bodyguards to a thirty-nine-year-old John Fricke), Eva and Lewis Croft behind them, Emil and Marcella Kranzler, and Fred Duccini — with Jean Nelson in the rear, top right. Marie and Fred were “Munchkins by Marriage”; likewise, Eva was Lewis’s wife. Jean, of course, inaugurated and produced the Chesterton, IN, Oz Festival for many years.



by John Fricke

Above: Across the Oz Book series, the Nome King (or Gnome King, pending any personally preferred spelling) remains the most reprehensible and indefatigable enemy of the Land of Oz. Ruggedo’s attempts to conquer the kingdom are traced in numerous stories, but it took the imagination of Ruth Plumly Thompson to give him a cave beneath the Emerald City palace, followed by his accidental access to a box of Mixed Magic. (You’ll have to read below to learn how the disgraceful Nome grew to giant size, and carried off the castle on his head!) Note: All Oz art in this month’s blog is taken from the original books and is the magnificent work of John R. Neill.

In the words of his publishers, The Reilly & Lee Company, author L. Frank Baum “went away . . . in May nineteen hundred nineteen . . . to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories for themselves.” That statement was included in the “To Our Readers” introduction of Baum’s final (and posthumously-released) Oz book, GLINDA OF OZ, which appeared in 1920. By that time, however, Reilly & Lee had determined that they would not let the extraordinarily successful Oz series come to an end with the death of its creator. They approached his widow, Maud Gage Baum, for permission to carry on her husband’s tradition of a fresh Oz escapade every year, to be written by a new author; they agreed to credit any and every forthcoming volume with a declaration on both the cover and title page, “Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum”; and they guaranteed Maud and, subsequently, her heirs a royalty on any Oz book they published.

With all of that in place, Reilly & Lee discovered a wondrously adept, fanciful, engaging – well, let’s just say it: perfect! – successor to the post of “Royal Historian of Oz.” Ruth Plumly Thompson was thirty when her initial Oz book was published (1921), but she had been writing stories and verse for children for the preceding seven or more years. Her lighthearted output appeared every week on a full page in the PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC LEDGER from August 30, 1914, through April 25, 1921. Thompson’s work was also familiar to readers of (among others) the ST. NICHOLAS, DELINEATOR, and LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL magazines, and her own first book, THE PERHAPPSY CHAPS, appeared in 1918. As a life-long Baum fan (and breadwinner for her mother, younger sister, and herself), she was both keen and excited to accept the Oz assignment when it was proffered a couple of years later.

Above: Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote more Oz books in the official series than any other writer. “Prodigious” is an all-encompassing adjective to further define her zip, flair, humor, joy in language, rapture in rhyme — and her ability to describe several hundred new characters and locations (as, of course, she discovered them while recording Oz history) for millions of readers. Ruth’s concentration and focus, at times, got the best of her; her dog, Taffy, would carry messages from the main floor of the family residence to the top floor “office,” if and when the writer’s presence was overdue downstairs.

Last month, this blog appreciatively looked at the manner in which L. Frank Baum resourcefully made light of the dark moments when penning the narrative of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900). Today’s entry pays a different kind of homage to “RPT” (as she often identified herself), in what is an admittedly daunting assignment. It’s unquestionably impossible to chart here all the enchanted kingdoms, personalities, and — to use her own words — “rousing and rollicking” adventures in the nineteen Oz books Miss Thompson wrote between 1921 and 1939 (plus the two published in 1972 and 1976 by The International Wizard of Oz Club). During the recent pandemic, I had the pleasure of re-re-re-re-reading the entire Oz series. Its inherent magic was every bit as omnipresent to me as ever before (if not more so), and I was once again and immediately transported back to my preteen years. That’s when I originally discovered the story-telling sorcery of Baum, Thompson, and the others who created more than forty “official” Oz tales. Anyway, it was this unplanned return to Oz a few months back that: a) brought a constant rush of both recollected and present-day positive emotion; and b) spurred the decision here to — this month — cite at least a handful of the many RPT “flights of fancy” which (one more time!) leapt out at and gratified me.

Certainly, a personal all-time favorite situation is indicated in the art and caption at the top of this blog. About a third of the way into KABUMPO IN OZ (1922), Thompson reintroduces Baum’s ever-detestable, love-to-hate-him Metal Monarch, and in her telling, the former Nome King creates his usual havoc. Having dug a cave off the basement of his Emerald City cottage, he discovers a small case of “Mixed Magic.” It includes a question box that knows and tells all, “Re-animating Rays,” and mysterious flasks of “Flying Fluid,” “Vanishing Cream,” “Spike’s Hair Strengthener,” and “Instantaneous Expanding Extract.” Immediately envisioning an early conquest of Oz, he first opts to gain physical force and tests some of the Strengthener by applying it to the top of his head. Instantly, every strand of hair becomes an iron spike. The diminutive rascal eventually pours the entire bottle of Extract over his head, as well, and within seconds, he expands sideways to fill his cavern wall-to-wall — and then shoots up through the ground, thousands of feet in the air. In the process, his spear-like dome impales itself on the underside of the palace: the “spikes were driven fast into the foundations and [the castle] fitted closer than his scalp.”

“In a panic,” Thompson continues, the giant “Ruggedo began to run.” In an hour, he’d left Oz, crossed the Deadly Desert in one jump, and exhaustedly sat down on a mountain top in Ev. Meanwhile, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Ozma, the Wizard, and a host of Ozians remained trapped in the palace on his head – jostled about like corn in a hot popper.

Above: “Nome! Go home!” Because good triumphs over evil, all things end well in Oz. “Triple Trick Tea” is also included in the Mixed Magic box, and a carefully prescribed dose of it — on Ruggedo’s feet – eventually compels him to about-face and march back to the Emerald City, “descend into his cave, and after the palace has settled firmly down on its foundations,” he shrinks to his former size.

A side note:  For several years in the early 1990s, I annually visited the second-grade class taught by a friend and former neighbor in a school in southeastern Wisconsin. She heartily encouraged her pupils’ interest in books, and to that end inaugurated a “Royal Reader” program in which, once a month, a local celebrity came to the building. Such guests — generally nearby media personalities and thus familiar to the students – were greeted at the school entrance by every member of her class; dressed and crowned in a regal cape and circlet; escorted “in procession” from the foyer to the classroom; and invited to sit on an improvised throne and read a story that they’d chosen and brought along. Each year, I took the Del Ray paperback edition of KABUMPO IN OZ, verbally set-up part of the saga, and then recounted Ruggedo’s supernatural expansion. The concept of the spiked hair (and a giant large enough to wear a castle as headgear) never failed to rivet the students, especially those who were suddenly not too cool for school – or fantasy. 😊

RPT’s glee in exploring and expanding the possibilities of Oz necromancy found smaller, mischievous outlets as well. Although the black-and-white Neill drawing (below) from her JACK PUMPKINHEAD OF OZ (1929) can’t convey the majestic red of the beard therein depicted, the gentleman shown here is Baron Belfaygor of Bourne – Bourne being one of a number of small but sumptuous counties in the appropriately red Quadling Country of Oz.  When first encountered in the story, the good lord has inadvertently ruined his own wedding day by summoning the chief mesmerizer of his court to request some specially-conjured, long facial hair to “greatly improve” his appearance. (He’d feel right at home in our horrifically hirsute present-day world . . . .) Unfortunately, the hereinafter “miserable” mesmerizer did his work too well, and the beard not only refused to stop growing, it lengthened at such an alarming rate that it “filled the throne room, ran down the stairs into the pantry, shot up the stairs into the bedrooms, and finally filled every room in the palace.”

An example of what might happen if the Hair Club for Men ventured south to the chin: Only the constant employment of two shears can keep unhappy Belfaygor from smothering himself – and any unsuspecting nearby chums – with his magically-induced, Miracle-Gro of a beard.

Some fifteen chapters later, and after relentless trimming every few minutes, the beard is eventually routed — and rerouted! — thanks to Ozian mainstay Jack Pumpkinhead, Peter from Philadelphia (one of Thompson’s all-American/all-boy heroes), and Snif the Iffin. (That would be a Griffin that’s lost its “grrrr” . . . . ) But part of the fun comes from the many ways in which all that hair is earlier put to use during their travels and travails. It serves as a pseudo-tightrope when they need to cross a chasm. It’s stacked up to provide temporary mattresses for their overnight stay in a cave. Finally, it’s used to drag a forbidden flagon from a fire fountain, and in a concluding plot twist, THAT’S the flagon that enterprising Jack himself wields to reclaim Oz from Mogodore the Mighty — despised Baron of Baffleburg and (briefly) self-proclaimed King of the Emerald City.

On an earlier visit to Oz, that same Peter had already saved the kingdom himself — and from no less than another “overthrow” attempt by the Nome King. The story began when the boy casually purchased a balloon from a suspicious merchant in the “large public square” outside Peter’s Philadelphia home. By some unexpected alchemy, the balloon becomes a balloon bird and flies off with the lad to a small desert island in the midst of the Nonestic Ocean. As fate and RPT would have it, this is the same atoll to which the Nome King had earlier been banished after his stroll off with the Emerald City palace on his head. The ensuing trek of boy and reprobate to the Emerald City fills Thompson’s THE GNOME KING OF OZ (1927), but she first has to devise a unique way to get them off the island – and concocts one! There’s a sudden, churning sea quake, in which a long stretch of the ocean bottom is shaken loose – along with everything on it – and it floats upward to lie on top of the waves. Running down this unexpected and makeshift “road,” Peter and Ruggedo head off in the direction of the nearest mainland, passing sea monsters, mermaids, mer-men, and fish of all sizes. The wrecked hull of a pirate ship, however, pulls them up short; they climb aboard to explore, just before another sea quake again flips the ocean and its sandy foundation. The battered “Plunderoo” remains seaworthy enough, however, to carry them to shore and the onset of further adventures.

Above: The discovery of a sunken pirate ship on the (temporary) top of the sea provides not only conveyance but several magic treasures in its hold – enough to give the nefarious Nome King new power. Fortunately, America’s Peter from Philadelphia retains some magic for himself, and whether or not he realizes how to use it serves as one of the suspenseful story points of THE GNOME KING OF OZ.

Such ingenuity on the part of RPT never seemed to flag, whether across her initial nineteen Oz titles or in the extensive additional fantasy writing she did for children throughout and after that era.  Another example:  Several years before the lyric of E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and the music of Harold Arlen enabled Judy Garland to journey “Over the Rainbow,” Miss Thompson gave that miraculous arc several places in hoztory.  It tangentially appeared in GRAMPA IN OZ (1924), but then manifested itself even more notably eight years later in THE PURPLE PRINCE OF OZ.  At a crisis plot point, RPT enlisted the aid of one of Baum’s most popular heroines — Polychrome the Rainbow’s Daughter – who pops up to rescue several worthy travelers from certain death on the Deadly Desert that completely surrounds Oz.  The beautiful fairy guides them above and beyond the treacherous burning sands on her father’s bow, thus providing Kabumpo the Elegant Elephant, Randy (the courageous, soon-to-be King of Regalia), and Jinnicky the mystic Red Jinn of Ev, with safe passage to the Winkie Country. Of course, the plus-size girth and weight of the pachyderm makes their descent down the final curve a trifle hasty, but there’s no damage done; the stars of our story are back in Oz – having been first, of course, masterfully captured in their excursion by Neill:

One of the characters that especially delighted Thompson’s readers was discovered by preteen Speedy, a Long Island, NY, resident, on vacation out West with his uncle. At the invitation of a professor friend, they visit his “dig” in Wyoming and come upon his latest literal and figurative unearthing: the “complete skeleton and bones of a mezozoic [sic] dinosaur.” In the momentary absence of the educator, Speedy and Uncle Billy boldly and loosely assemble the framework of the giant monster and spread it out on the ground, just for the sheer fun of the experiment.  As they finish, however, an underground geyser bursts “through the earth’s surface, catapulting the boy and the dinosaur aloft . . . . ”  As this happens in SPEEDY IN OZ (1934), it will come as no surprise to you to hear that “the hot molten minerals” of the liquid not only solidify the dinosaur bones into their correct shape, but also bring the charmer to life – conversationally and otherwise. He gains the name “Terrybubble” (as a shocked and teeth-chattering Speedy tries to define their situation as “terrible”), but the two are soon fast friends and come to land on a floating island in the sky.

And that’s just the beginning!

As explained in paragraph three above, these are but random samples of the countless and joyous inspirations that make an eternal delight of Ruth Plumly Thompson’s writings. Here’s to all of ’em, however – and especially, today, to the much-cherished RPT herself. Meanwhile, I can do no better than to leave Terrybubble HIMself to share her greeting from the traditional “To My Readers” page of SPEEDY IN OZ:

One more thought, please. I feel it’s a privilege to revisit and share episodes and characters from these books – and to provide little “samples” of the pure pleasure to be found in the Oz of Baum, Thompson, John R. Neill, Jack Snow, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Lauren Lynn McGraw, and Dick Martin.

I also feel it’s a privilege to do it in this forum – and I thank everyone reading here for making possible these visits!

(P.S. Special gratitude this month to Scott Cummings, who shared the color plate images above so that RPT – and John R. Neill – might be glowingly celebrated. 😊 )



by John Fricke

Note: For those who haven’t as yet seen the first installment of this article and would like to read it before perusing the conclusion here, Part One may be found at

An additional explanation of this “hands across the lands” blog-splitting — between All Things Oz of Chittenango, NY, and The OZ Museum of Wamego, KS — is included with Part One; it may also be found below, at the conclusion of Part Two. Many thanks!

[Above: This extraordinary John R. Neill watercolor was commissioned from the artist by Jack Snow in 1942. Neill, who would die a year later, had written and pictured the Oz books for 1940, 1941, and 1942; prior to that, he’d illustrated thirty-two preceding Oz titles, plus six Oz short stories and THE OZ TOY BOOK. Snow was an important and insatiable early Oz collector and later wrote two volumes of his own for the official Oz series — THE MAGICAL MIMICS IN OZ (1946) and THE SHAGGY MAN OF OZ (1949) — as well as the encyclopedic WHO’S WHO IN OZ (1954). Soon after Snow’s passing in 1956, the original Neill drawing was acquired by Fred M. Meyer, charter member and (for more than four decades) mainstay of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. Through Fred’s generosity, this scarcely-known art served as a thrilling “wraparound” cover for the Winter 1986 edition of the Club magazine, THE BAUM BUGLE.]
As was explained in Part One, this informal look-back at sixty-four-years of THE BAUM BUGLE – periodical of The International Wizard of Oz Club — grew out of the unfortunate recent cancellation of a proposed internet panel discussion about the magazine’s history. A conclave of BUGLE editors had agreed to be interviewed as an attraction of this month’s “To Oz!” virtual convention; unfortunately, the coordinator of the BUGLE group was suddenly confronted with non-Oz, real-life challenges and had to abandon the event.

I was scheduled – as a past editor-in-chief — to participate in that panel, and in anticipation, I’d done some preliminary research and (upon request!) prepared a musical finale for its retrospective. When the “round table” forum had to be taken off the “To Oz!” roster, it seemed instead to be a potentially good idea to adapt some of the already-gathered BUGLE material for a brief, informal, written celebration of the Oz Club’s long-cherished publication. (I also had the deadlines for two Oz-related blogs on the immediate horizon; what an outlet for such an Ozian topic! 😊 ) Final impetus came in the realization that recollecting the BUGLE in this manner would allow for sharing some stunning and favorite examples of its remarkable and (predominantly) colorful cover art from 1959 to the present.

[The first dramatic adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ was produced for the stage by Fred Hamlin and directed by Julian Mitchell. Their lavish extravaganza enjoyed a tumultuous debut in Chicago in 1902, toured in triumph, and then opened in New York City in January 1903. Thereafter, OZ was so successful that (apart from the occasional summer vacation for its company) the show appeared continually on the boards until 1909 — sometimes with two different aggregations simultaneously trekking the musical to diverse corners of the country. The Hurtig and Seamon booking interests took over the production in 1905 (Hamlin had died the preceding year) and made a success of it for another four seasons. Above, top: Their poster here, circa 1907, pictures three familiar characters, along with a soubrette unique to the initial OZ stage play: Topeka waitress Trixie Tryfle. In turn, this artwork was selected for the Winter 1984 BUGLE cover, as it tied into that issue’s exemplary and witty essay about the show by esteemed popular culture historian Ethan Mordden. Above: A French poster for an appallingly awful 1925 feature-length silent film version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. The movie starred and was directed by Larry Semon, whose nom-de-screen in France was “Zigoto.”]
































As some of you are already aware, Part One of this mini-series took the magazine from its initial mimeographed launch in 1957 through the early 1980s. It was in 1984 that I was asked to take the BUGLE reins, which I did through 1987 – eleven issues in all. It was a most propitious time to come to the post of editor, as there was much Oz in the news. Disney’s RETURN TO OZ was produced and released across that time period. Dick Martin illustrated and wrote his own continuation of the Oz book series, published by the Club as THE OZMAPOLITAN OF OZ. In terms of original research, the magazine printed detailed examinations of Oz comic strips and comic books; the 1933-34 NBC/Jell-O Oz radio series; the 1902 WIZARD OF OZ stage musical; and reprints of L. Frank Baum’s obscure advance promotional pieces for the 1904-1905 QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ weekly newspaper cartoon page. The BUGLE also continued the by-then-traditional bibliographical articles, book/TV/theater reviews, and Club convention reports. Finally, we instituted a new, every-issue feature about the much-loved WIZARD OF OZ film, “The MGM Scrapbook.” (On a sadder note, the BUGLEs across these years also marked the passing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Wicked Witch of the West and Scarecrow: Margaret Hamilton and Ray Bolger.)

[Above, top: The May 16, 1985, passing of Margaret Hamilton was acknowledged and mourned world-wide, as well as in special articles in the Autumn BUGLE of that year. Beloved as Almira Gulch and — as Maggie sometimes shorthanded it in her autographs — the “WWW,” she had specifically posed for artist Andy Warhol at his request four years earlier. The BUGLE was granted special permission to use this reduction of his resultant, original silk screen print for the Hamilton memorial cover. Above: A legendary trio poses on the set of Disney’s RETURN TO OZ. The Spring 1985 BUGLE was the second of three consecutive issues that heralded the film with feature articles discussing the production.]





























One particular stroke of good fortune came when the onset of my editor’s duties coincided with Del Rey Books’ launch of the first paperback publications of fifteen Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz books (at that time out-of-print for twenty years). Editor Judy-Lynn del Rey gave us Michael Herring’s color design for KABUMPO IN OZ to use on the cover of my initial issue. She also invited me to write summary blurbs for the back covers of each book, and — in exchange for permission to include the Oz Club’s famous maps in every edition — Del Rey provided us with a full-page advertisement at the conclusion of each Thompson text. Across subsequent years, this brought in literally hundreds of new Club members.

I have to interject here an aspect of BUGLE assemblage that always made the (literally) hundreds of hours of effort not only worthwhile but immeasurably joyous: the opportunity to associate with other Oz enthusiasts – among them gifted journalists, artists, researchers, and designers. Beyond that, what “coerced” me into accepting the job in the first place was the knowledge that I’d be working with Dan Smith and Lynne Kresta, who were then the magazine’s production editors. They were and remain two of the very finest compatriots of my lifetime, in or out of Oz; they, their children, and their grandchild own a singular, significant corner of my heart. 😊

[The tradition of using art created by Oz Club members for BUGLE covers dated back to 1959 and the very first issues that carried illustrations; such initial work was contributed by Oz artist and collector extraordinaire, Dick Martin. (Please see part one of this blog for several examples of his BUGLE work.) Twenty-eight years later, animator and member Rob Roy MacVeigh was profiled in the magazine with an account of his plans to create feature-length cartoon versions of the Oz books, faithful to the plots and concepts of their authors and illustrators. Before his premature passing in 1992, Rob managed character designs, storyboards, a screenplay, and even some symphonic music recordings for his retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Above top: THE BAUM BUGLE was proud to showcase his ambitions and preliminary achievements — and to reproduce this test “cel” for the proposed motion picture as its Winter 1987 cover. Above: Celebrated and versatile artist Irene Fisher was a member of the Club from its early years, and her participation in (and contributions to) the BUGLE and our conventions and other activities were both marvelous and ongoing for decades. This limited-edition lithograph was one of her most dazzling Ozzy creations, and her family gave the BUGLE permission to use it on the cover of the first issue that went to press after Irene’s passing in 2004.]
































At the time my first tenure as BUGLE editor-in-chief concluded in 1987, I was one of ten people who had supervised the magazine since its “premiere,” three decades earlier. That numerical tally has since exactly doubled to twenty, including a couple of guest overseers who stepped in for single issues. Additionally, there have been numerous “contributing editors” along the way who supervise specific BUGLE departments: book and theater reviews, summaries of the most recent Oz news, bibliography, and the like — plus, the printers and those who tally Club membership and dispense the mailing labels. (As much as is possible. I am an all-inclusive “salute-r!” 😊 ) Finally — and tympani, please! – we’ve enjoyed a particularly remarkable series of designers, responsible for any physical glories of the publication. (I summarize in this manner, simply because it would be impossible to recognize everybody here – not to mention the additional countless writers, researchers, and miscellaneous submitters. It’s also equally impractical in a précis of this sort to attempt to offer the extreme levels of appreciation warranted by so many!)

[Above, top: In addition to his pictures and designs for several Oz books (one of which he also authored), Dick Martin was a preeminent Oz and Baum collector. Among his treasures was this original John R. Neill watercolor for THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ (1910), appropriated for the Spring 1994 BUGLE cover. Here, Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma quietly reflect on their non-violent (as least in the text!) conquest of the evil Nome King. Such art is irrevocable proof that Neill earned — and has retained — the sobriquet, “Imperial Illustrator of Oz.” Above: The Autumn 2007 BAUM BUGLE celebrated an extraordinary milestone in achieving fifty years of publication. The striking and innovative cover design for that issue was conceived by the magazine’s then-production editor, nonpareil Marcus Mebes. Baum himself is here accompanied by some thirty preceding BUGLE images; the back cover depicted thirty-six more!]






























Another important point to be made here: All the workers referenced above are volunteers who, by generosity of talent and time, have sustained the BUGLE from its onset. Oz, however, sustains ITSELF. I was privileged to return to the post of editor-in-chief for the three BUGLEs of 2017, and once again, the variety of news to cover (past and present) was glorious. During – and on either side of — that year, the litany of subjects discussed in recent pages of the magazine have included: Broadway’s WICKED (interviews with stars who’ve played Glinda, Elphaba, and Fiyero, plus composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz); Disney’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL; the SyFy Channel’s TIN MAN; NBC-TV’s EMERALD CITY; the seventieth, seventy-fifth, and eightieth anniversaries of MGM’s OZ; the Smithsonian’s fund-raising and conservation efforts on behalf of their pair of ruby slippers; recent Oz dramatizations and interactive productions; new cartoons; the contemporary AGES OF OZ and DOROTHY MUST DIE book series; the original Russian Oz books; the various “dark” approaches to Oz that create idiosyncratic excitement for some;  and estate-endorsed additions to the Oz series itself. Across the same time period, the BUGLE has historically presented rapturous centennial reflections on the Baum Oz books and other fantasies; vintage reviews and advertisements from his scrapbooks; and classic author and illustrator profiles (including a notable homage to original Oz artist, W. W. Denslow). Oz and Oz-related subject matter, like the Yellow Brick Road, seemingly goes on forever — and the BUGLE addresses and delivers it all.

[Above, top: The back cover of the Winter 2013 BUGLE hailed Margaret Pellegrini (“flower pot hat” and “Sleepyhead” Munchkin of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ), who had passed away that August, just weeks prior to her ninetieth birthday. The surviving “little people” of the Metro cast made countless personal appearances between 1985 and 2013, but it’s no exaggeration to state that Margaret was a – and perhaps THE — supreme favorite. She is shown here in 2002, holding a first edition copy of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ at the home of Robert and Clare Baum. (Robert is one of the great-grandchildren of L. Frank Baum.) Author/photographer Steve Cox provided this image; beginning in the late 1980s, he was the first to seek out and compile the recollections of the OZ film’s diminutive stars. Among the many pop culture histories he’s written is the exceptional THE MUNCHKINS OF OZ, most recently revised and published in 2004. Above: Throughout its history, the BUGLE covers have displayed both collectible and current Oz images. In Autumn 2017, the magazine went up-to-the-minute contemporary and gleefully showed five cherished friends as designed for the then-current SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) Warner Bros. TV series, DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ. The cartoons debuted on the Boomerang cable and streaming TV service and then swiftly segued to home video.]
































The International Wizard of Oz Club ( has recently decided to inaugurate and establish a Club history, comprised of recorded interviews with members who have been pivotal in the creation, maintenance, and continuation of the organization. Meanwhile, I hope this two-part blog has provided an interim sense of some of the extraordinary collection of people in the Club, and — especially – the extraordinary collection of material assembled in the 187 issues (to date) of THE BAUM BUGLE.

Anyway, we got to share a couple of dozen beauteous, significant, and/or exhilarating covers!

Finally, I need to acknowledge Patty Tobias. She and I met at an Oz Club convention in 1965; she was nine, I was fourteen, and if our communication has been at times sporadic in these intervening decades, we’ve always picked up precisely where we left off as age-old friends. Patty was the force behind the BUGLE “panel that got away,” which would have been a happy reunion for many of us. As it didn’t happen, she also (however indirectly) inspired this blog! Beyond her own writing, editing, organizational, and management skills, however, she’s also an accomplished musicians and pianist, and — back in the 1980s – she and I were occasionally asked to offer Oz-related musicales for Club convention entertainment. In an echo of those days (and as referenced above), she’s the one who suggested that the virtual BUGLE panel conclude with a virtual reunion duet – and that she’d play if I’d sing.

As things panned out, you’re spared the vocal! But here’s the BUGLE-celebratory “special material” I wrote for the occasion:

Ode to THE BAUM BUGLE/”A Journal of Oz”

[To the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain/a Heart/the Nerve” – with profuse apologies to Harold Arlen, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, and BUGLE magazine staff members from 1957-2020!]

Back in June of ’57,

All members found their heaven:
The BUGLE made the scene!
Justin S. did the startin’;
He was followed by Dick Martin,
Editing our magazine.

Justin came up with the title:
Allit’rative and vital.
(The kid was mere thirteen.)
The first had four pages;
Now the budget is outrage[ou]s
For the Oz Club magazine.

Sit and wait:
The BUGLE’s late —
A trend from year to year.
There’s a mitigating fact
We must make clear:
The BUGLE staff’s

Sixty-four years now and countin’;
The issues just keep mountin’ —
Oz news is ever-green!
No, this boast isn’t frugal;
Hear us blow our own BAUM BUGLE!
It’s the Oz Club magazine!
Sondheim I’m not. (For sure!)

But I’ve loved THE BAUM BUGLE since I received my first sample issue (pictured just below) from Oz Club secretary Fred Meyer on July 21, 1962. I’ve written about this elsewhere in the past, but the oversize mailing envelope – even before I opened it – was a heart-stopper: There was a small, preprinted sticker affixed to the front, just to the left of my name and address: “OZ MAIL – RUSH!”  Many of you will have no trouble imagining the impact. I was eleven, but I’d already been an Oz book and Oz movie fan (and Oz collector) for nearly six years.

[Above: This is the first issue of THE BAUM BUGLE I ever saw. I opened it in the back seat of our car; my mom, dad, younger brother, baby sister, and I were heading out to have her “one-year-old” photo taken, and I’d collected the mail just before we took off. The shabby condition seen here is due to the intervening fifty-eight years of rabid reading; the vestiges of three-hole-punch activity reflect my (fortunately) brief attempt to amateurishly bind my early copies. As can be seen by the cover illustration, one of the feature articles in that April 1962 edition was an examination of Oz books in foreign lands and languages – the first time this topic had been examined at any length in a published periodical. The BUGLE was then at the onset of its sixth year of existence and quickly becoming famous for its ground-breaking research on topics that embraced All Things Oz!

















So . . . here’s to A JOURNAL OF OZ (as THE BAUM BUGLE’s subheading has declared it, via editor Jerry Tobias – Patty’s father – since 1975). There’s been no greater accumulation, amalgamation, or magical bastion of Oz research, history, and passion anywhere else in history.

And blessed are those who have read it – and been privileged to take part in providing it.


P.S. How-It-Came-About! As so-defined above, this two-part/two-location blog represents a cheerful, hands-across-the-lands gesture of friendship which the entire world would do well to emulate! I take no credit for the bonding between the two sites, but it’s through the cooperation and courtesy of Marc Baum (no relation!) in upstate New York, and Clint Stueve in Kansas, that this month’s blogs have been being “cross-pollinated” — Marc’s apt choice of verbiage.

Some of you are aware that I’m now in my seventh year of blogging for The OZ Museum of Wamego, KS; last week’s Part One of the BUGLE history is my entry # 122 for them. Meanwhile, I’m also in my third year of providing a completely different monthly blog for The All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY – birthplace of L. Frank Baum. This “Part Two” is my thirtieth contribution to their site.

In this manner, we hope that Oz fans and readers will be made aware of the extensive (and heavily illustrated) reading, research, and history available — both here for Chittenango, as well as “there” for Wamego. More importantly, we want everyone to “virtually” visit both of these locales, and — when once again feasible — to plan future “in person” excursions to their two museums and two annual Oz festivals!

My heartfelt thanks to Marc and Clint for their instant endorsement of the suggestion that we align the August blogs in this fashion. I hope everyone reading here will join me in this appreciation for them.

And thank you, one and all, for trundling back through THE BAUM BUGLE history with me on these two occasions!



by John Fricke

Anton Loeb pictured this memorable – if fear-provoking — moment in Oz history for the “abbreviated version” of THE WIZARD OF OZ, published by Random House in 1950. Termed by its editor as a “brief retelling” of L. Frank Baum’s original text, the storybook was produced to capitalize on the successful 1949 theatrical reissue of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 motion picture version of the first Oz book. Loeb’s artwork seems at least somewhat MGM-inspired, as well.

L. Frank Baum’s extraordinary fantasy country of Oz is often referenced as “America’s Own Fairyland” – a fact familiar to his countless millions of adherents. Equally well-known is the descriptive definition of his initial Oz book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, as “the first American fairy tale.” Mind you, Baum himself didn’t originate such statements; he did, however, declare a certain personal intention and thesis in writing when he penned the introduction to that classic story in April 1900.

“The time has come for a series of newer ‘wonder tales,’” he suggested, and he called for the elimination of “all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by . . . authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale.” Baum also decried “all disagreeable incidents . . . heartaches and nightmares,” taking a stand for “only entertainment . . . to pleasure children of today.” To say he succeeded in delivering pleasure is both understatement and another long-acknowledged concept. In the process, however, Baum didn’t quite manage to eliminate “the horrible” or the “heartaches and nightmares.” No less an Oz advocate than the celebrated James Thurber – playwright, cartoonist, journalist, and wit – confirmed this as early as 1934 in THE NEW REPUBLIC: “I am glad that in spite of [his] high determination, Mr. Baum failed to keep them out [as] children love a lot of nightmare and at least a little heartache in their books. And they get them in the Oz books.”

Thurber is, of course, correct on all points, and to underscore his opinion, here are a few editorial reflections upon — and pictorial examples of – some of the terrifying or heart-stopping incidents and characters from just the first Baum Oz book. (Not to worry, however. As you’ll see below, all of them are pretty much designed for the “entertainment” he sought to present, and Baum’s nightmarish incidents are always quickly resolved, eliminating any long-term negative effects.)

As early as paragraph six of chapter one of THE WIZARD OF OZ, there’s indication of horror on the horizon (literally and figuratively), and this image of “Dorothy’s transportation” was drawn by Dale Ulrey for the 1956 Reilly & Lee edition of Baum’s book. Though such a real-life spectacle may inspire awe, the approach of violent and extreme weather is more often panic-making than anything else — for all ages but perhaps especially for children. This is increasingly true in our present day and age, when videos of tornadoes and their havoc are often unavoidable and viewable on demand. Baum, however, made use of such fears in 1900, when only a couple of actual photographs of such storms had been taken and published.

Chapter seven of THE WIZARD OF OZ is gently titled, “The Journey to the Great Oz,” with no indication of the fearsome creatures about to be encountered. Midway through Baum’s discourse, however, he has the Cowardly Lion whisper to Dorothy and Company that “it was in this part of the country that the Kalidahs lived . . . : ‘monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers, and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two . . . .’” Fittingly, it’s the Lion’s underlying (if not self-comprehended) bravery that scares off the Kalidahs when they first approach the Kansas girl and her party; the quick-thinking Scarecrow next directs the Tin Woodman to use his valiant ax to destroy the log bridge the creatures are crossing in pursuit. Artist W. W. Denslow chose that moment for one of the full-page, full-color plates (shown above) in the WIZARD first edition.

It’s only a chapter later that Baum leads his protagonists into “The Deadly Poppy Field.” Skipping over the moment (and it’s basically as brief as that) when the Tin Woodman decapitates a wildcat in pursuit of the Queen of the Field Mice, the story line has caused considerable angst for many young readers as the Cowardly Lion falls under the spell of the flowers. The Scarecrow and Tin Man are able to make a chair of their arms and carry Dorothy and Toto out of the poppies to safety, but the Lion “is much too heavy to lift.” The Woodman regretfully acknowledges. “We must leave him here to sleep forever” amidst the blossoms.  Anton Loeb captured that peaceful but heartrending image for the 1950 Random House WIZARD:

One of the “great escapes” of literature AND film is the manner in which Dorothy (accidentally) implements freedom from the Wicked Witch of the West for herself and her companions. In the uber-familiar WIZARD OF OZ movie, of course, she picks up a handy bucket of water to save the Scarecrow, whom the Witch has set afire. In Baum’s original book, however, the little girl throws a scrub-bucket of water at the old crone after she steals one of Dorothy’s magic silver shoes.

Either way, it’s a chilling denouement for young auditors, readers, or viewers. Baum recounts that the Witch dissolved “away like brown sugar . . . [falling] down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass [that] began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor.” Tom Sinnickson pictured Dorothy in the defiant act of self-defense for the 1951 WIZARD OF OZ Wonder Book edition:

Finally, one of Baum’s more gruesome characters is dispatched by the no-longer-Cowardly Lion in one of the penultimate chapters of the first Oz book. The Wizard has provided courage — as well as brains and a heart — for Dorothy’s three compatriots before departing the Emerald City in his balloon; in her ongoing desire to return to Kansas, Dorothy must next seek help from Glinda, the Witch of the South. As the faithful troupe of friends trek to the Quadling Country, they pass through what the Lion terms “a perfectly delightful” old forest. The animals who live there approach him and beseech that he kill “a fierce enemy. . . a most tremendous monster,” which they further describe as “a great spider, with a body as big as an elephant and legs as long as a tree trunk.  It has eight of these long legs, and as the monster crawls through the forest, he seizes an animal with a leg and drags it to his mouth, where he eats it as a spider eats a fly.” One can’t help but think that such a passage might have tweaked the trepidation of any number of children, but the newly fearless Lion makes quick work of the creature – as depicted here by Dale Ulrey in the 1956 Reilly & Lee WIZARD:

These are a few examples of the challenges — not to say hallucination-inspiring or saddening occurrences — in Baum’s new “wonder tale.” Meanwhile, this discourse hasn’t even referenced the Fighting Trees; the Hammer-Heads; the Scarecrow’s unescapable entrapment as he clings to a pole in the middle of a fast-flowing river; the “most terrible beast” and ball-of-fire disguises utilized by the Wizard on his first meetings with (respectively) the Tin Woodman and the Lion; the wolves and bees sent by the Wicked Witch to destroy Dorothy and her buddies; and the disassembling of the Scarecrow and destruction of the Tin Woodman by the Wicked Witch’s Winged Monkeys. (“It hurt for me, even if it didn’t for Mr. Baum,” wrote James Thurber, recollecting his childhood exposure to THE WIZARD OF OZ.)

However! Why does Baum’s stance and counter-horror thesis still ring – and hold – true? There is both a simple reason and a simple answer: it’s all in the handling, in his entertaining, story-teller approach. Every single one of these definitely confrontational and potentially scary adventures is fast-fleeting, transitory, and quickly resolved. Each is faced and pondered and conquered in a page or two – or even a paragraph or two.  The cyclone safely carries Dorothy and Toto to Oz. The Lion is saved from the Poppy Field by the Queen of the Field Mice and her subjects. The Winged Monkeys turn out to be great friends to Dorothy – and, later, Glinda – when the girl and good witch take possession of the Golden Cap that controls them. The Lion is made King of the Forest by the residents of the forest he’s saved from the giant spider.

Additionally, Baum could justifiably and proudly claim that no “fearsome moral” pervaded his fairy tale; instead, he provided a moral-for-life, indicated by the ongoing and fulsome cheer his characters experience when they bond with each other, work together, take on any and all tasks, tests, trials, and terrors – and see their situations through to a succession of peaceful, joyous, rainbow-hued (if sometimes sentimental) finales. Baum offered such conclusions again and again throughout his Ozzy writings, and – to use the word he chose for THE WIZARD OF OZ introduction — they have been “pleasure” to children for one-hundred-and-twenty-years.

It’s true that such happily-ever-after may only be achieved in Oz – or in some other heart’s solace. Yet how important it is to unfailingly strive – with one’s life’s companions – to reach that place. The journey may be ultimately unfulfilled in some ways, but how immeasurably important it is to keep moving forward with courage, intelligence, heart, and the company of (or desire for) our loved ones. As Judy Garland sang in another of her movie songs, “We don’t know where we’re goin’, but we’re on our way!” 😊

In his stories, L. Frank Baum offered some glorious roadmaps, guideposts, and mentors for any and every voyage.



By John Fricke
Above: As shown on the cover of its souvenir theater program: The logo for Broadway’s THE WIZ was a stunning example of the imagination that suffused every aspect of the original production of that 1970s stage musical.

For 120 years, Chittenango, New York, has been known – and become increasingly renowned — as the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900). Each of the last twelve decades has brought more and more fame to Baum’s Oz Books and, eventually, those of his successors, as well; in turn, the mass of celebratory, analytical, critical, or rapturous historical journalism about the “Royal Historian” has exponentially increased across those years and, in time, given Chittenango an international visibility to the ever-growing multitudes of Oz adherents.

As mentioned in last month’s blog, it was Chittenango local Clara Houck, an elementary school librarian, who decided that world-wide familiarity was one thing, but that hometown recognition for its native son was long overdue. In 1978, she launched a small party for children in Baum’s honor; unexpectedly (or maybe not, given the omnipresent magic of Oz), this became an annual event. In fact, by the late 1990s, it had evolved into a full weekend gala that encompassed a wide spectrum of activities. These included a parade that drew hundreds of entrants – and thousands of attendees; costume, writing, and coloring contests; original Oz music and stage entertainments; and appearances by Oz celebrities. (Across the decades, the latter category has boasted the presence of Baum’s niece, several of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Munchkin members of the cast of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classic musical film of THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Broadway and film notables.) In recent years, the festival – now officially known as OZ-Stravaganza! — has brought crowds of up to thirty-thousand people to Chittenango every first weekend in June.

I thought it might be historically appropriate to reference the foundation and burgeoning success of OZ-Strav! (as it’s been shorthanded), simply because – for anyone reading here who might not be aware – 2020 marks the first time in forty-two years that it didn’t happen. There’s no question that the cancelation was smart. It was sensible. And it remains sorrowful for everyone involved or who might have been planning to participate or attend. (Speaking personally, 2020 would have marked my own thirtieth anniversary in Chittenango, as I was first asked to take part in the fun back in 1990. Including that initial year, I’ve had the privilege of being a special guest and emcee at twenty-eight of their festivals across the intervening decades.)

God willing, we’ll all be back in 2021, and some of the excitement planned for this year will doubtless be “held over” until then. One thing seems certain: one of the hOZtorical milestones we’ll be commemorating is the forty-fifth (by then, forty-sixth!) anniversary of the triumphant Broadway musical, THE WIZ, which premiered at New York’s Majestic Theatre on Sunday evening, January 5, 1975.

Above: With dazzling, supportive Ozians all around him, the one and only “Wiz” announces his departure from the Emerald City. André De Shields’ musical number at this juncture in the show was the revival-istic “Y’all Got It!”

A word here about that production. Those who know THE WIZ only from its later motion picture version or TV special can’t really comprehend the level of joy and elation created by its original incarnation. That’s not a casual claim or declamation, either, as I was (most definitely) privileged – and lucky — to see THE WIZ on that fateful Broadway opening night in 1975.

I’d then been a New York City resident for just eleven weeks, living in an apartment a block west of Times Square and literally around the corner from the Majestic Theatre. As a fledgling entertainer – and even more as an Oz fan since age five – I was very much aware of the fact that THE WIZ was due in town. The pre-Broadway, out-of-town reviews had been mixed; there’d been recasting on the road, a change of directors, and parts written out of the show. Of even greater negative import, the word around the Manhattan theatrical neighborhood was that THE WIZ had no advance ticket sale; a final rumor (and, as it turned out, an accurate one) held that the closing notice for the production already had been posted effective January  5th – which meant that the show would open that night and then potentially shut down after that performance.  (This was a time-honored Broadway tradition; if a show had minimal advance ticket sales and didn’t get good reviews the day after its official debut, its producers were within their legal rights to immediately close it, as long as adequate notice had been provided the cast, crew, and staff.)

Early in the afternoon of January 5th, I received a call from Fred Meyer in Escanaba, MI. A life-long Oz aficionado (to put it mildly!) and long-time secretary of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Fred had encouraged me in my own Ozzy passions since I first joined the club in 1962. Simultaneously, he’d also begun championing my journalistic endeavors and had solicited articles and other miscellaneous Fricke contributions for the club publication, THE BAUM BUGLE. His telephonic “Gung-Ho! OZ!” conversations had become a regular, welcome component of most weekends for many in the organization, and the call he placed to me on January 5th had special purpose:

“Someone needs to review THE WIZ for the BUGLE!” quoth Fred. I said I would be delighted to have that assignment, but I stressed that the closing notice had already been posted, and it didn’t seem likely that the show would run past that evening. As such, a review might not be possible. His response was absolutely predictable: “Go TONIGHT!” I protested that it was opening night, that the performance would doubtless be sold out (or at least have every seat full), and that I didn’t really have it in my new-to-New-York-and-basically-broke budget to attend. “The Club will reimburse you for the ticket!” I cautioned that even if I could get one, it might be expensive. “GO to the theater! Find OUT!”

So I – not unwillingly — trundled a block south and across the street to the box office. Much to my surprise, there was absolutely no obstacle as I wondrously (and quite happily) purchased a rear balcony seat for the opening night of THE WIZ.

For six dollars.

(Those were the days!)

A few hours later, I found I was pretty much alone as I climbed the stairs to my location in the upper reaches of the Majestic. The main floor of the theater was jam-packed with people, as was some of the front mezzanine. But rows and rows of empty seats upstairs were an indication that the concept of an all African American pop-rock retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ was most definitely a hard-sell for the theater in 1975. Then, just before the houselights dimmed to signify showtime, the ushers beckoned to the couple of dozen of us “in the rafters” and actually invited us to move down into the more expensive mezzanine rows – seeking, I think, any means of providing the cast with as much visual inspiration as possible in case they looked up as they were performing.

Well . . . . The experience was sensational. I had some quibbles, but THE WIZ was Ozzy, modern, sassy, funny, extraordinarily beautiful in colorful costuming and scenery, exciting in song and spectacle, and an unmitigated wow in terms of performance. The reviews the next day were, indeed, mixed; some were dismissive. There was definitely enough laudatory phraseology, however, to formulate and sustain an extended ad campaign in the press. This was then topped by a WIZ TV commercial that (over and over) musically exhorted audiences to “ease on down the road” to the Majestic. Once they got there, they saw the most triumphant, exhilarating, and joyous Oz theatrical experience since the MGM film, and word-of-mouth did the rest. Within eight weeks of its premiere, THE WIZ was selling out every show.

Above: The Little Wizard That COULD! With no advance sale – and the threat that the opening night performance might be their last – Dorothy & Co. (and THE WIZ himself) sustained themselves for four years on Broadway, not counting national and international tours. In addition to the awards cited above, the 1975 presentation of the show also garnered five Drama Desk Awards.

I went back four more times across the 1,672-performance run of THE WIZ, accompanied by Oz fans, friends, and family (including my mom and little sister on their first trip to NYC in 1977). The entertainment level never flagged, and it was easy to love the show even more on those subsequent visits. Since then, there’s no doubt that my recollections of the original — the “real” WIZ — have won it personal allegiance far above any I could manifest for the 1978 movie of THE WIZ or the 2015 NBC-TV “WIZ LIVE!” While both had their merits, the former flushed much of the property’s charm in urban ugliness and multiple mis-castings; the latter deluged it in some heinous character costumes and make-up, much darker overtones, and a weighty backstory.

Meanwhile, all of this gleefully remembered devotion to the magical, initial incarnation of THE WIZ brings this month’s blog around to memories of (and a salute to!) one of the most . . .  well, magical special guest celebrities in Chittenango history. He first attended OZ-Stravaganza! in 2012, singing and parading and inexhaustibly mingling with fans; we had hopes that he’d spearhead the anniversary glorification of the original production this month in Baum’s birthplace.

Above: If ever – oh, ever! – a WIZ there woz . . . . Wearing (and fitting into!) the same stage costume he wore thirty-seven years earlier, André De Shields “benediction-ally” poses in Chittenango’s celebrity tent with two fellow guests in 2012: “Munchkin by Marriage” Myrna Swenson (who was the wife of MGM Munchkin soldier, Clarence Swensen) and Flowerpot/Sleepyhead Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini from the cast of the 1939 WIZARD OF OZ film. Photo by André’s publicist, Merle Frimark.

Of course, I’m speaking of the incomparable André De Shields, originator of the title role in THE WIZ. In an entertainment career that spans more than fifty years, Andre has amassed multiple Tony and Drama Desk nominations, winning both of those awards last year for his performance in HADESTOWN (plus a Grammy Award for the show’s Original Cast CD). He also received his second Outer Critics Circle citation for that production; the first came attendant to his appearance in Broadway’s THE FULL MONTY. Andre can boast an Emmy, as well, for his television work in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — another of the multiple De Shields Broadway credits.  His resume includes several dozen additional musicals, plays, off-Broadway, regional theater, and television highlights; supremely respected as a director, choreographer, writer, and educator, it is simplest to note that André has triumphed in every medium. One can do no better for life inspiration than to seek out his interviews and biographies on the internet.

(Well, actually, one CAN do MUCH better. Watch this blog in the future – and the All Things Oz social media sites – for news of OZ-Stravaganza! 2021, where we hope to once again present André, in person!)

Above: An all-time Chittenango and OZ-Stravaganza! high point: Andre De Shields levitates on the high school stage – without the help of his five-inch WIZ platform shoes – to emphasize an anecdotal point. (Yours truly is the awed interviewer.) In addition to sharing his fascinating personal/professional history on this occasion in 2012, the entertainer offered renditions of “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard” and “If You Believe” from the score of THE WIZ; the thrills and chills throughout the auditorium and audience were palpable.

Stephanie Mills, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Clarice Taylor, Tiger Haynes, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Hinton Battle, and Geoffrey Holder are just some of the others whose careers were catapulted, heightened, sustained, or enhanced by THE WIZ.  André De Shields, however, remains the standard bearer for that production, and despite all of his subsequent successes, he has never hesitated to acknowledge with pride and gratitude the fact of his wonderful, wizardly Broadway success on the evening of January 5, 1975 — exactly a week to the day prior to his twenty-ninth birthday.

So here’s to THE WIZ in its forty-fifth anniversary year. Here’s to André De Shields, in recognition of a career that has a MOST Ozzy foundation – and that has immeasurably flourished ever since.

And here’s to ALL things Oz, specifically as they relate to Chittenango and OZ-Stravaganza! May all of us happily and healthily meet again in less than twelve months!



By: John Fricke

[Above: Perhaps L. Frank Baum defined her best when he chose these words for the dedication page of his greatest book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900): “To my dear friend and noble comrade, my wife.” Thirty-nine years later, Maud Gage Baum was photographed at home by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to promote their forthcoming motion picture musical of her husband’s story. She’s holding a copy of the first edition of that volume.]
This month marks L. Frank Baum’s 164th birthday anniversary: May 15, 1856 – May 15, 2020!

It also marks thirty years since I first traveled to Chittenango. To visit Baum’s birthplace had been one of my dream destinations since I was a little boy — all the more so since the 1980s. That’s when I began to read about the annual Saturday parade and festivities offered by the village in Frank’s honor – all spurred by that redoubtable and indefatigable local patriot, Clara Houck. 😊

It was indeed Clara, “the woman behind the town,” who first brought it all together for Chittenango. In May 1978, she organized a brief costume event for kids (plus birthday cake “for” Mr. Baum), and that simple, sincere gesture not only continued – it “grewed”! Burgeoning year after year, Clara’s two-hour event became what is now known as OZ-Stravaganza: an annual, full-weekend festival for thirty thousand or more attendees. Mrs. Houck has been delightedly referenced and honored in this blog in the past — and rightfully so. In turn, however, it also occurred to me that the legendary concept of a motivating female (or “the woman behind the man”) resonated as well for Baum himself. His wife, Maud Gage Baum, is always cited for the manner in which she supported, encouraged, bolstered, managed, propelled, and loved her Frank.

So, in this, his birthday month, we remember that Frank’s “foundation” was Maud. Not only does she warrant it; I think it’s safe to say that he himself would endorse such recognition.

Defying her own mother’s initial objections, twenty-year-old Maud married twenty-six-year-old L. Frank Baum on November 9, 1882, in the parlor of her family home. Matilda Joslyn Gage, the extraordinary women’s rights advocate, had strongly (let’s repeat that: strongly!) counseled against her daughter’s desire to leave her college studies at Cornell to “be a darned fool and marry an actor.” But Maud inherited her own indomitability, challenged her mother in return, and Mrs. Gage smilingly gave way. (It’s important to note that, in subsequent years, the mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship would both thrive and become mutually heartening.)

The bride followed her husband on a subsequent road tour with his musical show, THE MAID OF ARRAN. (Baum wrote the script and songs and served as leading man for the production.) The couple then returned to Syracuse, where Maud gave Frank two sons and almost died of peritonitis; by 1888, the four of them had relocated to Aberdeen in Dakota Territory to be near Maud’s brother and sisters.  Two more sons were born there, and by 1891, the Baum family was living in Chicago, which would be their home base for nearly two decades.

[Above:  A mother-and-sons portrait taken the year THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was published: thirty-eight-year old Maud Baum and (from left) Robert, Harry, Kenneth, and Frank. Father Frank, forty-nine, is shown in an image from 1905.]

Across those years, Maud raised their sons, ran the household, and handled the vastly vacillating Baum finances. She sustained and buttressed Frank as he tried to establish one career after another: from actor/theater manager to store proprietor to superintendent of an axle grease company — and from emporium entrepreneur to newspaper writer and/or publisher to traveling salesman to magazine editor. Then, in 1897, he discovered his true vocation as an author; within a couple of years, he also discovered the road to Oz.

The Baums then enjoyed a decade of stability, thanks to the success of Frank’s Oz books, his other children’s fantasies, his series novels for juveniles and teens, and the triumph of the first stage musical of THE WIZARD OF OZ. (The latter played across country for seven seasons and made a fortune for its author.) The Baums lived high and happily through much of that time, keeping a summer home in Macatawa, MI; escaping the Chicago cold for California for a number of winters; and spending six months abroad in 1906. But Baum’s subsequent theatrical ambitions eventually drained their resources. Despite Maud’s vigilance, much money was lost in Frank’s critically acclaimed, multi-media stage tour, THE FAIRYLOGUE AND RADIO-PLAYS, which combined hand-colored silent films, colored slides, a full orchestra, and Baum onstage as host and narrator. The box office receipts simply couldn’t compensate for the cost of producing and maintaining the show.

Ultimately, Frank had to declare bankruptcy. But with some deferred inheritance from Maud’s mother and a loan from a friend, the Baums were able to build a new home in Hollywood, where they comfortably spent the rest of their days. Frank died in 1919, but his widow lived at “Ozcot” on the corner of what is now Yucca and Cherokee (just above Hollywood Boulevard) until her own passing in 1953.


[Above: Two decades after Frank’s death, Maud proudly posed for MGM in the gardens behind their Hollywood home. The yard had been Frank’s pride and joy, and he’d won nearly two dozen championship cups for the flowers he bred there and then displayed in competition.]
Across the thirty-seven years of their marriage, Frank proudly turned over to Maud his book copyrights and other income. He credited her for the freedom he then had to imagine: to plot, dream, scheme – and to make billions of readers happy with the fantasy worlds he created. It’s no exaggeration to say that there might never have been a wonderful world of Oz had it not been for the love, fortitude, watchful eye, and devoted care of Maud.

[Above: MGM also invited Maud to the Culver City lot and studio, where she had luncheon and posed for publicity photographs with THE WIZARD OF OZ star, Judy Garland. Judy turned seventeen in summer 1939; Maud was seventy-eight.]
“Mrs. L. Frank Baum” happily publicized the MGM film when it was released in 1939. She attended the Hollywood premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on August 15; on September 22, she appeared on network radio from New York City on the RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT program. During the broadcast, she recounted an oft-told family anecdote about the unexpected amount of initial royalties brought in by THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ when it was published in 1900 and also offered a scripted tribute to her husband: “Every word of Mr. Baum’s characters were completely products of his own imagination. I think the secret of [his] success was that he never ‘wrote down’ to his children. He wrote as a child. In his imagination, all those characters were very real.” In a poignant anecdote, she also recalled that, “The greatest thrill we ever had was during that tragic epidemic of infantile paralysis in 1916. We received a letter from a prominent physician . . . in one of the New York City hospitals, and he wrote to us saying that one of the greatest helps to those poor tortured children was THE WIZARD OF OZ. In fact, he said that part of the standard equipment of every nurse was a copy of THE WIZARD OF OZ.”

[Above: A magazine clipping from 1939 shows MGM star Ann Rutherford (of the “Andy Hardy” pictures and GONE WITH THE WIND) with Maud Gage Baum at THE WIZARD OF OZ premiere. Also visible at left: a costumed Victor Wetter, one of several of the film’s Munchkins brought back to welcome guests to the gala occasion.]
It was through Maud’s business sense, as well, that the Oz books continued after Frank’s passing. She negotiated a regular royalty for herself or her heirs on every title added to the successful series. One stipulation of her contract was that each volume had to carry a specific credit or legend: “Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum.”


The woman behind the man? The power behind the pen? NO question . . . and it would be impossible to consider all the ways she and her love inspired Frank and his. So, here’s to Maud Gage Baum and her comprehension of — and compassion for – the man who became the “Royal Historian of Oz,” the pride of Chittenango, and the creator of countless joys for countless people for more than 120 years!


And may we all meet – safely, healthily, and happily once again – to celebrate All Things Oz and Baum at what-Clara-Houck-hath-wrought:  OZ-Stravaganza 2021!


P.S. And while you’re in town for that, you should definitely consider a stop at The Matilda Joslyn Gage House and Foundation in adjacent Fayetteville.  That’s where Frank proposed to (and married) Maud – and where Maud and Matilda had the confrontation referenced above. 😊 There are also photographs on display that were taken by Frank, plus a happy homage to Oz. Matilda, who died in 1898, lived to see the publication of Frank’s first book, MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE (1897) – a book she encouraged him to write.





by John Fricke

[Above: Arguably the most famous quartet in movie history! (Quintet, if one adds the [here unseen] Toto. 😊 ) Judy Garland had great, fond respect for all of her OZ costars, and three of them are shown here with her between takes of the deleted Emerald City reprise of “Ding-Dong! the Witch is Dead.” Out-of-frame range, on the right, the Scarecrow is holding the just-captured broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West; in this scene, he and his friends are on their way back to the Throne Room to present her flying utensil to Oz, the Great and Powerful.]

Across these initial weeks of corona virus quarantine, I’ve seen a certain type of post repeatedly pop up on my Facebook “news feed.” I guess, to some extent, this is to be expected; a percentage among the friends there are most definitely Oz aficionados. But variations of the recurring post have also come from many other associates: high school and college friends, entertainment-world friends, family friends – and from all ages.  Whatever our personal or professional histories, it seems that many of these diverse comrades are currently finding joy (and/or solace and bolstering) by revisiting Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 movie musical classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Over the decades, I’ve been privileged to write about and discuss Oz in virtually all of its permutations: the books, stage shows, motion pictures, television adaptations, and animations, and to comment about its authors, illustrators, actors and other theatrical creatives . . . and on and on. But if I’m known at all, I think, it’s primarily because of the Fricke books, documentaries, DVD commentary track, CD soundtrack set, and appearances concerned with the MGM film. Those of you who have read the two years of blogs here will realize that I always return to that topic every four or five months; not (just) because I love it so, but because the general public best knows its Oz thanks to Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Terry, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Pat Walshe, Mitchell Lewis, the Winkies, the Flying Monkeys, the Emerald Citizians, the Munchkins (I’ll spare you the one-hundred-and-twenty-plus names . . . ), and all the rest.

[Above: Four of the OZ principal cast review the movie script with assistant director Wallace Worsley. I was privileged to meet and interview this man in 1988, while researching the 1989 book, THE WIZARD OF OZ: THE OFFICIAL 50th ANNIVERSARY PICTORIAL HISTORY.]

Over the years, the major cast members of the movie were often interviewed about each other, and as the status of the film leapt from loved to legendary to iconic, many of the latter-day comments of Bolger, Haley, and Hamilton found their way into written history. This situation stemmed from the fact that they were the last survivors of the preeminent OZ performers; Morgan, Lahr, Garland, and Burke had passed away – respectively — in 1949, 1967, 1969, and 1970.  Whenever/whatever quotes from the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Wicked Witch appeared, I loved them, but as I became a Judy fan on the same day I became an Oz fan (I was five at the time), I especially welcomed any memories her costars offered about her. Via research across the years, however, it’s been equally lovely to discover some of Judy’s telling, candid, and affectionate remarks about them and their OZ director. THE WIZARD OF OZ was often a talking point during promotional press conferences prior to Judy’s concerts, or when she reminisced with friends in the 1950s and 1960s; here are some of her recollections:

[Above: “Good friends” Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland are shown in action during the early days of OZ principal photography under the direction of Richard Thorpe. This footage – of the blonde, baby-doll Dorothy and the hair-down WWW – was junked when Thorpe was fired.]

“I never miss THE WIZARD OF OZ on television,” she told a reporter in 1965. “My children love it; they adore the [Wicked] Witch, Margaret Hamilton. What a wonderful woman, and what a performance she gave.” On another occasion, she mock-confided to a reporter the “secret” that – in real life – “the Wicked Witch and I were good friends!”

[Above: To paraphrase an observation by assistant Wallace Worsley, Victor Fleming (the OZ director of record) got right in and – if need be — showed ’em how to do it! Here, he crouches in the Poppy Field, while the five stars look on; one of them is being held (at left) by an associate trainer of dog owner Carl Spitz. The edges of this behind-the-scenes image were scalloped by Fleming’s secretary for inclusion in his OZ scrapbook.]

Garland would appreciate, as well, the primary director of OZ, Victor Fleming.  As early as 1939, she defined him as “perfectly wonderful . . . perfectly marvelous; he has the nicest low voice and the kindest eyes” – characteristics that must have been enormously supportive as the sixteen-year-old girl faced one of the most challenging screen roles in history. More than twenty years later, she echoed her earlier estimation by telling the studio and at-home viewing audiences of THE JACK PAAR PROGRAM that Fleming “was a darling man; he was always up on a [camera] boom!” It was a vantage point from which the director could monitor the action on the OZ set and watch over the teenage star.

[Above: Ray Bolger – in color! – graced the cover of the August 1939 MINICAM magazine, a periodical for professional and amateur camera/photography enthusiasts. The fact that OZ was among the first feature films to be captured in the complicated three-strip Technicolor process (and included multiple special effects “shots” in that format as well) made its production a worthy topic for consideration.]

In 1945 (in the film THE HARVEY GIRLS) and 1963 (on her own television series), Judy would work again with the first friend she met along the Yellow Brick Road. “Ray Bolger,” she later marveled, “WAS the Scarecrow. So right. So convincing.” With appreciative wonder, she continued, “And he NEVER stopped dancing, on the set or off. I’ll bet he and [fellow MGM musical star] Eleanor Powell are the only people in the world who probably ‘down’ lunch in their tap shoes!”


[Above: Jack Haley later titled his autobiography HEART OF THE TIN MAN, and his decades of philanthropic (not to say “good deed do-er”) activities proved he did, indeed, have a monumental heart. Meanwhile, and even though everyone around him knew better, Frank Morgan seems here to be mock-incredulous at any intimation that he “nipped.” In the gentle (if direct) words of Margaret Hamilton, however, “He did like his drink!”]

Complimenting the acting of her rusty, emotionally-attuned “Tin Man” Haley, Judy once summarized, “You know, I really believed he was searching for a heart. He touched me; I cried. Jack was a dear, dear man.” With humor and honesty, she also laughingly told a friend, “Frank Morgan ‘nipped’ a bit, you know. I loved him, but most of the time, I’m not sure he knew exactly what he was doing.” Then she added, with whole-hearted admiration, “. . . And he did it so damn well!”

[Above: Whiskers—and Masterful Makeup — on Parade! When Bert Lahr passed away in December 1967, Judy Garland was emotionally distraught and took exception to media and press reports that headlined or trumpeted “The Cowardly Lion is Dead.” She told a radio commentator that she didn’t want children to hear such news, adding that Lahr would live forever via film and recordings. She concluded her impromptu interview with a declarative, savvy, and semi-humorous statement that ultimately came to resonate for virtually ALL of the OZ participants: “Some people just aren’t die-able!”]

As for her “dear Cowardly Lion,” Judy dedicated her Caesars Palace (Las Vegas) performance of “Over the Rainbow” to him the night after he died.  A little over a year later, she warmly mused, “. . .  Bert. So talented. So warm. And just so funny as the Lion; it was hard for me to keep from laughing, what with all those whiskers and that tail. And I wasn’t SUPPOSED to laugh!”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see that Judy was as much smitten with the characters and director of OZ as Dorothy herself loved the people she befriended and who befriended her in L. Frank Baum’s extraordinary story. His magical land and its citizens; the movie magic of sets, scenery, costumes, makeup, and effects; the glorious melodies, lyrics, and musical underscoring; the unforgettable performers and performances – all of these contributed to the impact OZ had and continues to manifest, more than eighty years after its premiere.

[Above: Six of the OZ stars form a comic line-up in this 1939 publicity pose. Judy’s barely suppressed smile indicates the mutual affection that served as the foundation and underpinning for such clowning.]

Perhaps it’s possible, too, that a measure of the love that flowed from one admiring entertainer to another – and back again – has also spilled over to the film’s audiences. Such pure emotion may well be what makes of OZ the uplifting, happy, and wondrous experience so very much needed – and currently revisited and valued on a new level — by many in today’s world.



By John Fricke


[Above:  Molto popolare! Published in Milan in 1962, IL MAGO DI OZ included color plates drawn by F. Bignotti for an earlier, 1956 edition; this illustration of the Wizard’s balloon ascension certainly seems to draw at least some inspiration from MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ film. Meanwhile, the book’s cover appears to be a slightly modernized variation of Bignotti’s approach to the characters -- including a Tin Woodman still in transition! Since the 1940s, multiple versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ have been published in Italy; four of Baum’s other Oz titles also appeared there in deluxe editions issued during the late 1950s.]

Soon after its publication in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ began to be recognized as the first “American fairy tale.” This was logical, given that its central character was a little girl from Kansas — plus the fact that her fantastic adventures were launched by a tornado, that violent storm seen most frequently in the central and southeastern United States. In the course of her sojourn in Oz, little Dorothy made companions who were undeniably unusual, yet also eminently recognizable to Americans: a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion. At that point in this country’s history, countless readers of all ages were familiar with the sight of a scarecrow monitoring our “amber waves of grain.” Tin, meanwhile, was the common metal used to make containers for canned goods purchased for the pantry. And any lion encountered at the circus or in a zoo was demonstrably a fierce or dangerous beast; what fun, then, for children (or adults) to imagine such an animal as a great big ’fraidy cat.

Given its general acknowledgment as an America-based fantasy, THE WIZARD OF OZ gradually garnered international popularity as well.  It wasn’t until 1932, however, that the first translation of Baum’s book appeared, published in French in Paris as LE MAGICIEN D’OHZ. Thereafter, the eventual world-wide exhibition and success of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland movie musical of OZ led to a subsequent avalanche of foreign Oz books. These have been highlighted by such diverse offerings as Swedish editions of all fourteen Baum OZ titles, as well as a long series of original OZ-based books written and published in Russia.

Across the last nine decades, the far-flung foreign travels of Dorothy and Company are particularly notable and enjoyable in terms of their diverse illustrative concepts. Some distant artists have harked back to the original drawings of W. W. Denslow and John R. Neill in their variations; others emulate the MGM characterizations. But the majority have worked in their own unique and individual styles, creating literally hundreds of “Ozzy originals.” As a result, this month’s blog has been configured to take you around the world for a sampling of just a few of them.


This WIZARD OF OZ appeared in 1955 as CAROBNJAK IZ OZA, translated into Yugoslavian by Slobodan Glumak. His text, however, was drawn from Alexander Volkov’s 1939 Russian “adaptation” (and semi-expansion) of Baum’s original, and although Volkov’s name appears on the title page of the edition shown here, Frank Baum’s credit is nowhere to be found. The 1955 book cover is pictured above, along with one of the self-explanatory interior illustrations; these were reprinted from some of those provided by N. Radlov for Volkov’s 1939 volume (issued by Ts.K.V.L.S.M Publishing House of Children’s Literature in Moscow and Leningrad).


In 1961, an abridged English version of THE WIZARD OF OZ was published in Madras (Chennai), India, as a paperback textbook to aid students who were studying that language. Artist “Gopi” happily drew on the Denslow pictures of 1900 for his contributions to this volume; it proved so popular that a father and son team of translators – R. A. Padmanabhan and P.  Mohan — issued a companion edition two years later in Tamil, one of the national languages of India. The cover of the latter edition and a drawing from the English version are shown above.

THE WIZARD OF OZ has been given a number of German translations over the years. Here you see the color cover and interior title-page spread from the 1996 DER ZAUBERER OZ — the combination of which offers depictions of several characters prominent to the story, including the seldom portrayed
“Onkle Henry” and “Tante Em.” (And who’s this “Dorothee”? 😊 ) Franz Haacken is particularly original in his approach to the Blech-Holzfaller – or, as literally translated, the “sheet-metal lumberjack.” Color covers from Germany’s 1996 (DER WUNDERBARE ZAUBERER VON OZ) and 2003 (DER ZAUBERER VON OZ) are shown below; the artists are, respectively, Christoph Eschweiler and Heike Vogel.


Finally, one further oddity: a small, paperback Vietnamese children’s activity book, as published in 1994 in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Its seventy pages offer first the tale of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, followed by a condensation of OZ; the stories are briefly told in both the native language and in English. Illustrations are presented in straight-forward, cartoony art, and these are interspersed with text-related maze puzzles, connect-the-dots pages, and differentiate-the-drawings challenges. Below, you’ll find the cover art, which also depicts characters from THE UGLY DUCKLING and THUMBELINA, two other title characters in the Nha Xuat Ban Tre [Tre (Youth) Publishing House] series of fairy tales. The additional picture below gives a gleeful, Wild West/“dead-or-alive” poster spin to the Wicked Witch of the West!


It should also be mentioned that foreign Oz books have been joined in international visibility by translated comic books, recordings, and stage, motion picture, and television adaptations.  By now, it should be apparent that the widely-heralded, magical appeal of Oz knows no boundaries, and I’d most definitely like to express my thanks to David and Douglas Greene and the late Zelda Teplitz, M.D., whose initial, ground-breaking, and joyously shared research provided many specifics attendant to some of the early foreign editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ

Of course, the real credit goes directly to THE WIZARD OF OZ and to L. Frank Baum himself. At a time when global awareness is of resonance to everyone, it’s very nice to be able to offer a gentle — and hopefully heart-lifting —  reminder that all of us have much more in common than not; that working together for the mutual benefit of all is an absolute hallmark of Dorothy and her friends; and that Oz has long been one of the genuinely wonderful aspects of a planet-wide bond.