Where History Meets Art - Stories Behind the Stuff

The Wizard of Oz Still Dazzles

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of PBA Galleries.

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't you think?”  L. Frank Baum from The Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum the author of the Wizard of Oz wrote more than 60 books during his lifetime which comes as no surprise because he was always telling stories, even as a kid.  Storytelling in the 1880s was a big form of entertainment.  It was the era before radio and television and books were often scarce. 

In their spare time people sat around gabbing, playing games and telling stories. Some of those stories found their way into print for Baum. 

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?”
— L. Frank Baum

In America’s first modern fairytale Baum believed he had “discovered” rather than “invented” Oz.  And the fictional world eclipsed Baum’s real-life world as children world-wide begged for more and more stories about the magical city. 

Baum was the perfect writer to pen them.  He believed in daydreaming.  He believed in the human heart.

Through this enchanted tale he offered the world life lessons that even grown-ups could recall if they wanted. 

“Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams - day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing - are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization,” he wrote.

People may not have read the book version of The Wizard of Oz but the movie starring Judy Garland was a must see for kids growing up in my era.  Being too young to articulate what it was about the movie that moved me, I knew I was touched.  I understood somehow it was a celebration of the heart.  That was enough for me.

Baum liked to test his new story ideas out on his own kids first.  That’s how The Wizard of Oz began.  He was sitting on a hat rack in the hall telling his kids a story and suddenly the Wizard story moved in and took over.   He shooed the kids away and grabbed a piece of paper and began writing. 

The story wrote itself he said.  At one point he needed more paper, couldn’t find any and grabbed a bunch of old envelopes and kept writing.  He typed up his hand-written notes and the fairy tale became a manuscript.      

Baum liked to tell different stories about how he came up with the book idea.  He even said he got the name “Oz” from his file cabinet.  The third one down was labeled O-Z. 

What is known is that L Frank Baum gave the world an enchanting fairytale that continues to touch the hearts of millions of people worldwide.

On March 9, the Gary Dollar Collection of The Wizard of Oz books went on the block at PBA Galleries, San Francisco.  Here are some current values for vintage books.

The Wizard of Oz

The New Wizard of Oz; illustrated by W.W. Denslow; Second Edition; First State; Indianapolis; 1903;  $1,020.

The Magic of Oz; black-and-white drawings; dust jacket; First Edition; First Printing; Chicago; 1900;  $1,560.  

The Cowardly Lion of Oz; John R. Neill black-and-white drawings; dust jacket; First Edition; Chicago; 1923;  $1,680.

The Wonderful World of Oz; illustrated by W.W. Denslow; First Edition; Second State; Chicago, 1900;  $3,300.

The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book; W.W. Denslow; First Edition; First State; New York; circa 1934; $3,300.

 

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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