Ondertexts
L. Frank Baum
Search

L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum L. Frank Baum[1†]

Introduction

Lyman Frank Baum, more commonly known as L. Frank Baum, was an American author best known for his children’s fantasy books, particularly “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which is part of a series[1†][2†]. Born on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York, Baum passed away on May 6, 1919, in Hollywood, California[1†][2†].

In addition to the 14 Oz books, Baum penned 41 other novels (not including four lost, unpublished novels), 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and at least 42 scripts[1†]. His works anticipated such later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers, wireless telephones, women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations, and the ubiquity of clothes advertising[1†].

Baum’s career began as a journalist, initially in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and then in Chicago[1†][2†]. His first book, “Father Goose” (1899), was a commercial success, and he followed it the next year with the even more popular "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"[1†][2†]. A successful stage adaptation of the book opened in 1902 in Chicago[1†][2†]. Its film version, in 1939, became a cinema classic and was made familiar to later generations of children through frequent showings on television[1†][2†].

Baum wrote 13 more Oz books, and the series was continued by another after his death[1†][2†]. Using a variety of pseudonyms as well as his own name, Baum wrote some 60 books, the bulk of them juveniles that were popular in their day[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Lyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York[1†]. He was the seventh of nine children born to Cynthia Ann (née Stanton) and Benjamin Ward Baum, though only five of the children survived into adulthood[1†]. Baum was of German, Scots-Irish, and English ancestry[1†]. His father was successful in many businesses, including barrel-making, oil drilling in Pennsylvania, and real estate[1†]. Baum grew up on his parents’ expansive estate called Rose Lawn, which he fondly recalled as a sort of paradise[1†].

Baum was named Lyman after his uncle, but he always disliked it and preferred his middle name "Frank"[1†][3†]. He was a sickly, dreamy child, tutored at home with his siblings[1†]. From the age of 12, he spent two miserable years at Peekskill Military Academy[1†]. However, after being severely disciplined for daydreaming, he had a possibly psychogenic heart attack and was allowed to return home[1†].

Baum started writing early in life, possibly prompted by his father buying him a cheap printing press[1†]. He had always been close to his younger brother Henry (Harry) Clay Baum, who helped in the production of The Rose Lawn Home Journal[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

L. Frank Baum’s career was as colorful and varied as the characters in his books. He pursued a variety of careers ranging from acting to newspaper reporting to theatrical management to writing plays[4†]. He had been an actor, though only successfully in “The Maid of Arran”, a newspaper editor (“The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer”), a store owner (Baum’s Bazaar, from which he filed for bankruptcy on New Year’s Day of 1899), and motion picture producer and director[4†][5†].

Baum and his wife opened a store in South Dakota, and he edited and published a newspaper[4†][6†]. They then moved to Chicago, where he worked as a newspaper reporter and published children’s literature[4†][6†]. His first book, “Father Goose” (1899), was a commercial success, and he followed it the next year with the even more popular "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"[4†][2†]. A modern fairy tale, it tells the story of Dorothy, a Kansas farm girl who is blown by a cyclone to the land of Oz, where she is befriended by such memorable characters as the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion[4†][2†].

A successful stage adaptation of the book opened in 1902 in Chicago[4†][2†]. Its film version, in 1939, became a cinema classic and was made familiar to later generations of children through frequent showings on television[4†][2†]. Baum wrote 13 more Oz books, and the series was continued by another after his death[4†][2†]. Using a variety of pseudonyms as well as his own name, Baum wrote some 60 books, the bulk of them juveniles that were popular in their day[4†][2†].

While continuing his writing, among his final projects he sought to establish a film studio focused on children’s films in Los Angeles, California[4†][1†]. His works anticipated such later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of clothes advertising (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work)[4†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

L. Frank Baum’s literary career was prolific, with his works spanning various genres and reaching wide audiences. His first book, “Father Goose” (1899), was a commercial success[2†]. However, it was the publication of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900 that catapulted Baum to fame[2†][1†][2†]. This modern fairy tale tells the story of Dorothy, a Kansas farm girl who is transported to the magical land of Oz, where she befriends memorable characters like the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion[2†].

Following the success of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Baum wrote 13 more books in the Oz series[2†][1†][2†]. These books continued to captivate readers with their imaginative storytelling and memorable characters[2†][1†][2†].

In addition to the Oz series, Baum wrote several other notable works under various pseudonyms[2†][1†][2†]. Some of these works include:

Baum’s works were not limited to books. He also wrote over 200 poems and at least 42 scripts[2†][1†]. His works often anticipated later commonplaces such as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (“The Master Key”), wireless telephones (“Tik-Tok of Oz”), women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations (“Mary Louise in the Country”), and the ubiquity of clothes advertising (“Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work”)[2†][1†].

Baum’s works have had a lasting impact, with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” being adapted into a successful stage play in 1902 and a landmark film in 1939[2†]. His works continue to be celebrated for their creativity, imagination, and enduring appeal[2†][1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a modern fairy tale with a distinctly American setting, a delightfully levelheaded heroine, and engaging fantasy characters[8†]. The story was enormously popular and became a classic of children’s literature[8†]. Despite her boredom with her drab life in rural Kansas, Dorothy almost immediately wishes to return to its comfortable familiarity after she is transported to the wild, magical Land of Oz[8†][9†].

Baum’s work has been analyzed for its complex political and societal issues. Some readers believe that the seemingly simple fairy tale actually explores more complex political and societal issues[8†][10†]. Notably, the book has been seen as a feminist work[8†][10†]. The evidence from the text is overwhelming, and, in light of Baum’s political background, trickster personality, and subsequent work, it is all but conclusive: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a deliberate work of political symbolism[8†][11†].

The character of Oz is questionable from the moment of his request: an all-powerful wizard should not need the assistance of a young girl to tackle the forces of evil on his behalf[8†][9†]. When Dorothy fulfills the conditions of her agreement with him, Oz’s character is further called into question[8†][9†]. Privately, Oz confides to Dorothy and her friends that he is not a wizard at all[8†][9†]. Instead, he is an ordinary man who, much like Dorothy, reached this land by accident[8†][9†].

Baum’s works have had a lasting impact, with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” being adapted into a successful stage play in 1902 and a landmark film in 1939[8†][9†]. His works continue to be celebrated for their creativity, imagination, and enduring appeal[8†][9†].

Personal Life

L. Frank Baum was a family man, known for his kind and gentle nature[5†]. He married Maud Gage in 1882[5†][12†], and together they raised four sons[5†][12†][5†]. Baum was not one to use harsh language or tell inappropriate jokes, and he was unable to discipline his children, leaving that task to Maud[5†].

Baum was born with a heart condition[5†][13†]. At the age of 14, while attending Peekskill Military Academy, he suffered a heart attack, possibly psychogenic in nature, induced by severe discipline for daydreaming[5†][1†][5†][13†]. This event led to his return home[5†][1†].

Despite his health challenges, Baum was known for his vivid imagination[5†][12†]. He enjoyed creating stories for his young sons and their friends[5†][12†], a pastime that likely influenced his later career as a beloved author of children’s fantasy books[5†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

L. Frank Baum’s legacy is vast and enduring. His imaginative works, particularly “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and its sequels, have become a cherished part of children’s literature[1†]. His stories have transcended the written page, with adaptations for the stage and screen, including the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”, which is considered a classic of 20th-century cinema[1†].

Baum’s works were not only entertaining but also ahead of their time, anticipating such later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers, wireless telephones, women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations, and the ubiquity of clothes advertising[1†]. His influence on the fantasy genre and his ability to capture the imaginations of readers of all ages have cemented his place in literary history[1†].

Baum’s legacy continues to be celebrated today. He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2002 under the category of Arts and Entertainment[1†][14†]. His great-grandson, Roger Baum, has also contributed to his great-grandfather’s legacy by publishing new books in the Oz canon[1†][15†].

Despite his passing in 1919, L. Frank Baum’s work continues to inspire and entertain, demonstrating the timeless appeal of his storytelling[1†][14†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - L. Frank Baum [website] - link
  2. Britannica - L. Frank Baum: American author [website] - link
  3. SunSigns - L. Frank Baum Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia.com - L. Frank Baum [website] - link
  5. IMDb - L. Frank Baum [website] - link
  6. Wikiwand - L. Frank Baum - Wikiwand [website] - link
  7. Wikipedia (English) - List of Oz books [website] - link
  8. Britannica - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: novel by Baum [website] - link
  9. eNotes - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Analysis [website] - link
  10. Britannica - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Classic Fantasy, Literary Analysis, Adaptations [website] - link
  11. History News Network - So Was the Wizard of Oz an Allegory for Populism? [website] - link
  12. Simple Wikipedia (English) - L. Frank Baum [website] - link
  13. CelebsAgeWiki - L. Frank Baum Biography, Age, Height, Wife, Net Worth, Family [website] - link
  14. South Dakota Hall of Fame - Legacy L. Frank Baum [website] - link
  15. The Hollywood Reporter - ‘Wizard of Oz’ Author’s Great-Grandson on Disney’s Film and Family Secrets [website] - link
  16. Infoplease - Baum, L. Frank [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.