It’s the birthday of the man who wrote The Wizard of Oz: Lyman Frank Baum, born in Chittenango, New York (1856). His father was a rich oil tycoon, and the family lived at an idyllic country home in upstate New York. He was a shy and absent-minded child, and his parents sent him to military school to instill some discipline in him. Frank had a heart condition his entire life and was never able to exert himself physically. He had a heart attack at school and returned home, where he turned his creativity toward writing and publishing. When he was 15 years old, his father bought him a small printing press for his birthday, and he and his brother Harry started a newspaper called The Rose Lawn Home Journal. Frank was also interested in raising Hamburg chickens, and he published a magazine called The Poultry Record. His first book was published in 1886 and was called The Book of Hamburgs, A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of Different Varieties of Hamburgs.
He wrote a couple of plays and toured around the country before settling down in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He ran a general store that he called “Baum’s Bazaar,” where, with a cigar constantly dangling from his mouth, he liked to entertain children by telling them fairy tales and giving them candy as they gathered around on the dusty, wooden sidewalk. In 1897, he published his collection of Mother Goose stories, Mother Goose in Prose. Two years later he met the illustrator William Denslow, and the pair published Father Goose, His Book (1899), a huge success. Baum made so much money from Father Goose that he was able to buy a summer home in Macatawa Park, Michigan, where he built all of the furniture by hand.
In 1900, Baum wrote the book that made him famous, The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Denslow. The book began as a story he told to some neighborhood children; Frank thought it was so good that he stopped in the middle of the story to go start writing it down. The story of Dorothy, her dog Toto, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man was an instant classic.
Frank Baum wrote, “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”
And, “I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones.”