[Above: At the behest of The Reilly & Britton Company, John R. Neill drew this poster to advertise L. Frank Baum’s second Oz book – an assignment that coincided with the onset of the illustrator’s four decades of Oz association. It’s safe to say that no one else has ever surpassed him in picturing the characters and vistas of Baum’s ceaseless imaginings. Meanwhile, clockwise from top center, please welcome Mombi the Witch, General Jinjur of the Army of Revolt, Mr. H. M. Woggle-Bug, T. E., the Tin Woodman, Tip, the Scarecrow, the Soldier With the Green Whiskers, and Jack Pumpkinhead!]
As the preamble to this Blog, the latest Vlog in the DISCOVERING OZ: THE ROYAL HISTORIES series is posted on the OZ Museum’s Facebook page; you can spot it there with its illustration of the cover of THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ book. I mention this, as you might more enjoy what follows here if you first check out the Vlog. 😊
Actually, though, all you really need to know “up front” as you peruse the text below is that L. Frank Baum’s classic book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was published in 1900 and intended to be a “one-shot deal.” It was written as a stand-alone, complete-in-itself story. The author had no intention to return to Oz, and over the next year, he composed a number of other children’s fantasy and fairy tale sagas. However, he also wrote a musical stage play based on THE WIZARD OF OZ, and THAT changed everything, including the next eighteen years of his life.
Just below, you’ll see a poster for the show. It opened in Baum’s current “hometown,” Chicago, in June 1902 and was an immediate and uproarious success. After playing an acclaimed and record-breaking summer in the Windy City, the production went on a brief Midwestern tour, returning to Chicago for the holidays and then moving to New York City and Broadway in January 1903. The reviews there were more dismissive, but any criticism was rampantly overcome by the great, good, high spirits of the production; its lavish scenery, costumes, and special effects; a sunny, peppy musical score; and its exemplary direction and solid cast. Audiences packed the Majestic Theatre in Columbus Circle – many of them seeing the show multiple times – and, as a consequence, knowledge of (and joy in) Baum’s land of Oz and its characters continued to grow.
The major triumph of the piece was accorded a team of former vaudevillians, David C. Montgomery and Fred A. Stone, who (respectively) played the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow. Their onstage rapport – and the almost unbelievable capering, acrobatic dance moves, and inspired mummery of the latter – made “household names” of both men and their characters. Montgomery & Stone toured with the show for a total of four years, while a second company of OZ simultaneously played other North American cities. In all, THE WIZARD OF OZ stage musical was on the boards for seven seasons – kind of the CATS of its day – and Frank Baum’s share of the box office “take” provided him with an enviable income. The two actors went on to star in additional musicals, but it was Baum’s Scarecrow and Tin Woodman with which they were ever-after and principally identified. More importantly, they gave those characters an enduring charm, appeal, and nationwide impact that delighted adults and enchanted children. (And vice-versa!)
Meanwhile, Baum recognized that -- to insure the continuation of his comfortable lifestyle -- he should write another musical stage show, and he made miscellaneous attempts in that direction. By late 1903, however, the power of OZ and its two gleefully-embraced protagonists led him to realize that a second volume of Oz adventures would best serve him AND the public. In turn, such a story could then be adapted for the theater.
Of course, even prior to its show business success, THE WIZARD OF OZ book had sold very well from 1900-1902; thus, both the story AND the touring musical had their rabid fans. Such popularity meant that Baum received literally thousands of letters from children asking him to “write something more” about Oz and their favorites. So at the onset of 1904, he did just that, initially titling his proposed tome THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE SCARECROW AND TIN WOODMAN – indication that he was already considering the property’s theatrical future.
Additional serendipity came in the fact that Baum, by the onset of 1904, had become very dissatisfied with the sales figures of his more recent books, primarily published (but, he felt, not adequately advertised) by Bobbs-Merrill. So he aligned himself with Frank Kennicott Reilly and Sumner S. Britton – former executives at the George M. Hill Company, which had published THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900. The two men organized themselves into The Reilly & Britton Company and announced Baum’s new Oz book as their first offering, available in summer 1904.
Everyone leapt into action, and the new company went all out to advance-market (and then sustain promotion) for Baum’s forthcoming title. By the time the book began to appear in stores, much was being made of one of Baum’s new characters, Professor H. M. Woggle-Bug, T.E. A common, garden-variety insect, the bug – as Baum explained it – had crawled into a schoolroom and retained all he heard. Then a chance encounter with a projection/magnifying glass physically expanded him to man-size; in that condition, he walked away from the school, began dressing like any gentle male, and pompously, self-proclaimingly, and self-promotionally defined himself by the initials with which he decorated his name: “H. M” for “Highly Magnified” and “T. E.” for “Thoroughly Educated.”
About halfway through Baum’s new manuscript, he had inserted the Woggle-Bug into the story. The grandiose insect met up with (among others) the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, which was all it took to place the Bug in the plot as a potential hit with the all-ages Oz public. As can be seen in the September 1904 trade ad (just below), Baum, Reilly, and Britton went all out to promote this new character and to launch a wide range of publicity ventures capitalizing on his personality. By this time, too, the tale’s awkward working title had long since been changed; a book dealer told Baum that he was making a great mistake in not using the word OZ in naming his sequel. Baum listened – and THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ was the result.
Before further discussing the elaborate public relations efforts and resultant sales figures referenced in this advertisement, there is one other new and important name to herald as regards the behind-the-scenes creativity in crafting THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. Baum had had a falling out with THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ illustrator, W. W. Denslow, whose disposition while they worked together on the first OZ stage musical in 1902 had been one of several Denslow disruptive forces. Thus, a new artist was required for the OZ follow-up, and Frank Reilly reached out to a young Philadelphian whose work he’d admired in the pages of the NORTH AMERICAN newspaper in that town. John Rea Neill was only twenty-six at the time, but he managed to quickly and excellently achieve a portfolio of more than one hundred and fifty drawings for THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. This included sixteen full-page pictures intended for reproduction in full color.
Neill had perhaps two primary challenges in his OZ assignment: a) equaling the impressive layout and art design that permeated THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ; and b) making the images of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman his own while still following the template of Denslow’s fanciful and original conceptions. The new artist rose splendidly to the task, however, as can be seen below where he – head-on – achieves a splendid result in depicting the reunion of the two central characters in the new book:
Looking on above are two of the story’s further heroes: the young boy, Tip, and the unforgettable (if not always intellectually ripest fruit in the field) Jack Pumpkinhead. He’d been “built” for fun by the youngster at the onset of Baum’s story and soon thereafter brought to life by a magic powder, wielded by Mombi the Witch. She planned to enslave the Pumpkinhead, but the enterprising youngster ran away with him; Jack thereafter fondly dubs Tip his “father.” (Note Neill’s additional, savvy ornamentation in this image: the handy, centrally placed oil can and the oversize mural on the wall of the Tin Woodman’s ante room. The latter is emblazoned with a celebratory drawing of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman with Dorothy Gale.
In THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ color plate shown above, Neill beauteously dramatizes a confrontation of the five principal characters versus a bar-the-way field of giant sunflowers, each with the face of a lovely girl. (The Sawhorse – protagonist number five – was also brought to life by the magic powder, although he is mostly obscured here.) In writing this sequence in his second Oz book, Baum was definitely planning ahead to his perceived stage show. One of the superlative segments of THE WIZARD OF OZ musical had been built around a chorus of pretty young women portraying poppies; the author schemed (if not terribly originally) to refashion that idea for the moment Neill captured here.
Any cavils aside, THE MARVEOUS LAND OF OZ was well plotted by Baum. Escaping Mombi’s dire threats, Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead decide to travel to the Emerald City, where the Scarecrow holds the throne vacated by the Wizard. The Sawhorse joins the boy and Pumpkinhead, but the wooden mount and Jack become separated from Tip and arrive at the Oz capital first. By the time the child rejoins them, he’s met General Jinjur and her all-female Army of Revolt. (This was another Baum device, intended to – eventually -- flood a theater stage with shapely girls wearing short-skirted military garb and tights.) The female Army overthrows the unprotected Emerald City, condemns the husbands and other men to housework, and then enjoys lives of leisure; Tip, Jack, the Sawhorse, and the Scarecrow escape to seek help from the Tin Woodman. It’s on their return journey to the Emerald City that the Woggle-Bug joins the party, and although they’re ingeniously able to regain control of the Oz palace, they’re subsequently held captive, under siege by Jinjur’s forces.
They make another escape, this time in The Gump -- a flying machine cobbled together from palace furniture and effects and brought to life by (you guessed it . . .) the magic powder. Eventually, our friends are able to seek help from Glinda the Good, who not only accompanies them back to the Emerald City but finds a means of overthrowing Jinjur. Most importantly, Glinda discovers that Mombi is responsible for the long ago disappearance of the Rightful Ruler of Oz, the Princess Ozma. All are surprised when Mombi disclosed that she had, indeed, hid Ozma away for many years via magic transformation; it fell to Neill to pointedly draw the moment when Mombi revealed the much disguised, altered Princess:
As might be imagined in today’s sometimes wrought atmosphere, the fact that the boy Tip was, in reality, a royal princess has currently laid open THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ to over-analysis by some. But there was no foreshadowing or hidden meaning intended by Baum in plotting such a character change almost one-hundred-twenty years ago. Remember: he was fashioning his story as the basis for a musical extravaganza of that era. In such shows, women often played men in what were termed “trouser roles,” and served as romantic partners-in-song for a production’s leading lady. (Baum added such a character, Sir Dashemoff Daily – played by an actress in male garb – as a love interest for the young-lady Dorothy in the stage version of THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1902. A year later, the same set-up saw a woman play Tom-Tom, the Piper’s Son vis-à-vis Little Bo-Peep in Victor Herbert’s classic BABES IN TOYLAND.)
At the conclusion of THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ book, Ozma is released from her transformation. (It would have been a perfect situation for the song, “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” but Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t write that one until 1958 and FLOWER DRUM SONG.) In this fashion, Baum succeeded in making Oz an amazing matriarchy, what with Ozma as the new ruler of the entire country, Glinda as her omniscient and virtually all-powerful sidekick, and Dorothy soon to return. (That last little tease will be explained in next month’s Vlog and Blog!) Additionally, in his subtle suffragette all-female army, Baum paid humorous but affectionate tribute to his late mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, one of the nineteenth century’s preeminent feminists, activists, and forward-thinking women.
All subtexts aside, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ was an immediate success when it hit bookstores in summer 1904. While no actual sales figures can now be confirmed, there’s no question that they surpassed – several times over -- those for THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ four years earlier. Critics exulted over Baum, Neill, and the achievement of a children’s book that was equally entertaining, in its own ways, to adults. “Mr. Baum believes in his work and delights in it . . . [he] has the child heart,” wrote the Cleveland LEADER, and (per the Chicago CHRONICLE), he “handles the movement [of his story] with considerable ingenuity, brightening it with many good-natured, witty, and satirical touches.” The reviews exulted that “Neill’s illustrations reveal much agile fancy and . . . considerable humorous resource”; when they chose to compare the overall qualities of the first two Oz books, commentators decided that THE MARVELOUS LAND was as good as or better than THE WONDERFUL WIZARD.
As can be seen in their ad copy posted as the third illustration of this month’s Blog, Reilly & Britton were primed and ready to take advantage of such notices and to early-on swamp the public with promotional efforts on behalf of the Baum/Neill accomplishment. The publishers arranged for distribution of (according to their own estimates) a million copies of a four-page “official newspaper of the Land of Oz”; please see just above. There were at least three slightly varied editions of THE OZMAPOLITAN in 1904, and the content included much heralding of THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ book, a letter to her friends in Oz from Dorothy “on Uncle Henry’s farm near Topeka,” and allusions to a coming visit to the United States by the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, the Gump, and the Woggle-Bug.
Their subsequent journey and explorations during that outing were then detailed in a twenty-six week, Sunday color page of cartoon art by Walt McDougall, illustrating Baum’s new short stories about the QUEER VISITORS FROM THE LAND OF OZ. This series debuted in September 1904 and was carried through the winter by a number of newspapers in major cities. Early episodes ended with a question posed by one of the characters, to which the Woggle-Bug confided an answer. Newspaper readers were then advised to guess, “What Did the Woggle-Bug Say?,” and to submit their answers to the local press; hundreds of dollars’ worth of prizes were purportedly distributed. A song with that title of inquiry was briefly circulated, as were thousands of “What Did the Woggle-Bug Say?” buttons. Baum even gave the gi-normous insect a book of his own, which appeared in 1905 but did not prove popular. (Below: a panel of Walt McDougall’s QUEER VISITORS art [including the Gump], one of the “Bug” contest buttons, and the cover of THE WOGGLE-BUG BOOK.)
Given such touting – and, no question, the quality and joy of the book itself -- THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ continued to sell well into 1905. Baum had, by then, hastily assembled his ever-contemplated stage musical of the story, for which he wrote both the script and song lyrics. The show opened in Chicago on June 18 (the “first night” ad is shown below) and closed there – after a critical lambasting – on July 13. The reviewers and audiences liked some aspects of THE WOGGLE-BUG, as the show was titled; the music by Frederic Chapin was praised, as were the female performers enacting Mombi, Ozma/Tip, and a new character from the Army of Revolt, Capt. Prissy-Ping. The actors who assayed the title role and that of Jack Pumpkinhead won only mixed notices; even given the brief four-week run of the production, the thespian playing the Woggle-Bug was quickly replaced. It fell to Baum to take the lumps for the show’s failure: his script was labored with unfunny, juvenile puns and geared toward an indiscriminate youthful audience, with little of the adult/contemporary appeal that Julian Mitchell, director of the stage WIZARD, had given that show three years prior.
Though its musical version failed, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ went on from strength to strength in ensuing decades. (The adjective – MARVELOUS -- was dropped from the title in 1906; whatever the publisher’s rationale, it was certainly becoming redundant to so-label Baum’s world.) The book’s new principal characters became permanent and favored citizens of Oz: Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, and even the obnoxious-to-some Woggle-Bug. (Perhaps not surprisingly, a villain as effective as Old Mombi also turned up again to cause additional havoc in a couple of later Oz books.) It would be impossible to trace all of THE LAND OF OZ “career highlights” since it first appeared, but these are a few:
THE LAND OF OZ was the second Oz book to appear in a foreign language, as published by Denoël et Steele of Paris in 1933; the same company had issued a translation of THE WIZARD OF OZ the previous year. The cover of LE PETIT ROI D’OHZ, illustrated with a Neill image of Mombi, is shown above, as it was reproduced in THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ/AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CLASSIC. (That 2013 title from Down East Books tells the history of the Oz phenomenon in some four hundred illustrations of items from the world’s greatest Oz/Baum assemblage, The Willard Carroll/Tom Wilhite Collection.)
Reilly & Britton became Reilly & Lee in 1919 and vacillated over the next five decades in the amount and innovation of their Ozian promotions. However, to capitalize on the phenomenal campaign that accompanied release of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film musical of THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1939, the Oz Book publishers offered a lower-priced, “Popular Edition” of THE LAND OF OZ. Slyly, they included the Wizard and Dorothy as features of the new cover art, although neither character appeared in the second Baum Oz story. (They were, of course, prominent -- via Frank Morgan and Judy Garland -- in the MGM adaptation of the first.) The unknown cover artist of 1939 at least drew Dorothy as Neill had been depicting her since 1907: with short blonde hair.
It wasn’t until after World War II that the MGM film could be shown in much of Europe, but Oz became especially popular in Italy. Several of Baum’s titles were translated and beautifully illustrated there; in 1947, THE LAND OF OZ appeared as OZ PAESE INCANTATO, and the example of the Miki Fero Pelizzari art above shows Mombi bringing Jack Pumpkinhead to life. (Tip looks on from a safe distance.)
In terms of dramatizations, THE LAND OF OZ was formally scripted for community theater stage production via Elizabeth Fuller Goodspeed and the Junior League Plays in 1928. An adaptation of the book’s story was also heard in nationally broadcast episodes of the NBC radio series, JELL-O PRESENTS “THE WIZARD OF OZ” in 1933-34. But its first major “dramatic” exposure came on September 18, 1960, when Shirley Temple presented a somewhat loosely retold, sixty-minute color TV version of THE LAND OF OZ to open her monthly series of NBC network specials. Although rewritten and tightened as dictated by attendant time constraints, the telecast provided a well-costumed and all-star cast of effective performers. Shown above are Agnes Moorehead as Mombi, Miss Temple as Tip/Ozma, Sterling Holloway as Jack Pumpkinhead, and Frances (Mrs. Edgar) Bergen as Glinda. (Among others on the show’s roster: Jonathan Winters, Arthur Treacher, Mel Blanc, Ben Blue, and Gil Lamb.)
Although Reilly & Lee had its staff author Jean Kellogg do considerable editing and rewriting of some of Baum’s 1904-05 QUEER VISITORS FROM THE LAND OF OZ newspaper series, the publisher proudly trumpeted the finished product as “a new Baum Oz book” in 1960. Best of all, their deluxe THE VISITORS FROM OZ volume boasted majestically buoyant artwork and design by Dick Martin.
Believe it or not, that’s just a cursory glance at -- and overview of -- the backstory and saga of THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ: its wallop, offshoots, and glories. One final and important point needs to be made, however. In the “finale” Neill art from 1904, just above, Ozma bestows her gratitude on those who traveled with and protected her during her journey through THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. From left, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, the Woggle-Bug, and the Sawhorse vow allegiance to the lovely girl, who’d formerly been known to them and to herself as Tip. And while it’s only in the last twelve pages of the book that she comes to the Emerald City throne as the esteemed, beautiful, Rightful Ruler of the entire realm, Ozma has ever since reigned warmly, wisely, and well, facing with regal calm any challenge or potential danger and disaster.
What became immediately clear is the girl’s importance to Oz, its need for her, and the love she inspires in the populace. As proof of that (just three years after THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ was published), L. Frank Baum was invited back to Oz to share its latest history. Given the circumstances of – and her significance to – the story, what could that book be called but OZMA OF OZ. 😊
See you next month with THAT chronicle -- and thank you for reading!
P.S. As a reminder: there’s additional artwork attendant to this topic accompanying its Vlog, which should be accessible on the OZ Museum Facebook page -- just a few “scrolls” down from the link for this Blog. One of the pictures there is that drawn by John R. Neill of Montgomery & Stone in their stage garb for THE WIZARD OF OZ Broadway show; Baum dedicated THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ book to them, and the Neill art accompanied Baum’s declaration. Another image offers a poster based on the show-stopping Poppy Field scene in the 1902 THE WIZARD OF OZ musical; you can compare that to the idea presented by the Sunflower Girls in Neill’s color plate above.
Article by John Fricke