Category Archives: History

Most famous books set in each state

Insider came up with this list of the most famous books set in each state. How many have you read?

AL “To Kill A Mockingbird” (Harper Lee)
AK “Into the Wild” (Jon Krakauer)
AZ “The Bean Trees” (Barbara Kingsolver)
AR “A Painted House” (John Grisham)
CA “Play It As It Lays” (Joan Didion)
CO “The Shining” (Stephen King)
CT “Revolutionary Road” (Richard Yates)
DE “The Saint of Lost Things” (Christopher Castellani)
FL “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (Zora Neale Hurston)
GA “Gone with the Wind” (Margaret Mitchell)
HI “Hawaii” (James Michener)
ID “Housekeeping” (Marilynne Robinson)
IL “The Jungle” (Upton Sinclair)
IN “The Magnificent Ambersons” (Booth Tarkington)
IA “A Thousand Acres” (Jane Smiley)
KS “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (L. Frank Baum)
KY “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
LA “A Confederacy of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole)
ME “Carrie” (Stephen King)
MD “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” (Anne Tyler)
MA “Walden” (Henry David Thoreau)
MI “The Virgin Suicides” (Jeffrey Eugenides)
MN “Main Street” (Sinclair Lewis)
MS “The Sound and the Fury” (William Faulkner)
MO “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (Mark Twain)
MT “A River Runs Through It” (Norman Maclean)
NE “My Antonia” (Willa Cather)
NV “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (Hunter S. Thompson)
NH “The Hotel New Hampshire” (John Irving)
NJ “Drown” (Junot Diaz)
NM “Cities of the Plain” (Cormac McCarthy)
NY “The Great Gatsby” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
NC “A Walk to Remember” (Nicholas Sparks)
ND “The Round House” (Louise Erdrich)
OH “The Broom of the System” (David Foster Wallace)
OK “Paradise” (Toni Morrison)
OR “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Ken Kesey)
PA “The Lovely Bones”(Alice Sebold)
RI “My Sister’s Keeper” (Jodi Picoult)
SC “The Secret Life of Bees” (Sue Monk Kidd)
SD “A Long Way From Home” (Tom Brokaw)
TN “A Death in the Family” (James Agee)
TX “No Country for Old Men” (Cormac McCarthy)
UT “The 19th Wife” (David Ebershoff)
VT “The Secret History” (Donna Tartt)
VA “Bridge to Terabithia” (Katherine Paterson)
WA “Twilight” (Stephenie Meyer)
WV “Shiloh” (Phillis Reynolds Naylor)
WI “Little House in the Big Woods” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
WY “The Laramie Project” (Moises Kaufrnan)
DC “The Lost Symbol” (Dan Brown)


The Man Behind the Curtain: L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz

by Linda McGovern


L. Frank Baum

Chances are you have seen the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz, at one point or another in your lifetime. But the chances maybe even greater that you do not associate it with L. Frank Baum, the author of the book on which the film was based. In fact, most people have probably never heard of him at all unless they have read his work or were born around the time when he was popular. Whether it is shown on television annually or rented at the local video store, The Wizard of Oz has become a staple of American popular culture. Young or old, we know where the famous, unforgettable lines originate; we know the characters by heart: Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, as well as the munchkins. Oz is as familiar as our own backyards.

Although the movie and the book differ in minor ways, the premise is similar and so are most of the characters. The only significant difference, that might matter to a child and possibly to an adult, is that in the movie, Dorothy’s journey to Oz is only a dream, purely imaginary, in other words, not real. In the book, however, there is no such rationale. Instead it invites the child to use his or her imagination as a creative, transforming force and to accept the journey, and Oz as a real place full of hope over the rainbow, where the child could escape ordinary life. Baum believed in the power of the imagination in the child. Oz really existed if only we believed it did.

After reading The Wizard of Oz, I was completely intrigued by the book as I was by the movie. It was like revisiting an old friend. Oddly however, for several years the book was considered controversial and was banned from the shelves of various libraries across the country because librarians felt it did not qualify as important juvenile literature, a sentiment which has been refuted over time. It has been criticized for its simple language and themes and was no doubt written stylistically for a child to comprehend. However, as in most fairy tales, there is room for the reader to interpret beyond the black and white on the page. What is it about The Wizard of Ozthat makes it so special, so enduring? I guess MGM couldn’t have said it any better, “Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion.” 1

Do we know who stands behind this classic and how it came to be? Have we ever heard of L. Frank Baum or his life story? As one might expect, L. Frank Baum was a fascinating person who had a wonderfully interesting life; an intricate journey of twists and turns, some good and some bad, perhaps metaphorically similar to his characters’ journey through Oz. The Wizard of OZ has been one of my all time favorite movies, to which I believe I am not alone.With this impetus, I wanted to discover who was “The Wizard of OZ,” the man behind the curtain, by shedding some light on the shadow cast upon L. Frank Baum by the film his work inspired.

Born Lyman Frank Baum in 1856, just east of Syracuse in Chittenango, NY. He never used his first name since he preferred Frank. A rather sickly child who was both timid and shy, he kept to himself and made up imaginary places and playmates since he had to refrain from any kind of strenuous exercise due to his faulty, weak heart. Throughout Frank’s life, his health was a constant impediment, which became a looming presence and a major controlling factor. Although, it never impeded his creativity, drive and talent.

When Frank was about 5 years old, his father, Benjamin Baum, struck it rich in the oil business, and the family moved to Rose Lawn Estate, a country home near Chittenango. Rose Lawn was an idyllic place for young Frank to grow up. He was very happy there except for the constant reminder of his heart condition. It is possible that young Frank developed his creative side more than most since he was not allowed to play physically like other children his age. It is reasonable to assume that the foundations for his storytelling sensibilities were laid and nurtured during this time. Frank read fairy tales and British writers voraciously, and he especially enjoyed Dickens. But even at his young age, he criticized the fairy tales that were frightening and horrifying, “I demanded fairy stories when I was a youngster, and I was a critical reader too. One thing I never liked then, and that was the introduction of witches and goblins into the story. I didn’t like the little dwarfs in the woods bobbing up with their horrors.”2 These fairy stories contributed to his nightmares or perhaps it was his overly active imagination. Frank made the decision that he would write a different kind of fairy tale.

Because of Frank’s dreamer-like qualities, his parents sent him away to a strict military school to rid him of his fanciful demeanor. This decision was not a wise one, for it did not curb his whimsical nature but instead resulted in his suffering a heart attack or a nervous breakdown (it is not clear which). Frank had always been home schooled prior to this experience. He did not like Peekskill Military School at all and it is understandable since he was not accustomed to such strict, regimented schedules and physical punishment. His parents finally allowed Frank to withdraw from Peekskill after they realized the negative effect it had on him and his health. His parents then began to nurture Frank’s creative interests.

Frank’s initial attempt at writing and publishing was in his own small newspaper called The Rose Lawn Home Journal. His father bought him a small printing press after he showed an interest in a larger, more commercial one. He was fifteen years old when he began this paper with his younger brother Harry, and he took his writing abilities seriously. The newspaper contained articles, editorials, fiction, poetry, and word games. The Rose Lawn Home Journal did well and some of the local stores bought advertisement space for their services. In 1873, Frank started a new paper called The Empire as well as The Stamp Collector, a magazine not surprisingly for stamp collectors.

Early on Frank demonstrated his resourcefulness, drive and creativity. Throughout his life, he was always productive with his time and energy and was never idle. Frank always had many interests and one of them was tending chickens. With the help of his father and brother Harry, he began to breed Hamburgs, small colorful birds which were popular at the time and they soon won awards. Frank then began a new 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 the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Throughout his life, Frank’s interests were varied and he did well at most things he attempted. His most influential interest was the theatre, which developed in his teens and loved and supported throughout his life. He took acting seriously and viewed it as an art. “When he went to plays, he studied actors’ techniques. He memorized passages from Shakespeare, and then, with money from his father, he formed a Shakespearean troupe.”3 As a young man, he entertained the thought that his career was to be an actor. He finally got a taste of the stage with Albert M. Palmer’s Union Square Theater in New York. Frank took the pen names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. Benjamin Baum, his father, who owned a string of opera houses in New York and Pennsylvania, must have seen his son’s enthusiasm and love of the theatre, for he made him the manager of them in 1880 and eventually they were given to him after he proved himself worthy. After whetting his thirst for the theatre and seeing what delighted the audiences, Frank set to work on writing original plays. His play The Maid of Arran immediately became a success, “The script, music, and lyrics were all from the name that the playwright now used for theatrical purposes. It was based on a novel, A Princess of Thule, by the Scottish novelist, William Black.” 4 Frank was the leading man and the manager of the company for The Maid of Arran. This was Baum’s first major literary work. Overall, the reviews were very positive and this spark ignited the flame of passion for the theatre.

It was while Frank was home on holiday that he met the other love of his life, Maud Gage. Through his sister Harriet’s persistence, Frank agreed to meet Maud at a party. She was still at Cornell University while Frank was with The Maid of Arran Company. After the holiday season came to a close, Maud left to go back to school to the admiration of other male suitors and Frank stayed with the Company. Maud came from a prosperous family who lived in Fayetteville, NY. Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a nationally known feminist and her father was a dry-goods merchant. It is interesting to note, that Matilda worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in her later years. It was in the Gage home that these three women wrote History of Woman Suffrage published in four volumes from 1881 to 1902.

Baum  later recalled his feelings after meeting Maud, “…my show had some free time between bookings. At every opportunity I returned to Syracuse, borrowed a horse and buggy from father, and drove the eight miles to Fayetteville.”5 Frank began courting Maud soon after meeting her. Maud’s mother was not thrilled by Frank for he seemed rather flighty, a dreamer type and she thought him an unstable match for her daughter. However, against the wishes of her mother Maud and Frank were married on November 9th, 1882. Maud went along with Frank and the Company on tour with The Maid of Arran. They lived a nomadic existence while touring. However, when Maud became pregnant with their first child, they settled down and rented a home in Syracuse.

Baum found a new leading man to take his place and trained a new company manager. Maud soon took over the family finances and the role of disciplinarian, for it was known that these were not Frank’s strong suits. In many respects, Frank and Maud were exact opposites. She was headstrong, strong willed and temperamental. Frank, on the other hand, was low key, optimistic, even-tempered and whimsical. For Baum, “Years of living in the shadow of a heart ailment had taught him to avoid upsets that might bring on an attack.”6 Maud was raised in a much stricter environment and appeared to have had her way with her parents, and was spoiled in a certain respect. “Maud Baum often mentioned that peace and harmony had always graced her home, but those who knew the family best felt that this was true only because Frank, from the time of their marriage until his death thirty seven years later, allowed her to have her own way with the household, the children, and the family purse.”7  Whatever their secret formula was to a happy marriage, it seemed their opposite natures were a good combination.

During this time, Frank’s health was less than perfect, Baum had suffered one heart attack shortly before his marriage, and in the summer of 1883, his uncertain health was indicated by nausea and dizzy spells. Once settled in Syracuse, Baum worked in sales for the family business. In 1884, trouble hit with full force, Frank’s uncle who was the manager of the theatrical establishment, became quite ill and a bookkeeper was hired to replace his absence. There was major mismanagement of the funds and by the time Frank’s uncle was ready to go back to work, the bookkeeping was so illegible that it was impossible for them to make an audit. During the time of the investigation, the bookkeeper conveniently disappeared. Everything suffered but again Frank managed to stay afloat by working as head salesman in the family Castorine Business. Shortly after Frank’s father died, the family fortune began to wane. During this time, Frank was preoccupied with his own fragile health and hectic sales schedule, Maud having their second son, and the failing health of Uncle Doc who handled the business finances. The business was left in the hands of a clerk. Ironically and sadly, again their money was swindled from them, gambled away while the bills went unpaid and they lost everything. “In the Spring of 1888 Baum returned to Syracuse early one morning from a sales trip and went directly to the office. He unlocked the door, entered, and was stunned to find the clerk sprawled across the deskÃ?¢??dead. The revolver with which he had shot himself was still in hand.”8 Forced to sell the business, Frank and Maud decided (at Maud’s suggestion) to move out West to the Dakota territory where “Western Fever” was the talk of the day. Many families were migrating and Maud’s relatives were no different. This may have been another factor in their decision besides the hope of economic possibilities. In Aberdeen, Frank operated a general store that he named “Baum’s Bazaar” which he rented for a few years. The store opened on October 1, 1888 and it sold a variety of goods from tableware, household goods, tinware, and lamps to toys and candy. There were always plenty of children around the store for they liked to listen to Frank tell them stories of faraway places and enchanted lands. “The Bazaar always was crowded with youngsters after school . Some bought a penny’s worth of candy or ice cream. Many came to hear stories that Baum could be persuaded to tell.”9 Unfortunately, due to the terrible drought in 1888 the customers had no money to buy anything, and because of Baum’s friendly demeanor and compassion for his neighbors, he couldn’t deny them their necessities and as a result, the Baums were nearly bankrupt. In 1890, the bank foreclosed on “Baum’s Bazaar.” Frank never lost hope and never relinquished his creativity and resourcefulness. Soon after, he began a new position managing a weekly newspaper called The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. He sold advertisements, set the type, ran the press, and wrote. It seemed the skills he acquired as a boy came in handy. In the paper he wrote about all sorts of social events. Unfortunately, however, and to his discredit, it also included editorials that had disparaging racial comments and illustrated an intolerant attitude towards Native American Indians during their conflicts with the government. Nonetheless, it was a well liked paper but the scarce Dakota years got the best of him and in 1891 Frank lost the Pioneer to bankruptcy. He reportedly responded by saying, “I decided the sheriff wanted the paper more than I.”10

Throughout his lifetime, Frank genuinely loved children and they adored him. He never stopped believing in the creative powers of the imagination. While working at the paper, he would see his truly faithful story listeners, “Often, as Baum would walk down the streets of Aberdeen on his rounds for news and advertising, he would be stopped by children demanding a story. He would sit down on the edge of the dusty wooden sidewalk and spin one of his yarns of magic countries.”11 These children forecasted his future; they saw the genius of a storyteller he would become.

Baum’s future was in the Midwest (at least for a while) and he decided that moving onward a second time was the smartest choice, and he was right. Through these tough economic years, Baum remained optimistic which could not have been easy at the time. In 1893, Chicago had the World Columbian Exposition so it seemed a logical place to try to find employment. Frank first took a position as a reporter for the Evening Post but the pay was so slight he instead he worked as a traveling salesman for a china company, Pitkin and Brooks. During the weeks that Maud and Frank were apart, Maud’s mother, Matilda, would stay with her and help out. On several occasions, Matilda would over hear her son-in-law telling the children stories and though she wasn’t always thrilled by Frank, she always admired and encouraged his storytelling abilities. She told him that he should write these stories down and publish them. Whenever Frank was home with the family, “he would recite to the boys’ favorite Mother Goose Rhymes. They would ask him, for instance, how blackbirds baked in a pie could later come out and sing and got what Harry remembered as a satisfactory answer. Often neighborhood friends of the older boys would drop in for the storytelling hour.”12 Storytelling was a natural gift Baum possessed. He had the ability to capture the imagination of children and to create worlds of timelessness in his stories. Baum states in the introduction to The Lost Princess of Oz, “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 dreamsÃ?¢??day dreams with your eyes wide openÃ?¢??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. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.” 13 While traveling, Frank would never ignore his creative muse but instead would continue to write while in hotel rooms on the backs of scrap paper or anything available.

While in Chicago, Baum kept in contact with the Chicago Press Club of his former newspaper days and mentioned to a popular novelist, Opie Read, about his writings on Mother Goose stories and that he was looking for a publisher. Through Opie Read, he met Chancey L. Williams of Way & Williams Publishing. With illustrator Maxfield Parrish, Baum’s Mother Goose Stories became Mother Goose in Prose in1897.Also during this time, Frank’s health began to fail and he had nasal hemorrhages, and terrible chest pains. He saw a heart specialist who advised him to find a more sedentary job, rather than a traveling lifestyle. His vice of smoking cigars, throughout his life, probably didn’t help his fragile health but he did not relinquish them.

The Show Window, a monthly trade magazine that Baum started five years after leaving Pitkin and Brooks, was the next of Baum’s creative ventures that actually did very well and which he kept until 1902 when it was sold. His days with the “Baum Bazaar” and his time at Pitkin and Brooks as a salesman had given him a keen eye for window design. As boring and as flat as window trimming and decorating may sound to some, Baum was able to liven it up, “by publishing short stories by Stanley Waterloo and Gardner C. Teall, and by writing himself about the values of window advertising in specific trades.”14  Being an editor of a magazine now gave Baum more time to frequent the Press Club than when he was a traveling salesman. Through his friend Opie Read, he met William W. Denslow or “Den” and from then on his life would never be the same. Denslow was described as being serious and gruff, quite the opposite of Baum and years later their contradictory personalities were, in many respects, the downfall of their relationship. Denslow sported a large walrus moustache and was known to wear a beautiful red vest that he liked to show off while at the Baum home. Denslow and Baum worked together often and Denslow would visit Baum at his home drawing pictures to fit the verse. Their first official venture together was Father Goose, His Book,published in 1899,and it was an immediate success, becoming the best selling children’s book ofthe year. The Tribune reported in June, 1900, that “Father Goose, His Book last year achieved the record of having the largest sale of any juvenile in America.”15 Baum had finally hit it just right and all the previous experiences of his many professions made it all the sweeter. But the best news was when Pitkin, whom Baum had worked for, stated, “that fellow Baum who worked for us is the author of a book that is selling like hot cakes.”16  It was so popular, that it spurred the Songs of Father Goose, in which some of the verses were put to music. The combination of Baum’s verses and Denslow’s illustrations were the perfect mixture to please a child, which was Baum’s original purpose. The Baums were able to spend several summers at Macatawa Park, Michigan, a resort along the shore of Lake Michigan, because of the proceeds of Father Goose, His Book. They bought a summer cottage that Frank named “The Sign of the Goose.” Inside the cottage Frank made all the furniture by hand: large rocking chairs, a grandfather’s clock, a small bookcase, as well as other creations. Baum was so much a part of his work and his work so much a part of him that he engraved and stenciled geese into some of the woodwork, as well as into a stained glass window. This was a hobby he took up after recovering from an attack of facial paralysis. Interestingly, later Baum would name their dog Toto and their home in California Ozcot, after his most notable work The Wizard of Oz.

Baum also did some writing there, as well as relaxing. But he was certainly never without something to do, for he was very involved in the community social life as well. Frank wrote a book about Macatawa in 1907,entitled Tamawaca Folks A Summer Comedy which was considered an unfavorable account by some.

The Baum Denslow team would produce the most lasting and popular piece of work, The Wizard of Oz. The most worthy and notable of Baum’s creations was the story of Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the other inhabitants of Oz, which not surprisingly, began as a story told to some of the young children in the neighborhood, as well as to his own children. Baum’s moment of inspiration came when he broke up the storytelling hour so he could write down the magical story he knew he must note for safe keeping. He wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled, “The Emerald City.” It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it. So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Baum early on had wanted to write a new kind of fairy tale because of the frightening themes he remembered as a child. “Before Baum there were few fairy tales written by Americans. There were, of course, the fairy tales of Howard Pyle and Frank Stockton. The American child had to look to Great Britain for his tales of fantasy”17It has been suggested that Baum never totally created a purely American fairy tale for he did borrow ideas from the European tradition of using witches, and wizards and magical shoes etc. It is interesting to note that he used to have a recurrent nightmare about a scarecrow who chased him, yet he used the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz as a friendly companion of Dorothy’s.18

The Baum and Denslow team were to work together on a few more books and projects and only for a few years following their success from The Wizard of Oz. In 1902, they collaborated with Paul Tietjens and Julien Mitchell to produce an adult version of The Wizard of Oz as a musical stage play. It became a major success and toured the nation. It has been suggested that Denslow wanted his share of the royalties of the play and threatened a law suit even though he had nothing to do with it. It is not certain why Baum and Denslow split up but it has been suggested that there were several possible reasons, one being that neither Baum nor Denslow needed the other to prosper, now that each was known in their own right. Another reason is that there was also considerable rivalry about who was most responsible for the success of their books and they had large disagreements on this subject. Also, the failure of the Hill company made it logical for them to split as well. They were mainly just business partners; there was no loyalty to friendship, since they were very different people and had very different lifestyles. “They had different friends, different habits, and different ways of living. Denslow was quixotic and extrovertedÃ?¢??his sense of humor was upside down. He would carp and complain and grumble. The bohemian atmosphere of his studio, where his cronies gathered, was the center of his life. Baum, on the other hand, was quiet and spent most of his evenings at home.”20 As a result, their relationship did not end on good terms.

Baum went onto produce seventeen sequels to the Oz books since the reception of the first was so incredible. The first was The Marvelous Land of Oz. Children would send him letters constantly telling him how enjoyable The Wizard of Oz was and how they were delighted he wrote such a great story and would beg him to write more of them. But the Oz stories appealed to both young and old and he received fan mail from both. Baum stated, “My books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” 21  It seems that Baum did not want to write as many sequels as he did, for he wanted to write other kinds of children’s books but the children’s requests were incessant.  He wrote other kinds of books under several different pen names mainly because he wanted to be remembered as the American author of fairy tales, and this way he could try other facets and not worry about their success and profit. There Frank could explore all sorts of themes, not just the happy place of Oz. There were several that claimed success but none would repeat the amount that The Wizard of Oz had. Aunt Jane’s Nieces became a very popular teenage series for girls that Baum wrote under the pen name of Edith Van Dyne. Baum always looked for ways to boost his income in those days. Financial success gave him not only a reputation but the comforts of life and the pleasures of traveling that he and Maud enjoyed so much.

Baum became known as the “Royal Historian of Oz” until his death when Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen to take on this title and continue the tradition. In 1905, people could not get enough of Oz and a small newspaper called The Ozmapolitan was issued.

In 1908, Baum produced a traveling film show called the “Fairylogue and Radio Plays,” which did not achieve commercial success. Baum had left a great amount of debt to accumulate primarily as a result of the “Radio Plays.” Frank and Maud decided to leave Chicago and move to California to a home they called Ozcot. California was much more compatible with his failing health. Here Frank was very contented, writing constantly, and tending his garden. “At Ozcot, Baum, for the first time in his life could fall into a congenial monotony of routine.”22 He ate breakfast at a certain time, went to his garden to tend his blooms, wrote and revised in the afternoons, yet he also enjoyed golf and played the game on a consistent basis for a while, as well as playing the piano or a game in the evenings after dinner. Like most anything Baum ever ventured he succeeded at, and his garden was no different. “Baum soon made a name for himself as a grower and exhibitor of prize dahlias and chrysanthemums. His blooms won so many awards in strong competition in that land of flowers that he was often described as the champion amateur horticulturist of Southern California.”23

Baum courageously went on in the face of adversity. He never gave up easily and his horizon always seemed within his grasp. In a letter he wrote to one of his sons who was in WWI, “for I have lived long enough to learn that in life nothing adverse lasts very long. And it is true that as years pass, and we look back on something which, at that time, seemed unbelievably discouraging and unfair. The eventual outcome was, we discover, by far the best solution for us”25 Bedridden and in constant pain, he continued to write, propped up with pillows. Baum had to stop his beloved gardening, answering letters from devoted fans and basking in the California sunshine that proved it was not the magical elixir it was thought to be, like it might have been in a fairy tale he told; nothing could extend Baum’s fragile years. Like California, Oz was the seemingly perfect place. Glinda of Oz was the last of the Oz sequels and was published posthumously in 1920. On May 5th 1919, Frank lapsed into unconsciousness and spoke to Maud with his last thoughts. He wished for her to live in their home when he was gone where they had been so happy all those years. The next day, while in a semi-comatosestate, just before he died, Frank’s breathing became very erratic and unsteady and as he slipped from one world into the next, he managed to whisper to Maud, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”

His health had begun to fade, it had become quite a restriction and he soon was left immobile, restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain of his health contributed to his attacks of angina pectoris, as well as the unpredictable, gall bladder problems, excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face of tic douloureux which were like seizures. “Although few traces of agony are detectable in his work, there were many times when the tears would stream from his eyes and wet the paper as he wrote.”24

His humble tombstone reads only, “L. Frank Baum 1856-1919” yet there was so much between those dates that children and adults still discover and rediscover when they open their hearts to the magic of imagination which was Baum’s pilot. With mixed emotions, I watched The Wizard of Oz again and wished that Baum could have known the impact his book had upon the world.



Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

Baum, Frank Joslyn and MacFall, Russell P.To Please A Child A Biography of L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago 1961.

Carpenter, Angelica Shirley and Shirley, Jean. L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz . Lerner Publications Co., Minneapolis: 1991.

Hearn, Michael Patrick. The Annotated Wizard of Oz Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York: 1973.

1 p. 133 To Please a Child

2 p. 14 The Royal Historian of Oz

3 p. 20 The Royal Historian of Oz

4 p. 34 To Please a Child

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10 p. 39 The Royal Historian of Oz

11 p. 64 To Please a Child

12 p.86 To Please a Child

13 p. 293 The Annotated Wizard of Oz

14 p. 95 To Please a Child

15 p. 101 To Please a Child

16 p. 102 To Please a Child

17 p. 38 The Annotated Wizard of Oz

18 p.14 The Royal Historian of Oz

19 p.129 To Please a Child.

20 p. 153 To Please a Child.

21 p. 147 To Please a Child.

22 p. 265 To Please a Child.

23 p. 286 To Please a Child.

24 p. 270 To Please a Child.

25 p. 272 To Please a Child.


An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge 

by Ambrose Bierce


A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack feel to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners — two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest — a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground — a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators — a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good — a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.


Peyton Fahrquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Fahrquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Fahrquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.”

“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Fahrquhar asked.

“About thirty miles.”

“Is there no force on this side of the creek?”

“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.”

“Suppose a man — a civilian and student of hanging — should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Fahrquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”

The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.”

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.


As Peyton Fahrquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened — ages later, it seemed to him — by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf — he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Fahrquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:

“Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!”

Fahrquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me — the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.”

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of AEolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again — he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.


Gustav Freytag

Gustav Freytag GUSTAV FREYTAG (1816-1895), German novelist, was born at Kreuzburg, in Silesia, on the 13th of July 1816.

After attending the gymnasium at Ols, he studied philology at the universities of Breslau and Berlin, and in 1838 took the degree with a remarkable dissertation, De initiis poeseos scenicae apud Germanos. In 1839 he settled at Breslau, as Privatdocent in German language and literature, but devoted his principal attention to writing for the stage, and achieved considerable success with the comedy Die Brautf ahrt, oder Kunz von der Rosen (1844).

This was followed by a volume of unimportant poems, In Breslau (1845) and the dramas Die Valentine (1846) and Graf Waldemar (1847). He at last attained a prominent position by his comedy, Die Journalisten (1853), one of the best German comedies of the 19th century.

In 1847 he migrated to Berlin, and in the following year took over, in conjunction with Julian Schmidt, the editorship of Die Grenzboten, a weekly journal which, founded in 1841, now became the leading organ of German and Austrian liberalism. Freytag helped to conduct it until 1861, and again from 1867 till 1870, when for a short time he edited a new periodical, Im neuen Reich.

His literary fame was made universal by the publication in 1855 of his novel, Soll and Haben, which was translated into almost all the languages of Europe. It was certainly the best German novel of its day, impressive by its sturdy but unexaggerated realism, and in many parts highly humorous. Its main purpose is the recommendation of the German middle class as the soundest element in the nation, but it also has a more directly patriotic intention in the contrast which it draws between the homely virtues of the Teuton and the shiftlessness of the Pole and the rapacity of the Jew.

As a Silesian, Freytag had no great love for his Slavonic neighbours, and being a native of a province which owed everything to Prussia, he was naturally an earnest champion of Prussian hegemony over Germany. His powerful advocacy of this idea in his Grenzboten gained him the friendship of the duke of SaxeCoburg-Gotha, whose neighbour he had become, on acquiring the estate of Siebleben near Gotha. At the duke’s request Freytag was attached to the staff of the crown prince of Prussia in the campaign of 1870, and was present at the battles of Worth and Sedan.

Before this he had published another novel, Die verlorne Handschrift (1864), in which he endeavoured to do for German university life what in Soll and Haben he had done for commercial life. The hero is a young German professor, who is so wrapt up in his search for a manuscript by Tacitus that he is oblivious to an impending tragedy in his domestic life. The book was, however, less successful than its predecessor.

Between 1859 and 1867 Freytag published in five volumes Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit, a most valuable work on popular lines, illustrating the history and manners of Germany.

In 1872 he began a work with a similar patriotic purpose, Die Ahnen, a series of historical romances in which he unfolds the history of a German family from the earliest times to the middle of the 19th century. The series comprises the following novels, none of which, however, reaches the level of Freytag’s earlier books. (I) Ingo and Ingraban (1872), (2) Das Nest der Zaunkonige (1874), (3) Die Brilder vom deutschen Hause (1875), (4) Marcus Kiinig (1876), (5) Die Geschwister (1878), and (6) in conclusion, Aus einer kleinen Stadt (1880).

Among Freytag’s other works may be noticed Die Technik des Dramas (1863); an excellent biography of the Baden statesman Karl Mathy (1869); an autobiography (Erinnerungen aus meinen Leben, 1887); his Gesammelte Aufsdtze, chiefly reprinted from the Grenzboten (1888); Der Kronprinz and die deutsche Kaiserkrone; Erinnerungsbldtter (1889). He died at Wiesbaden on the 30th of April 1895.

Freytag’s Gesammelte Werke were published in 22 vols. at Leipzig (1886-1888); his Vermischte Aufsatze have been edited by E. Elster, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1901-1903). On Freytag’s life see, besides his autobiography mentioned above, the lives by C. Alberti (Leipzig, 1890) and F. Seiler (Leipzig, 1898).