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L. Frank Baum: Biography & Stories

Instructor: Crystal Hall

Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.

L. Frank Baum, award-winning author and legendary storyteller, is best known for penning ''The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.'' In this lesson, you will get to know him before his imagination took us to the Emerald City.

He Is a Whiz of a Wiz

Flying monkeys, ruby slippers (which were silver in the book), a wicked witch, a land full of Munchkins, and an entire city in green are visions that immediately come to mind when we hear the name of L. Frank Baum.

Most famous book

This incredibly imaginative author took us to a world of sheer amazement and delight, one that existed somewhere over the rainbow.

However, before he began his journey down the path of the yellow brick road, Baum traveled through the land of life. Here, we will become acquainted with him before the conception of the man behind the curtain.

If Ever a Wiz There Was

Lyman Frank Baum was born in the State of New York and grew up in Chittenango, an area that he referred to as the ''Burned-Over District.'' Sent to military school when he was twelve, Frank, as he was called, lasted for two years in the strict and abusive environment. After faking a heart attack while being caned, he was removed from the school.

Although he briefly attended a Syracuse high school, Frank dropped out due to his disinterest in college, calling it an excuse for kids to avoid the responsibility of finding a job. Frank had no such fears of working, proving himself to be quite the persistent entrepreneur.

He wrote plays, managed a theater, raised chickens, and founded a company that made lubricants out of oil. None of these ventures proved successful, and Baum began to desire a more stable lifestyle. In 1882, he married Maud Gage, whose mother was a well-known champion of women's rights.

Maud became Frank's best friend and the lady in charge of the purchase of their groceries. One day, she became highly distraught when Frank wasted money on a box of doughnuts, saying that he had to eat them so they would not go to waste. On the fourth day, the doughnuts were moldy, and Frank buried them in his backyard. Maud promptly retrieved them but decided not to make Frank eat them, dirt and all, after he promised not to buy any more food without asking her first.

Frank later moved his wife and four sons to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and finally settled in Chicago, where he again embarked upon financially unstable jobs. He was a purchaser of dishes for a department store, a baseball club manager, a newspaper reporter, and operated a bazaar.

Ten years later, when he was forty, Frank wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, framing his pencil when he was finished. His inspiration for the story was borne of his questioning of the existence of God and of his belief in the power of self-help. The book was published in 1900 and was illustrated by William Wallace Denslow. Subsequently, the book became a bestseller, and Frank became a legend.

Frank wrote thirteen more books in the Wizard of Oz series, and the film release cemented the characters and their travels as culturally iconic symbols of one man's imagination. Frank even changed the name of his first grandchild from Frances to Ozma, who subsequently named her first daughter Dorothy.

Frank's writing career was still going strong when he died from a stroke on May 6, 1919. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, having moved his family to Hollywood in 1910.

Stories

Although Frank did write thirteen more books in the Wizard of Oz series, he also branched out to pen fifty-five other books and eighty-three short stories. However, the Oz books remain his greatest literary achievements and best-selling works to date, still enthralling children all over the world.

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