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Born Today: Frank L. Baum

On May 15, 1856, Frank L. Baum was born in Chittenango, New York. Baum is most famous for the children’s books he wrote about the land of Oz and has delighted generations of readers. 

Baum began his writing career as a journalist in South Dakota and Chicago, but his first book “Father Goose” was published in 1899. It was a commercial success, but his next book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” published in 1900 was what cemented his legacy as a writer. 

A successful stage adaptation of the book opened in 1902. The book’s most famous adaptation, the film “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, was released in 1939.

Throughout his career, Baum wrote about 60 books for children and 13 more books about fantastical characters in Oz. Baum wrote under pseudonyms like “Edith Van Dyne” and, in 1910, moved to Hollywood, California to write for movies.

Even after his death in 1918, the world of Oz lived on. In addition to the famous movie adaptation, many writers were hired to continue writing stories about the characters in Oz. Other writers have explored the characters of Oz in unique ways, like Gregory Maquire’s novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, which was adapted into the Broadway musical “Wicked”.

Here are a few other fun facts about Frank L. Baum:

  • Frank was his middle name! Baum was born as Lyman Frank Baum, named after an uncle. However, Baum hated the name Lyman, and chose instead to go by his middle name, Frank, throughout his life.
  • Baum had never lived in Kansas. Even though Dorothy is famously from the Sunflower State, Baum had only ever been there once. He spent many years in South Dakota, but Baum may have chosen Kansas as Dorothy’s home to pay homage to his relatives living there, or because of the many storms that tore through the state in the 1890s.
  • The original print run of the first book sold out in two weeks. Publication of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in August of 1900 with 10,000 copies, which sold out quickly in two weeks. In fact, in the first 6 months of publication, 90,000 copies were sold, and the book remained a bestseller for two years.

You can check out many of Frank L. Baum’s stories in the wonderful world of Oz on the Yonkers Public Library catalog.

Alison Robles is a Part-Time Junior Clerk at the Crestwood Library. She is an avid reader with a passion for YA lit, historical fiction and fantasy. A Yonkers native, she is currently pursuing an MS in Information and Library Science from the University at Buffalo.