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Every year around Thanksgiving children across the world sit down to watch the colorful tale of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on television. These children may not know that The Wizard of Oz started as a book and play by author L. Frank Baum. While the story, seated in drought stricken Kansas is a family favorite, many of the characters and scenes are based on experiences from L. Frank Baum's real life.
L. Frank Baum was born in New York in 1856 to wealthy parents. From an early age, he had a fascination with printing and fabricating stories. Named 'Lyman" at birth, he had a strong distaste for the name and preferred to be called Frank. As a young boy he lived on an estate called Rose Lawn, which he believed was a personal paradise. At the age of 12, he was given a printing press by his father and began what would be a long career in writing. His first written work was The Rose Lawn Home Journal which he and his brother self-published out of their home. At the young age of 17, he was already a recognized amateur journalist due to his work in this journal. This prompted him to begin another writing project called The Stamp Collector which included published works and a complete stamp dealer's directory. From these humble beginnings, he infused his writing into every aspect of his life. When he began breeding fancy poultry at the age of 20, he began syndication of the The Poultry Journal alongside it. Additionally, his first full-length book was called The Book of the Hamburgs which was about Hamburg chickens.
L. Frank Baum also had an intense passion for the theater and returned to this interest in his 30's. Interesting experiences and creativity sparked him to write many plays and songs that were mildly successful. He also enjoyed acting and would take on rolls in his plays as often as possible.
When L. Frank Baum got married in 1888, he moved with his wife to South Dakota. His life there was the backdrop for the scenes in The Wizard of Oz. He launched a newspaper career as well which would prove to be unsuccessful. His return to writing came via children's stories and prose. One of the first published was Mother Goose in Prose. This was followed up by children's books called Father Goose, His Book. The latter proved to be the most successful children's book of the year and won Baum many awards.
However, it would not be until 1900 when Baum's children literary career would see its most success. At the time, he was partnered with long time friend and illustrator W.W. Denslow. They jointly released The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and followed them with thirteen other books based on the characters in the book. Much of the fantasy of Oz in his books is taken from his memories of living at Rose Lawn as a child. Baum, always interested in theater and song teamed up with a composer and director to release the musical version of The Wizard of Oz in 1902. The show became a big hit and ran consecutively on Broadway for over 2 years. After that, the cast of the musical and Baum went on a tour of the United States that continued until 1911.
While L. Frank Baum wrote many other pieces of work, none proved as successful as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz did In total there were 16 books based on Oz, 23 poetry and fantasy books for children and young adults, several dozens short stories and hundreds of books that were published under pseudonyms. He also continued writing newspaper and editorial pieces for print companies. While his accomplishments were great and vast, his most notable work would always remain The Wizard of Oz.