Lyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, the seventh of nine children born to Cynthia Stanton and Benjamin Ward Baum. His father was a wealthy businessman who had made his fortune in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. As a young child, Frank was educated at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12 he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy. He spent two utterly miserable years at the academy and was allowed to return home after suffering a heart attack. Frank started writing at an early age, successfully creating a small newspaper using a cheap printing press that his father bought him. He was even able to sell ads for his paper.
About that same time, Frank embarked upon his lifetime infatuation with theater and the performing arts—a devotion which would repeatedly lead him to failure and near-bankruptcy. In 1880 his father made him manager of a string of theaters that he owned. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama, proved a great, though short-lived, success; Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it and acted in the leading role.
On November 9, 1882, Baum married Maud Gage. Following several years of financial instability, including jobs in South Dakota (where Baum got his description of Kansas for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), they moved to Chicago, where he took a job reporting for the Evening Post.
In 1899, Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose: His Book, a collection of nonsense poetry. Their book was a success, becoming the best-selling children's book of the year. A year later, they published another book to much critical and financial acclaim: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Oz was the best-selling children's book for two years! In 1902, Baum and Denslow teamed up with composer Paul Tietjens and director Julian Mitchell to produce a musical stage version of the book. It ran on Broadway 293 stage nights from 1902 to 1911, and also successfully toured the United States. The stage version differed quite a bit from the book and was primarily aimed at adults.
Baum made use of several pseudonyms for some of his other, non-Oz books. He died on May 6, 1919 and was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. A year later, his final book, Glinda of Oz, was published. But the Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books.
When the wardrobe department of MGM began to buy costumes for the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz, they purchased second-hand clothes from rummage sales around Hollywood. Actor Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard, was given one such overcoat to wear, and he happened to notice that the lining of the coat had a label saying, "Property of L. Frank Baum." In early publicity for the movie, MGM emphasized that this was a true story. Soon after the movie was released, the coat was taken to Baum's wife, who confirmed that it had been his.
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