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L. Frank Baum

American author Lyman Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 - May 6, 1919) was born in Chittenango, New York. He was the son of a weathly Benjamin Baum who made his fortunes in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. He tried journalism in his youth which included starting a number of newspapers and magazines as well as writing plays for theater. After he got married and had a son, he moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota where he started a local newspaper called The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. The newspaper eventually failed.

Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and 13 additional novels based on the places and people of Oz. Several times through the development of the series, he declared that he had written his last Oz book, and devoted himself to several other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands (including The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus[?]). However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, (and perhaps a reluctant understanding of the power of branding), he each time returned to the series. All of his novels have fallen into public domain in most jurisdictions; many are available through Project Gutenberg.

Baum was a failed writer, wanting no more than to walk away from the world of Oz. He tried many other book ideas including The Adventures of Father Goose and Queen Zixi of Ix. Twice Baum tried to walk away from the Oz books by formally declaring an end the series, only to have his other books fail and find himself pulled back into Oz. His last book was published after his death in 1920 but the series was continued long after his death by many other authors.

In his last years Baum was addicted to morphine and wrote most of his books in a large birdcage in his backyard. An interesting Urban Legend that is true is the fact that when the wardrobe dedpartment of MGM began to buy costumes for the movie Wizard of Oz they bought a huge amount of second hand clothes from many rummage sales around the Hollywood area. When the part of the wizard was cast many overcoats were chosen for him to wear, one was picked and on the first day of shooting, the actor noticed the lining of the coat had a label saying, "Property of L Frank Baum".

Baum was a socialist and Oz is a barely disguised socialist utopia, as indicated in this quotation from The Emerald City of Oz[?]:

"There were no poor people in the land of Oz, because there was no such thing as money, and all property of every sort belonged to the Ruler. Each person was given freely by his neighbours whatever he required for his use, which is as much as anyone may reasonably desire. Every one worked half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and to have something to do. There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or to find fault with them. So each one was proud to do all he could for his friends and neighbors, and was glad when they would accept the things he produced."

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