The Royal Historian of Oz

Photograph of L. Frank Baum

Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York, on May 15, 1856. His father was the oil magnate Benjamin Ward Baum and his mother was Cynthia (Stanton) Baum, a women's rights activist. Baum was the seventh of nine children. He was tutored at home until the age of twelve when he spent two years at a military academy where he suffered a heart seizure. At fifteen his father bought him a printing press and he and his brother published a newspaper called The Rose Hill Journal.

During his early adulthood he worked at a number of profession. He was an actor, playright, newspaper reporter and chicken breeder among others. From 1882 to 1883 he owned an opera house and toured with his own repertory company. During this time he married Maud Gage; they had four sons.

His debut novel Mother Goose in Prose (1897), illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, was based on stories told to his own children. This was also Parrish's first book. Baum wanted to create modern fairy tales that didn't scare children like the stories of the Brothers Grimm. In its last chapter it introduced a farm-girl named Dorothy.

In 1899 he published Father Goose:His Book with illustrations by William Wallace Denslow. Though close to 60,000 copies of this book were sold it was soon overshadowed by the his next work The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1900), also illustrated by W.W. Denslow. Baum published the book at his own expense and it went on to sell 90,000 copies in the first two years. He went on to publish 13 more books on Oz though he had inteneded to end the series with The Emerald City Of Oz.

In part due to a large number of request by children Baum published The Patchwork Girl Of Oz (1913) and remained the Royal Historian of Oz until his death in 1919.

The Land He Discovered

Oz is divided into four "color-coded countries" – purple Gillikin Country in the north, red Quadling Country in the south, yellow Winkie Country in the west, blue Munckin Country in the east. (Ruth Plumly Thompson, who continued the series, put the blue kingdom in the west and the yellow in the east.) The capital and geographical center is the Emerald City.

First Map of Oz
Earliest known map of Oz