Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Royal Book of Oz!

The Royal Book of Oz is making a triumphant return to the bookshelves of the world!

Ruth Plumly Thompson circa early 1960s.

There's a super new publishing project beginning by the newly founded Clover Press. They are repackaging the Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz books, with new illustrations. The Royal Book of Oz is the first entry, of course  - and you can be a part of it through their Kickstarter campaign!



New cover design by illustrator Sara Richard.

Eric Shanower has written a new foreword and there are lots of cool premiums, too: signed boxed editions, lunch boxes, postcards, lapel pins, and more. Come on, help bring the second Royal Historian of Oz to a whole new generation of kids! 

Oz about it?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Martinizing History - the Story of a Poster


NYPL poster - click to enlarge.
I was recently offered what was believed to be an original poster from the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz musical (see below). As a plus, this poster had come from the OzCot Lodge owned by Harry Baum (L. Frank's son) and Harry's wife, Brenda. What fun provenance! From the seller's description I thought it was going to be another copy of a well-known Wizard of Oz poster at the New York Public Library (seen at left). Indeed, I've had a black-and-white photocopy of the NYPL poster for over twenty years, which used to hang in my studio in San Diego. Oddly, the poster I'd been offered was mounted to a piece of green-painted plywood with a wooden frame around it. Hmm... that's kind of curious.

The original NYPL poster is quite large - approximately a foot wide and about four feet long. This poster has been reprinted in a number of scholarly publications. It is reproduced in Mark Evan Swartz's Oz Before the Rainbow (2000) and in Allan Eyles's The World of Oz (1985). It is an interesting poster, being essentially line art printed in green on white paper. A little more color was added by printing two boxes of type in red and adding red fields of color behind the portraits of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Dorothy at the top. The words "WIZARD OF OZ" are printed in overlapping green and red resulting in a rather unattractive brown color. The poster is also very time specific. Directly under the words "WIZARD OF OZ" it says "Now in its 23d Week of Phenomenal Success."

Although the poster I was recently offered (see below) is identical in size to the NYPL poster, it has several oddities. The first is that it was printed in black and white, NOT green and white with red enhancements. Well, I reasoned . . . maybe the show's producers decided to print this poster more cheaply as the show progressed in its run after "its 23d Week of Phenomenal Success."


The Poster that was offered for sale.

I asked the owner of the poster (and long time Oz Club member) Mark Frederic Dereng for a more detailed photo and on receipt found a most curious thing. The black-and-white poster had exactly the same date as the green-and-white NYPL original: "Now in its 23d Week . . ."

Detail of the poster that was offered for sale. Courtesy of owner Mark Frederic Dereng.

Why? Why on earth would the producers have produced a green, red, and white version AND a black-and-white version for the same week of advertising?  I noticed that there was another significant difference between the two posters. The NYPL version has the names of the characters printed in a typeface similar to "Courier." It looks a lot like a typewriter font. It's actually rather ugly and the lettering is crooked in places and is a detriment to the NYPL poster. The offered black-and-white poster had the character names hand-lettered as white text against a black background.

Character Lettering from original NYPL Poster.
Character Lettering from black-and-white version.

The ABC version.
On the one hand, the white-on-black lettering seems an improvement of the boring and ugly typeface of the NYPL poster. On the other hand, the new lettering got me kind of worried, as it really looked a lot like Oz illustrator Dick Martin's lettering. It is also forced in places - such as the crude way the black wraps around Sir Dashemoff's foot. Hmmm . . .

This poster is said to have belonged to Baum's son, Harry. Could that be confirmed? I asked friends who had attended the old OzCot conventions in the 1960s if they recalled the poster being at OzCot. One long-time friend quickly replied: he had first seen the poster in the December 1962 issue of American Book Collector and then on exhibit at OzCot in 1963. He attached high-res scans of the poster from the magazine. (The American Book Collector version of the poster can be seen at right - click to enlarge.) They matched the poster I had been offered. The poster's provenance as belonging to Harry Baum was now verified.

I received several phone camera photos of the poster I had been offered. In every way the photos match the American Book Collector version of the poster.

But that black-on-white lettering really looked so Dick Martin-like! And Dick helped procure the graphics for the 1962 American Book Collector. Had Dick modified the poster for reproduction in the American Book Collector and then, perhaps, given his photostat to Harry Baum to adorn the Ozcot Lodge? My friend had verified that the poster was at Ozcot by June 1963 - but had Harry Baum owned the poster for sixty years or six months?

As I mentioned up above, once that lettering started shouting Dick Martin, the entire history of the poster became suspect to me. You see, Dick Martin often tweaked, altered (and sometimes completely invented) graphics back in the late 1950s and '60s, usually to make them reproduce more easily.

Below is an example of a 1903 Wizard of Oz poster Dick Martin "invented." It is printed in The Musical Fantasies of L. Frank Baum (1958). The Tin Woodman and Scarecrow drawings are Dick Martin trying to be Denslowesque. The poster is based on nothing I have ever found in my very in-depth research into the show.

Dick Martin's poster from MUSICAL FANTASIES OF L. FRANK BAUM.
To top it off, Dick Martin pulled the photos of Montgomery and Stone from the cover of their Chin-Chin sheet music circa 1914!

Sheet Music from CHIN-CHIN (1914).

But let's look at Dick Martin's lettering on his "invented" poster:

Dick Martin lettering circa 1958.

It is very similar to the white on black lettering of the poster I was offered. Using letters from Dick Martin's invented poster from Musical Fantasies, I pieced together most of a name to use for comparison. I chose General Riskitt as an example, as he has more letters in common than the other names:


In my opinion the clear similarity in lettering style clinches it. The black-and-white version of the poster I was offered seems to have been heavily modified by Dick Martin. It is, in my opinion, a modified photostat of the NYPL original, which, you'll recall, was printed in green and red and celebrates the 23rd week of the run. Here's what I suspect Dick Martin did and some of the reasons why.

Dick Martin certainly knew how important the 1903 show was to the history of Oz and its impact on Baum's life and career. Including a poster in the ABC article would have been a good idea. I suspect Dick chose this poster as it was line art and would reproduce well in the black-and-white magazine. So it seems Martin obtained a photostat of the poster from the NYPL. A stat would have reproduced the line art beautifully - but there was a catch. Red ink reproduced as black in many photostatting techniques and indeed still does on many photocopiers. My physical copy of the NYPL poster (the one that used to hang in my studio) was made by taking the poster to the NYPL copystand and simply making a few photocopies. The red ink went totally black, obscuring the drawings of the Tin Woodman, Dorothy, and the Scarecrow. Note, too, in the image below the sort of ugly original Courier typeface of the names "Imogene, the Cow" and "The Cowardly Lion." Why do I point out the ugly Courier type? Because I think the typed names are what Dick Martin found to be so ugly - on an otherwise handsome and reproducible poster - that he felt he ought to redo the lettering for the reproduction in the American Book Collector.

Photocopy of poster at NYPL showing how the red ink copies as black.


You can see the red ink reproducing as black is a problem. To get around this, Dick probably traced the obscured sections from the original, then cut out the black rectangles and redrew the three character faces. Martin's redrawn versions are much cruder than those on the original NYPL poster. He has also added the names of the performers in his distinctive lettering style.

NYPL original on left, redrawn version on right. Click to enlarge.


NYPL original on left, redrawn version on right. Click to enlarge.

Note especially the bottom of the picture of Dorothy. Dick Martin has only left the part of the vegetation that is not overlapping the red because that part of the vegetation was obscured in the photostat and he'd apparently not traced it in such detail as to preserve the entire image.

NYPL original on left, redrawn version on right. Click to enlarge.

Here's another example: the title THE WIZARD OF OZ was printed in both red and green - producing a rather ugly brown. But the original NYPL poster is not in perfect registration and the title lettering is quite unattractive. But in a photostat of the NYPL poster, both red and green will reproduce as black so the text of THE WIZARD OF OZ is thicker and blobbier. You can see below that the Martin version of the poster for American Book Collector is reproduced directly from the NYPL version of the poster, as the shape of his lettering matches the shapes of the combined red AND green inks. I have digitally prepared a version of the word OF showing only the green ink. If the offered poster had been printed in 1903 the printer could have simply used the green printing plate with black ink and gotten a crisp, accurate reproduction of the original typography.

Comparison of the word "OF" - NYPL version, Martin version, then NYPL green ink only.


 If the show's producers had wanted to do a black and white version of the poster in addition to the green, red, and white version, all they really had to do was use black ink on the green printing plate (and move the red text block over to the new plate). There is ZERO reason to redraw the sections backed by the red unless you're working from a black and white photostat of the green and red poster. It is the incredibly time-consuming workaround to achieve a clean drawing that most proves the poster a 1960s era creation by Dick Martin.

So, in my opinion, that's it - Dick Martin modified the poster, fancied up the lettering of the character's names, and after he was finished with his modified artwork, he presented it to Harry Baum as a decoration at Ozcot Lodge.

But to end on a more up note, I'd like to explore a bit more history in how the original poster came to be. The source of the artwork for these posters is a drawing printed in the February 2, 1903, New York Evening Telegram.

Original version of artwork in February 2, 1903, New York Evening Telegram.

This artwork was drawn by Henry C. Coultaus (1862-1923), a cartoonist for the New York Evening Telegram, who specialized in drawing illustrations for that paper's Drama section.

Cartoonist Henry C. Coultaus (1862-1923),

Coultaus's Wizard of Oz illustration is for the paper's "What the Playhouses Offer" listing. Note that in this original version of the artwork it is the names of the actors that appear under the character drawings - not the names of the characters themselves.

Quite probably, the Wizard of Oz's producers were taken with the newspaper artwork and asked to turn it into an inexpensive poster. But those actors names! Some of them were not even with the show anymore by the 23rd week when the poster is first known to have appeared. And besides, the cast changed frequently enough that there would be little accuracy or even point in saying who played whom. So the producers modified the original design - probably having gotten a photostat from the Evening Telegram and (perhaps in a rush) they painted out the actor names and simply "typed" the character names onto the Evening Telegram's photostat.

This is interesting, I hope, and not too confusing: the newspaper version is about HALF the size of the poster as it was eventually printed. If the "typing" to replace the actors' names with character names was done on the paper's photostat by an actual typewriter it would explain why the Courier lettering of the poster looks so much like it was done with a typewriter - it was! At first, I'd assumed it couldn't be because it was too large to have come from an actual typewriter - but blowing up the newspaper sized stat (with normal typing on it) would result in the oversize courier font found on the poster.

I really do wish the offered poster had been genuine. Owning an original poster from the show is still a dream of mine. And you know, a large 56-year-old photostat, mounted on green plywood, created by an official Oz illustrator, and from the personal collection of Harry Baum isn't a bad thing! But it's not the hundred and sixteen year old poster I had so very much wanted it to be.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Original Art by John R. Neill!

Greetings! We now have a sister blog called "The John R. Neill Collection" which is connected to our new sister website called JohnRNeill.com. I'm very excited to announce that we will be offering a fine collection or original artwork by John R. Neill for sale! CLICK HERE to see our first offerings


These wonderful drawings, paintings, and illustrations which we are offering for sale come directly from the family of John R. Neill (1877-1943). After his death, Neill's second wife, Margaret Carroll Neill (called Moy by the family), carefully preserved and treasured her husband's art work in Neill's final home, "Endolane," in Flanders, New Jersey.

Mrs. Neill died in 1984 and the Neill archive was distributed among Neill's three daughters, Natalie, Annrea, and Joan. This youngest daughter, Joan Neill Farnsworth, dutifully preserved her share for many years, making it available to researchers and scholars as needed.  Joan died in 2011 and the Neill archive was split, yet again, between Joan's four children.

The wonderful pieces offered here are all from the collection of one of the granddaughters of John R. Neill. Each piece of art sold at johnrneill.com comes with a letter of provenance. This is a rare chance to own one of Neill's original drawings. We will be featuring some of his exquisite pen-and-ink work, sumptuous paintings, original magazine art, and of course some very rare Oz material. Keep checking our store - more drawings will be added weekly.

One of the treasures of the collection is this magical rabbit painting from Pictorial Review! Click here to see the sale page.

"The Bunny Band" Original painting by John R. Neill $10,000.00 SOLD!

We also have some of Neill's exquisite pen-and-ink work such as this jaunty illustration of a dapper young couple out for a ride in their sporty automobile. Click here to see the sale page.

"Out for a ride! Pen-and-Ink by John R. Neill $1250.00


There is much more to see at our online gallery store so come on over and explore this wonderful collection! We hope, too,  that you will find much enjoyment in owning a piece of original art by one of America's most extraordinary, but under-rated illustrators from the golden age of illustration.


Come check it all out at

Monday, September 3, 2018

The First Oz Fan Fiction

Today's post shares what is almost certainly the earliest Oz fan fiction. This rare find was discovered by Eric Shanower in 2017 while he was helping me with research on my book about the 1903 Wizard of Oz.

The story published June 5, 1909, in the Syracuse Post-Standard, was called Ozma of Oz, Continued; or The Quest for the Magic Belt. It was written by two boys, Henry Kutz, age ten, and Max Stolz, age nine.

The heading states that the story was begun July 7, 1908, and finished on July 9, 1908, and is dedicated with love to Uncle Joe--who is Rev. Dr. Joseph Stolz of Chicago, who came to Syracuse to visit his relatives on July 9, 1908.

The two boys seem to have written the story "round-robin" style, one boy writing a paragraph, the other boy writing the next, and so on. Each section is signed by the initials of the boy that wrote it.

What is especially fascinating is that the two boys combine Baum's non-Oz fantasies John Dough and the Cherub and Queen Zixi of Ix and place them in the Oz universe before L. Frank Baum united his fantasy novels in The Road to Oz. The article clearly says (twice) that the story was written in summer 1908. The boys are also the first to introduce the wireless telegraph into the Oz universe, well before Baum does so in 1913's The Patchwork Girl of Oz.

Henry Kutz, the elder boy, also introduced a new group of villains called the "Hollywogs," described as "monster green giants with axes." These also seem like a precursor to future Baumian villains, the Growleywogs, again not introduced until 1910's The Emerald City of Oz.

Given that this fan fiction was published in Syracuse, it would seem quite likely someone sent a copy to Baum and that he found the two boys' idea of uniting all his fantasies in one universe a good one and promptly wrote it into the next Oz book. Perhaps, too, the Hollywogs and the wireless telegraphy. There is no way to know for sure, but Baum often talked of using his young fans' ideas.

Max Stolz's last section seems a bit garbled. He has the Oz group go to see King Bird of Noland. This would seem either a typo on the part of the typesetter, who couldn't read the boy's handwriting, or young Mr. Stolz misremembered King Bud's name as King Bird. The author has also turned Princess Fluff (from Queen Zixi of Ix) into Queen Fluff of Ax [sic], now married to King Azma.

This is a fun little story written by two boys who very much loved the Oz books and Baum's non-Oz fantasies. Enjoy the very first Oz fan fiction!




Thursday, July 26, 2018

Dorothy Gale "Edition De Luxe"

My fellow blogger Bill Campbell over at The Oz Enthusiast is almost as obsessed with the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical as I am. He's a fellow collector of stage-oriented Oz material and he's even built a tremendously fun toy-theatre version of the show.

In researching for the toy theatre, Bill became quite interested in Carolyn Siedle's costume sketches for the 1903 Wizard of Oz. On a recent trip to New York, Bill took photos of most of the surviving costume sketches and assembled them all in a blog post. He later did another blog comparing and contrasting the sketches with the finished costumes as seen in assorted production photos. But at least one of the sketches was rather a stumper for Bill - an unknown Act III dress for Dorothy.

Carolyn Siedle's original costume sketch.

The image shows Dorothy in a sort of "baby-doll" dress. It's short, like a very young girl's would be at the time, all white, with assorted ruffles and bands of applied ribbon, and most oddly, black knee-socks with little white shoes. It's not a look we've associated with Dorothy in that show and doesn't match any of actress Anna Laughlin's Dorothy dresses that we know from the Broadway stage photos.

Bill wondered if it was a preliminary design, perhaps cut from the show. But I had an idea it might be something else. I had a sneaky suspicion that a number of the sketches were not from the Broadway version of the show but from the revised version of the show dubbed "Edition de Luxe" prepared in the Spring of 1904. The show got many new songs, many new costumes, and a general freshening. So I started digging through my photo archive trying to prove my theory. Finally I remembered a photo from Act III of the Hurtig and Seaman touring production circa late 1906. Lo and behold we get a picture of Dorothy Gale kneeling during the finale, and I think she is wearing this mystery frock!

Dorothy at the end of Act III in the Hurtig and Seaman production circa late 1906.

The hat seems similar enough, but the banding on the hem seems spot on. The Hurtig and Seaman production is also just a bit dowdier than the original Julian Mitchell version, too. Hence the slightly frumpy look (though she is kneeling and pleading for help from the Witch of the North).  Below you can see Anna Laughlin in the original Act III dress at the same moment from the show.

Anna Laughlin Act III original Broadway version of the dress.

I strongly suspect that Anna Laughlin made the request for a new Act III dress in Edition de Luxe. The dress above looks heavy and hot, while the little white frock looks quite breezy and cool. A good thing when playing in warm theatres, under the lights with no air-conditioning.

One reason I think the request may have come directly from Anna Laughlin is that the new Act III dress bears a striking resemblance to a dress Anna Laughlin had worn onstage back in August of 1900.

Anna Laughlin in The Casino Boy, circa August 1900

I was fairly convinced several of the sketches Bill found were from the post-Broadway "Edition De Luxe" but he just obtained a photo of another sketch that is explicitly from "Edition De Luxe," one of the Cowgirls from the "Sitting Bull" number introduced in the new 1904 edition. I'm sharing a photo of one of the chorus girls (Theresa Van Brune) in the realized costume. Note that the Ozzy cowgirl in the photo is having a smoke!


In closing, I must say that the Oz Cowboy chorus girl is a really lovely and very modern looking costume. I can see why they called it "Edition de Luxe!"

Friday, July 6, 2018

Evelyn Copelman in the Tiger Den!

There's nothing better to motivate one to get back to blogging than a new treasure to share! And this time it's a painting by an Oz artist I never had much thought of acquiring, Evelyn Copelman, the second major illustrator of The Wizard of Oz.

Watercolor by Evelyn Copelman.

Alas, the painting isn't from Wizard, but a watercolor of a country street scene. The image is a bit larger than 8" x 11", signed at the bottom right in pencil.


For those of you not acquainted, Evelyn Copelamn was the first illustrator to reillustrate a full-length edition of The Wizard of Oz after W. W. Denslow. After World War II, Wizard publisher Bobbs Merrill wanted a new edition of Wizard. The MGM film had made the book more popular than ever,  and the original Denslow illustrations were difficult to make attractive. The first edition of Wizard is stunning, but by 1903 Denslow's art was already suffering from cheap and simplified printing. By the 1920s and '30s the book was decidedly unattractive.

In 1944, Bobbs Merrill decided on a major overhaul and hired Evelyn Copelman to reillustrate the book. It was her first book illustration job. In the printed book the publisher slyly suggests the drawings are based on those of Denslow, but they are clearly much more inspired by the MGM film.

Copelman's line drawings (actually scratchboard work) in the early printings are sometimes a bit stiff and often overworked. Her paintings are much better. A few years after this new edition of Wizard was released, Copelman went back and redrew almost every image and added several new color plates, creating a much more handsome volume.

In 1947, Bobbs Merrill asked Copelman to reillustrate Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. She's become a much more gifted illustrator by this point, too, though her style is at odds with Baum's text. (You can read my analysis here).

However, one can see more stylistic parallels between my newly acquired painting and her Mo watercolors than one can find when examining her Wizard paintings - such as in the Mo frontispiece below.


Frontispiece of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO by Evelyn Copelman.

Note how much looser her style has become in the watercolor sky above, and the similarity in technique of the forested hills at the left in the distance.

But even more similarities can be seen with my painting and the most important work of her career - illustrating the Sally, Dick, and Jane school readers!

Illustration from WE COME AND GO (1946-'47) by Evelyn Copelman as "Eleanor Campbell."

Looking at the lovely watercolored grass, the trees across the road, one can imagine Sally, Dick, and Jane walking down the country street scene in my painting. Evelyn Copelman did all of her school reader work under the pseudonym Eleanor Campbell.

Well, that's it for today in the Tiger Den. "See David Blog. Blog, David, blog!"



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The 1903 WIZARD OF OZ and my Grammy Nomination!


I'm pleased to announce that the 2 CD set Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Broadway Musical The Wizard of Oz which I produced back in 2003 is now available again! You can order a copy by clicking here. I am very proud of this project and it earned me my Warholian fifteen minutes of fame as you'll see in the blog below.

When I was a kid, I often fantasized about being famous and winning awards. I do not mean the spelling bee, either! I was certain one day I’d have an Oscar, a Tony Award, or an Emmy Award. As I got a little older, PERHAPS I even fantasized about winning a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize! Yet I never even remotely imagined I would be nominated for a GRAMMY AWARD. Well, fate showed me!

Me at the 2003 GRAMMY Awards.

But wait, there’s a little back-story to fill in …

As some of you know, I have loved L. Frank Baum’s Oz books since I was in the second grade. I’ve worked in musical theatre and I have a passion for old recordings, really old recordings from the early 1900s. Then suddenly this almost forgotten Broadway musical of The Wizard of Oz entered my life. My three interests were all neatly tied together. 

Me and my 1905 Edison home cylinder player.
The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-loved fairy tales and one of the best-loved films of all time. Yet few people know that the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman attained fame in a hit Broadway musical in 1903.  The show was legendary for its success and its impact on American culture. It made Oz, Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman household names.  



The show opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater in New York on January 21, 1903. It toured, came back to New York, toured, and returned to New York again many times until finally disbanding around 1911. Stock and amateur companies continued to present it into the 1930s when it was overshadowed by the classic MGM film of The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, which featured a new score.

To cut a long story short, I began a project to collect all of the ancient records I could find from the show, as well as photos, newspaper clippings, etc. In 2003 (a hundred years after the show originally opened!) I produced a 2 CD set of said recordings with two picture-filled booklets. I was very proud of my work on the project. 

A theater friend of mine, musical theatre orchestrator Larry Moore, said, “You must make sure this CD is submitted to the GRAMMY Awards.” I thought, “Yah, right . . .” But then another friend in New York said the same thing. And then my boyfriend started in on me! So I finally broke down and made sure the CD was submitted for consideration.

A month or so goes by, the GRAMMY nominations come out, and low and behold:

Nominated for “Best Historical Album”
Producer: David Maxine

I don’t remember literally “pinching myself,” but it was definitely one of those moments! So what happens when you’re nominated for a GRAMMY Award? Well, you start getting mail from the National Academy of  Recording Arts and Sciences, friends start congratulating you, and eventually you get to go to the GRAMMY Awards!

So I bought a tux. My BF rented a tux. And off we went! The night before the Awards were handed out, there was a “nominees reception" where we were given delightful things to eat and drink. They also presented the nominees with their GRAMMY Medallions! All of the nominees get them! It is a brass medal on a blue silk ribbon. It’s very spiffy! They also take our “official” GRAMMY portraits.

The bulk of the awards are given out in a “pre-telecast” ceremony. There are about 125 GRAMMYs given each year; and only about a dozen are presented on the air. My boyfriend’s parents came down for the awards, too. Mom-in-law was kind of excited to see several members of Chanticleer a few seats away.

Well, my category finally came up and, ala,s my GRAMMY went to “Martin Scorsese’s THE BLUES,” which I suspected it would. After my loss at the pre-show we headed over to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to attend the telecast part of the GRAMMYs. After the telecast we went to the big GRAMMY party at the Beverly Wilshire, ate lots, drank lots, picked up our “goody-bags,” and it was over.

I really do wish I’d won. I REALLY want one of those little phonograph-shaped awards! Some day!

Click here to order: