Friday, April 22, 2011

Dorothy's Oz book

My BF Eric got a very interesting eBay win in the mail today. It's a first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, containing first state text and second state color plates. Alas, it is a wreck, it's mostly unbound, it's missing a spine, it's missing three plates - did I mention it's a wreck? No wonder hardly anyone even bid on it.

Anna Laughlin as Dorothy
What makes it especially interesting to me (and makes me glad that this copy has now come to live with us, even if it is technically in Eric's collection and not mine) is that this copy previously belonged to Anna Laughlin who created the role of Dorothy Gale in the 1902 stage musical The Wizard of Oz

The book is signed by Anna Laughlin twice on the front free end paper. The first signature reads: N. Y. City -  S. H. P. May 11, 1902 - Property of Anna S. Laughlin. We don't know who or what "S. H. P." is. Eric chooses to think it is the person that gave her the book. Interestingly, this date of May 11, 1902, is before the show even opened in Chicago, so Anna clearly got the book just before boarding the Chicago train. The Wizard of Oz premiered in Chicago on June 16, 1902.

Anna Laughlin was born October 11, 1885, in Sacramento, California. So she was only sixteen when she got this book and became the first Dorothy. The book is signed a second time with Anna's married name. She married a diamond importer named Dwight Monroe just as she was finishing up her run in The Wizard of Oz. They had one child, Lucy Monroe, who was born on October 23, 1906. Lucy went on to become a popular radio singer. Anna Laughlin died on March 6, 1937.

This book contains one other curiosity. It has Denslow's "Poppy Field" endpapers which were designed for the 1903 Bobbs-Merrill second edition. They seem to have been added to this otherwise first-state Hill printing. Was this a repair job done by Laughlin herself? Did she just adore the new Poppy Field endpapers - the Poppy Scene was a high-point in the show - and get a set from Denslow? Were the Poppy Field endsheets possibly given away as a promotion or on display in the lobby of the theatre in 1903? We'll probably never know. Where this book has been since it left the hands of the first Dorothy Gale is unknown - and how it got so trashed is uncertain. But it has a good home now.


Anonymous said...

This brings up an interesting question: did Denslow ever see the show and if so, when and where? After seeing the Canton, OH recreation last year, it seems as if much of Denslow's vision of Oz was abandoned in favor of a Broadway-esque extravanagnza.

David Maxine said...

Actually, Denslow was intimately involved in the show and contributed to some of the design choices.

He also produced the Extravaganza wall paper and wrote the show-inspired SCARECROW AND TIN-MAN picture book. Denslow believed it was his idea to do the play, too - and he tried repeating it's success over and over again as in PEARL AND THE PUMPKIN and UNCLE REMUS, etc.

Tim Tucker said...

What a bizarre variant. I wonder what Peter would think of it.

James C. Wallace II said...

I too have been blessed with a Serendipitous gift from Oz as well. I just picked up a SCARECROW AND TIN-MAN picture book done by Denslow. Odd how you happen to mention this book at the same time as my acquiring one.

Vincent Desjardins said...

What an amazing ebay find and what a great piece of history. I'm glad that the book has found a good home. Thanks for sharing!

Ray said...

I think when I left a comment earlier I forgot to check the robot thing. Just in case, here's the link again to my research on Anna: