Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bjo Trimble in Oz!

One of the best times I had in my tenure running Winkie Con/OzCon was the chance to become much better friends with John and Bjo Trimble. They were names I'd known since my early teen years when I was a burgeoning Star Trek fan. Back then I had no idea that the Trimbles were also Oz fans. But they were, and they even attended the Winkie Convention in its early years!

I got the chance to meet them when they and Eric Shanower and I were all guests at Westercon 66. Soon after that great weekend, I invited them to be special guests at Winkie Con 50 in 2014. They were absolute hits! They even participated in the Oz Costume Contest dressed an Aunt Em and Uncle Henry!

Bjo & John Trimble as Aunt Em & Uncle Henry with David Maxine.

Bjo (which is pronounced Bee-jo) also presented me with her old copy of The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book in dust jacket, which I treasure because it was once Bjo's.  Below is an interview (somewhat expanded here) that I did with the Trimbles in 2014 for OzCon.

Both John and Bjo  Trimble say they have found all aspects of fandom, from fantasy to science fiction, to be vexing, disappointing, and loads of fun. They each found their best friends in fandom and married them. Through the next five decades, John supported most of Bjo’s hair-brained schemes (her phrasing!), from chairing conventions, to publishing fanzines, to organizing the “Save Star Trek” letter campaign.

Most of fandom knows Bjo as the woman that saved Star Trek. Bjo explains:
Star Trek was to be cancelled at the end of the second season and Gene Roddenberry was trying to find a way to ask the fans for support. The Trimbles knew how to contact the fans, and the rest is History. Nobody knew in 1967 what an impact that campaign would have; if the show had not had that third season, it wouldn’t have been syndicated (not back then), and if it hadn’t gone into syndication . . .

In 1976, Bjo assembled and wrote the legendary Star Trek Concordance for Ballantine Books. She also wrote On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek (1983).

But what many people don’t know is that John and Bjo are also big Oz fans - involved in the earliest days of Oz fandom in California - including the earliest Winkie Cons. “We have an eclectic interest in fandom,” say Bjo, “dabbling for awhile in such groups as the Mythopoeic Society, a local Sherlock Holmes group, and Oz, of course!”

John and Bjo both served in the Korean War, John with the Air Force, Bjo with the U. S. Navy WAVES. They were married in 1960 and they have three daughters: Kathryn, Lora, and Jennifer. They eventually started their own natural dye and pigment business. The couple says, “People wonder what we still have to talk about, but since we both enjoy books, travel, and each other’s company, our life together has never been boring.”

John and Bjo were co-organizers of the World Science Fiction Convention Art Shows for seventeen years, they co-chaired Equicon Star Trek Conventions and Filmcon Media Conventions, and both are long-time members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and the Society for Creative Anachronism. Bjo received an “Inkpot Award” for setting up the San Diego Comic Con Art Show and helping set up the Comic Con Masquerade.

Bjo remembers reading her first Oz book around 1940. “I was given a bedraggled copy of The Wizard of Oz by a thrift shop, because it was too damaged to sell. There were no colored pictures left. I had no idea that some books came in sets, so I never looked for any others until I’d seen the movie.” But Bjo well remembers seeing the MGM film for the first time. Her family had to drive twenty-two miles to the nearest theatre, usually to see John Wayne or Randolph Scott westerns. “Only occasionally would we see something like The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland. I had no idea that books could become movies and was absolutely spellbound.” Bjo soon found there were more Oz books, her favorite being The Emerald City of Oz. Her favorite character is the Scarecrow.
John didn’t discover Oz until a few years later: “I read my first Oz book, The Land of Oz, before I’d seen the movie, probably about 1947 or ’48.” The Land of Oz is still John’s favorite Oz book and the Woggle-Bug is still his favorite character.

In time, the Trimble daughters were introduced to Oz, too. “Our whole family liked Oz books,” says Bjo. “And we had enough people to make up a small Wizard of Oz costume group for a Westercon (West Coast Science-Fantasy Conference) being held in the San Francisco area sometime in the mid-’60s. Blake Maxam (one of the co-founders of Winkie Con) was the Wizard, Lora Trimble was Dorothy, John Trimble was the Scarecrow, and I was Glinda the Good (the John R. Neill version of course).” John adds: “About that time, our younger daughter, Lora, was trying to get us to give her a dog. So she suggested the Oz group, with her little self as Dorothy. ‘Of course,’ she said slyly, ‘I’ll need a dog . . .’”

At that costume contest, the Trimbles met a Scraps the Patchwork Girl and invited her to join them. Underneath that costume was their friend, Felice Rolfe. “She was our hostess, as our family was not staying at the convention hotel,” says John. “It was entirely coincidental. We’d not spoken of our costumes, so no one knew until we met just before the costume parade.”

Bjo remembers attending the 1965 Winkie Con:
Most of Baum’s relatives left before or soon after we arrived; they seemed to feel that in showing up at all, they had done their family duty. I tried to talk to one man, who was so bored with the group that he made no secret of it. So far as I can remember, most of the Oz fans made attempts to talk to the relatives, then gave up.
After most of the others had left, Mrs. Baum [this is L. Frank Baum's daughter-in-law, Edna] showed us around the house, and Kat loved all the little nooks and crannies that were just perfect for someone to sit and read. Kat also liked the large kitchen, as did I. Katwen is our mentally handicapped daughter, Kathryn Arwen Trimble. Kat’s innocent 8-year-old enthusiasm is always a hit; people are charmed by her. She loved - still does - the Oz stories, which I read to our daughters whenever I could.

While Oz has not been in the forefront of the Trimbles’ lives in fandom, it has always been there. On the “original series” Star Trek DVDs there is an interview with Bjo. She talks of her part in helping save Star Trek, but in the background behind her during her interview are her Oz books.

Bjo and some of her Oz collection.
Of their lives today, Bjo says, “We are now discovering new delights in old interests, such as Oz fandom. We look forward to many more years with Winkie Con and the wonderful people organizing it.”

I am very pleased to have welcomed the Trimbles back to the Land of Oz.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Talkin' Turkey with L. Frank Baum

Happy Thanksgiving from Hungry Tiger Press!  Did you know that L. Frank Baum was a champion turkey carver? Well, he was, as you will see in the photo below.  Baum and his turkey are at the far right in the photo.

L. Frank Baum at far right - Click to enlarge.

This undated newspaper article appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner; it probably dates from 1916. This soiree was an event put on by the "Uplifters," a sort rich boy's group connected to the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

You might also note that the gentleman second from left is Byron Gay, who wrote the music to Baum's song "Susan Doozan." And at the end of the article one sees another name Oz fans will be familiar with, Fred Woodward, who played Hank the Mule in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz and the mule and other animals in all the Oz Film Co. movies. It's nice to know Mr. Woodward could kick up his heels with the best of them!

Another cool thing mentioned in the article is that after dinner the group watched some home movies of the "Uplifters Jinks" at Del Mar. Wouldn't it be fun to find those home movies and possibly catch a glimpse of Baum on film!

Read the full newspaper article below. It seems Baum's competitors thought Baum had an advantage having the smallest turkey. But in the end Baum and his carving knife won out!

Read the full text - Click to enlarge.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Map of Oz Monday - Ojo Mojo

OK, boys and girls, we are setting off on a major hike through the Munchkin Country today. And Ojo and Realbad and Snufferbux are going to be our guides! Luckily Ojo has brought along the Oz maps created by L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson, and Snufferbux has his copies of the relevant texts.

Together we're gonna try to untangle what I see as the one terrible error on the Oz Club's maps, and that is the shifting of Ojo's and Doctor Pipt's homes to the northern Munchkin Country. Baum's map (and text) has them in the southern Munchkin Country.

Granted, there is a textual contradiction in Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914). In short, the club maps chose to honor a totally unimportant slip of the pen by Baum (a reference to the Gillikin Country) and thus made hash of the story logic (and often explicit detail) of Baum's Patchwork Girl and Ruth Plumly Thompson's Ojo in Oz (1933).

I will be getting into Baum's text in detail. But here's what we're talking about.

Baum's map on left, Club map on right - Click to enlarge.

On the left is Baum's map showing Ojo in the South near the Quadling border; on the right is the Club's map showing Ojo in the north with Dr. Pipt's mountain on the Gillikin border. Exactly who pushed for this change is not known. At least originally, Jim Haff followed the bulk of Baum's story and kept Ojo in the south as you can see in his master research map, below. (Remember that the Club maps show east on the right hand side of the map.)

Jim Haff's placement of Ojo in the south on his original "research" map.

In all likelihood it was either Fred Meyer or Dick Martin that "corrected" Jim's careful research and argued for shifting Ojo and Pipt to the north. Fred had a persnickety obsession with certain details and I can imagine him focusing in on that word "Gillikin" and not letting go. Dick Martin seems to me to have approached the maps from an "ease of drawing" perspective much of the time. And the northern section of Haff's Munchkin Country was kind of empty and it's also possible that Dick urged the move to simply fill up that space on the map. This is all conjecture; we simply don't know at this point what happened, only that Jim Haff's careful design was radically altered.

This may seem like a big fuss over nothing. What does it matter that one map shows Ojo in the north and another shows Ojo in the south? Well, it turns out to matter a lot, much more than I even realized from an Oz history perspective. In the Oz Club choice, all you gain is the chance to honor Baum's unimportant slip of the pen, "Gillikin."

But I think much was lost by that choice. Whereas, if Ojo and Dr. Pipt are in the south, innumerable details in the stories of both Patchwork Girl and Ojo in Oz make sense in story-telling logic and in geographical unity. This should not be surprising when we now know Baum had already mapped the Land of Oz sometime in late 1912 or early 1913, according to Gottschalk, and we know that Thompson was using the text of Patchwork Girl (and both Baum's and her own maps) in the writing of Ojo in Oz, as you will see further below.

Let me take you on a tour through the southern Munchkin Country! We'll explore both the various texts and the various maps.

The trouble begins when Ojo and Unc Nunkie run out of food and have to leave their humble cottage deep in the dismal Blue Forest. Ojo says, "All I've ever seen of the great Land of Oz, Unc Dear, is the view of that mountain over at the south, where they say the Hammerheads live . . . and that other mountain at the north, where they say nobody lives."

Unc Nunkie reminds Ojo that the Crooked Magician Dr. Pipt and his wife live on that mountain at the north. Ojo continues, "They live high up on the mountain, and the good Munchkin Country, where the fruits and flowers grow, is just on the other side."

So Ojo and Unc Nunkie set out from their cottage in the Blue Forest, heading north to get to the good part of the Munchkin Country that lies on the other side of Dr. Pipt's mountain.

Here we come to Baum's slip of the pen where he writes:
At the foot of the mountain that separated the Country of the Munchkins from the Country of the Gillikins, the path divided.  One way led to the left and the other to the right — straight up the mountain. Unc Nunkie took this right-hand path and Ojo followed without asking why. He knew it would take them to the house of the Crooked Magician, whom he had never seen but who was their nearest neighbor.
Baum should not have written that phrase about the Country of the Gillikins. He has already explained that Doctor Pipt's mountain is separating Ojo and Nunkie's home from the more fruitful plains of the Munchkin Country, these fertile fields being Ojo and Nunkie's destination. Based on Baum's previous text detail, the paragraph should have said something like: "At the foot of the mountain that separated the fertile fields of the Munchkins from the Blue Forest, the path divided."

Remember Ojo and Nunkie are explicitly journeying from their home, where they have no food, to the good part of the Munchkin Country. And remember, too, they are not journeying to visit Doctor Pipt. The Doctor is just a rest stop on the journey over the mountain barrier.

Back to the story . . . Unc Nunkie and Ojo take the right-hand path up the mountain. It must be a rough or steep climb, because they made it from home to the bottom of the mountain by early morning, yet they will be trudging up the mountain most of the day. They stop for lunch at noon and then hike for another two hours before arriving at Doctor Pipt's.

After the Liquid of Petrifaction accident, Ojo, Scraps, and Bungle decide to set off to find a cure. They continue on the path over the mountain, the same route Ojo and Nunkie always planned to take, into the fertile fields of the Munchkin Country. Baum writes: "Ojo had never traveled before and so he only knew that the path down the mountainside led into the open Munchkin Country, where large numbers of people dwelt."

After reaching the foot of the mountain they come to a brook which Scraps jumps across. They journey on, and shortly before sundown they meet a Munchkin Woodchopper who invites them to spend the night. They decline, as Ojo wants to press on with their journey. They walk late into the night, eventually coming to the house with the disembodied voice. The next day, after encountering the live phonograph, they meet the Foolish Owl and Wise Donkey (the latter says he is from Mo). They then free the Woozy and finally arrive at the Yellow Brick Road. This is not Dorothy's Yellow Brick Road but another one.

Now you might be asking, why did you cover all of that stuff in so much detail? What does it have to do with maps? Well, my friends, allow me to show you!  The events described above fit quite wonderfully into the pre-Oz Club maps! And with some surprising synchronicity, IMHO!

Below is Baum's 1914 Oz map. I have added indicated the paths (as described in Baum's text) in yellow, showing the the path from Ojo's house to the base of the mountain that separates Ojo and Nunkie from the fertile plains of the Munchkin Country. You can see the fork, where the path divides. Ojo and Nunkie took the right-hand path up the mountain to Doctor Pipt.

Narrow yellow line shows paths in the Blue Forest and path followed by Ojo to the YBR

I also added in the "second" Yellow Brick Road as it was not shown on Baum's map. It would obviously not be so straight, but this is more of a diagram to show how well Baum's text can be plugged into his own map of Oz. Note that there is even a "brook" or river for Scraps to jump across after they get down out of the mountain. This brook is on the original map; I only added the yellow path and road.

I firmly believe Baum wrote the Patchwork Girl text using his Oz map as a guide, though the map would not be published until the next year's Oz book, Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). We already have evidence that Baum drew the map in late 1912 or so (see this previous blog post). But in another unidentified 1913 newspaper interview Baum states: "the Land of Oz has grown to be a very real place to me. I have even mapped it all out, and its characters are known to me quite intimately."

Let's add another layer into all this. Ruth Plumly Thompson had clearly reread Baum's Patchwork Girl of Oz in preparation for writing her "sequel" Ojo in Oz. Below is Thompson's map of Oz. It is a tracing of Baum's 1914 map in which she has worked in the locations from her own Oz titles. I have added in essentially identical versions of the paths and Yellow Brick Road.

Thompson's map showing Ojo and Dr. Pipt and her own Bandit's Forest and Seebania from OJO IN OZ.

I think this map shows Thompson wrote Ojo in Oz using the 1914 Baum map as reference. And she has placed Seebania (the kingdom Unc Nunkie and the infant Ojo fled) just to the left of the Blue Forest where Ojo and Nunkie lived. And look where a path to the left would lead on Thompson's map - toward Seebania! No wonder Unc Nunkie avoided it.

Now what I also love about Thompson's geography here is that it justifies why (from an Oz history perspective) there is a second Yellow Brick Road and what two places it connects. The Baum and Thompson geography in Patchwork Girl and Ojo strongly allows for this Yellow Brick Road to connect the Emerald City with the old capital of the Munchkin Country, Seebania! This may well be constructive conjecture on my part, but there can be no dismissing the fact that Thompson meant Ojo's home and Seebania to be in the same general vicinity.

Below is a similarly modified version of Walt Spouse's beautifully detailed "Wonderland of Oz Map" showing the paths and Yellow Brick Road. I have added in Seebania (where Thompson has positioned it) and labeled the "brook" that Scraps jumps over.

Modified version of Walt Spouse's 1932 "Wonderland of Oz" map.

There are many subtle details from both books that can take on added significance once one begins to see the entire geographical picture. Of course Unc Nunkie avoided the "left-hand" path on the way to the fertile Munchkin fields; he knew it went to Seebania. When the Wise Donkey informs Ojo and the gang that he is from Mo, it's not surprising when one realizes Mo is just across the desert from nearby Jinxland, as The Scarecrow of Oz (1916) makes clear.

I think it makes much more sense for Dr. Pipt to have moved almost as far as he could from his old home in the Gillikin Country (where he knew Mombi) to the very desolate southern corner of the Munchkin Country. And in kind, it makes more sense to me that elderly Unc Nunkie, who fled the court of Seebania with a literal babe in arms, took refuge in the dark Blue Forest in the first empty cottage he came upon. 

Now, I do not particularly think L. Frank Baum or Ruth Plumly Thompson necessarily worked this all out in this kind of detail. But a literary fantasy land finds a life of its own as layer upon layer of fictional history is built up, as maps get modified, as characters grow - whether looking for adventure or searching for their pasts.

I think Jim Haff understood this. He brought his professional skills as a cartographer to this project, and as we'll see in the coming posts, he largely succeeded in compiling the various bits of research into a logical, geographic whole. Note that I'm not certain whether Haff paid any attention to Thompson's hand-drawn map of Oz. Still, his Munchkin Country generally followed most of the story points above. Here's my yellow schematic laid over his "research" map:

He has Ojo and Doctor Pipt in the far southern Munchkin Country, Ojo must journey over the mountain (visiting with Doctor Pipt at the summit) then down into the fields of the Munchkin Country. He has even got the Yellow Brick Road essentially connecting the old capital of the Munchkin Country (Seebania) with the Emerald City. This is because he followed the story logic and geographic sense. (Here the "left-hand path" through the forest is unresolved, but since Baum never specified where that path leads, Haff made no error there.)

Sadly, someone convinced Haff that that single word "Gillikin" mattered; and that wrecked the entire geographical and story-telling logic of two books. Here is the way the beginnings of Ojo's journey look on the published Oz Club map.

Ojo's route (indicated in red) to the Yellow Brick Road on the Oz Club map.

So, Ojo and Unc Nunkie want to get from their home to the fertile plains of the Munchkin Country. So they journey in the opposite direction of the fertile plains and climb a steep mountain for no reason. Ojo visits Doctor Pipt whom they were not particularly going to see, climbs back down the mountain, and hikes on over to the Yellow Brick Road. This seems a bit nonsensical to me, but, joy! - at least the other side of Doctor Pipt's mountain is in the Gillikin Country!

When Ojo and Nunkie's cottage was shifted to the north, that choice led to a major reshuffling of much else in the Munchkin Country. Back when Haff had Ojo and Nunkie's cottage in the south he had placed the majority of the locations from Ojo in Oz (1933) in the north. Below is the relevant section of Haff's original map:

Haff's "research" map - Routes of OJO IN OZ: Ojo's party indicated in yellow; Dorothy's party in red.

Haff's "research" map puts these Ojo in Oz locations to the north of the Yellow Brick Road used in The Wizard of Oz, the orange line at the bottom of the image. The route followed by Ojo and Realbad I've indicated in yellow: Crystal Mountain, Tappy Town, Unicorners, and finally Moojer Mountain. And the route of Dorothy and her rescue party I've indicated in red: arrival in the Blue Forest, traveling the Rolling Road to Dickseyland, and then the route Reachard leads them on toward the Emerald City, though they run smack into Moojer Mountain before they get there.

I don't really see why Haff placed these locales in the northern Munchkin Country. But when he moved Ojo to the north in the published club map all of this Ojo in Oz stuff moved to the south. I suspect this is Dick Martin trying to keep the density of "map detail" well spread out. Once they moved Ojo's and Pipt's cottages to the north there was a paucity of detail in the southern Munchkin Country. But from an "Oz as a real place" perspective, simply filling up empty space is a dumb reason, IMHO.

Below you can see how this affected the routes from Ojo in Oz on the 1962 version of the Oz Club's map.

1962 Club map - Routes of OJO IN OZ: Ojo's party indicated in yellow; Dorothy's party in red.

All this is now far to the south of the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz. For some reason, too, Dorothy's group (red) is now traveling north of Ojo and Realbad's group (yellow). I can't see the reason for this change. But on the whole, I do prefer that this is all so much closer to Seebania than the original Haff layout had it. It makes for a geographical unity. Of course there would be even more geographical unity if they had left Ojo and Nunkie in the south where they belong.

In later versions of the Oz Club maps (1967 and on) this area gets heavily reworked yet again. I'm not keen on Haff's shifting the arrival of Dorothy's party to a different forest, the one where she met the Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion back in The Wizard of Oz. This change seems to have been made to angle the Rolling Road so that it can dump Dorothy and her rescue party into the river, as described in the text of Ojo in Oz (see below).

2008 Club map - Routes of OJO IN OZ: Ojo's party indicated in yellow; Dorothy's party in red.

As you  might have noticed, this section of the Munchkin Country is now a lot denser, too. All of the many locations from Merry Go Round in Oz were added to the map in 1967.

There are some other Ojo-related glitches and omissions from the Club's map, too. There is no river for the unicorns to bathe in, the fairly large village that Ojo and Realbad pass through is not on the map, and various mountains seen by the travelers are nowhere to be seen. The biggest mistake still not discussed is that the Oz Club's map places the Bandit's Cave in the northern central Munchkin Country. The bandit's cave is not actually on Haff's "research" map, so its inclusion in the published map may have been a late decision.

It it pretty clear Thompson wanted the Bandit's Cave in the same vicinity as the other locales from Patchwork Girl and Ojo. She has shown the Bandit's Cave (though she calls it "Bandit's Forest") on her map, directly above the "U" in QUADLING. [Update: it is also possible to view the "Bandit's Forest" on Thompson's map as being the hideout of Vaga and his men in Grampa in Oz. See "comments" below.] But in any case, this southern location for the Badit's cave in Ojo in Oz is very strongly implied in the text. Mooj throws Realbad into a deep ravine near the castle of Seebania. Realbad is rescued by the bandits and taken back to their cave, where he is nursed back to health.

But Haff has placed the Bandit's Cave in the central northern section of the Munchkin Country, quite far from Seebania. This seems like quite a trek for the bandits to carry an injured Realbad! The clear implication in Thompson's text is that the bandits and their cave are relatively close to Seebania. Indeed, at the end of Ojo in Oz Realbad decides to make the Bandit's Cave a sort of Royal Hunting Lodge where he will spend two months each year, and he allows Snufferbux the bear to use it for hibernation each winter. Clearly Thompson thought that the Bandit's Cave was close to Seebania and under Realbad's jurisdiction, not on the other side of the Munchkin Country.

I went back and looked at Thompson's map and after my recent rereading of Ojo in Oz I am convinced she was using the map in her text descriptions. She has given us a lot of detail on the boundaries of Seebania:
Long ago . . . the Kings of Seebania ruled all the southern part of the Munchkin Country, and the city where you now find yourselves is Shamsbad, the capital. When Ozma succeeded to the throne . . . my father, then King of Seebania . . . relinquished [his claim] to all the small countries at the south and retired within the borders of Seebania itself. This kingdom, still an immense but little known tract of wild forest land, is bounded on the north by the Munchkin River and on the south by the Quadling Country.
Below is Thompson's hand-drawn map, with color added to reflect what she has described in the Ojo in Oz text above. There is a river to serve as the north border, the Quadling Country is to the south, and it is an immense tract of forest land when compared to the usual size of minor countries in Oz. Given Realbad's view that the Bandit's Cave is part of his domain I extended the light blue area of Seebania to include it. This way of viewing this map even has a Yellow Brick Road connecting Seebania to the Emerald City. Thompson has, of course, traced Baum's 1914 map as her starting point and Baum clearly meant the Yellow Brick Road shown here to be that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But I think the point has been made that we can get a pretty clear view of how Thompson saw her Ojo in Oz geography.

Thompson's Map of Oz showing Seebania as she described it in her OJO IN OZ text.

I am by no means saying there is only one solution to making an accurate map of Oz, but the Oz Club map makers seem to have never even considered this sort of contextual information. And in the end, considering the high-profile status the Oz Club maps have achieved, I think it is sort of a shame.

But then again, if the club's maps were perfect, look at all the fun I'd have missed writing this huge time-sap of a blog post!

And after all that, how about an end note! I should mention the one other innocuous reason that I have seen given for moving Ojo to the north so I don't have to address this in the "comments."

When Ojo and Scraps meet the Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road the Scarecrow says he is on his way to visit Jinjur.
While this Jinjur reference is clearly more that a slip of the pen by Baum, it is also easily solved on the map. Baum's text shows Ojo and Co. are just inside the green area of the Emerald City. On Jim Haff's "research" map he has the two Yellow Brick Roads merge just after they reach these green lands. So the Scarecrow can indeed be walking away from the city to visit Jinjur without her having to live on the southern Yellow Brick Road (see Haff's map below).

Jinjur will find herself the focus of several legitimate "map" debates, but we'll save all that for a future post.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jack Snow's Secret High School Crush

Jack Snow's Senior Photo (1925).
Some of you know that Eric Shanower and I are quite interested in genealogical research as well as being Baum and Oz fans. I've recently been merging these two passions and using various genealogical tools to explore the lives of various Oz creators. A few weeks ago I randomly did a search for Jack Snow and quickly found his Piqua High School year book. I assumed I'd probably find a photo or two, but I was surprised by how much more was revealed about Show's teenage years and what Snow might have been like as a person.

Jack Snow (1907-1956) was, of course, the author of The Magical Mimics in Oz, The Shaggy Man of Oz, Who's Who in Oz, and Dark Music, a collection of horror/fantasy. He was also gay in an era when it was much less easy than it is today.

The title of this blog is at best speculation. I have no idea if Snow had a crush on the other boy we'll be getting to know. But when researching lost gay lives, one often has to read between the lines, and it's hard not to view events through the lens of one's own experience.

Snow entered Piqua High as a Freshman in the Fall of 1921. In the '22 Yearbook, Snow wrote of his Freshman experience:
When we Freshman enter high school there are many things we have to find out before we can consider ourselves full fledged high school students.

In the first place we expect to find nothing but A's on our report cards, and we find instead C's and D's.

We expect to have no difficulty in finding the value of X in Algebraic equations, but before we are Sophomores discover that there is nothing more elusive.

Science is always puzzling to the poor Freshman. made especially so by cruel looking apparatus arranged in the long dark cases of the science room.
And Latin! When a Freshman takes Latin, if he is to judge by the experiences of the wise Sophomores, he will accept it as an established fact that he is doomed to failure the first year.

English sounds familiar, but the first year students find the unexpected here, too, as well as in the Commercial subjects.
Now read this second bit written by Snow's fellow Freshman classmate, Maurice Peffer:
When the Class of '25 first entered P. H. S. in September, the faculty in all probability, were steeled to encounter a heard of numbskulls. However, they were not long in altering their opinion of us. . . .

If you don't believe this, just ask any one of them, and what they say will make you green with envy. They confidently expect each one of us to have his name engraved at the head of the Hall of Fame.

We don't wish to boast, but their confidence is not misplaced, for, to use a slang expression, "We're there with the goods." To some who may be dubious, we can only say, "Wait and see," and if the Class of '25 does not equal or excel any other class that has entered old P. H. S. in the past, or that expects to enter in the future, the fault cannot be laid at our door, nor can the faculty be blamed.
While Snow and Peffer seem to have had somewhat different ways of looking at the world, they both did well in school and both made the Honor Society. In the Honor Society photo below you can see Maurice Peffer, standing tall in the center of the back row. Jack Snow is in the photo, too, a foot shorter than Peffer (they are standing on the same slush-covered step), Snow's face partially obscured by the girl in front of him.

Piqua High School 1925 "Honor Society" Jack Snow in back. Click to enlarge

I had never realized how small Snow was. I checked his later Army enlistment records and found Snow was only 5' - 1" tall. No wonder short and insecure little Snow came to look up to Peffer, both literally and figuratively.

"Morrie" Peffer's Senior photo and achievements. Click to enlarge

You can see Peffer was the perfect boy to idolize: tall, confident, his father the President of the Piqua National Bank. "Morrie" himself was editor of the school paper, in the Chorus, Glee Club, Tennis Manager, Debating Club, Dramatic Club, French Club, Radio Club, Class President, and . . . Head Cheer Leader!

Jack Snow's Senior photo in 1925 Piqua High yearbook. Click to enlarge

I have no idea when Snow came out as gay to himself. He was fairly open about it in the 1950s in New York (at least to some of his fellow employees at NBC). But it must have been difficult being a nerdy, bookish, insecure, (and very short!) little gay kid growing up in Piqua, Ohio, in the 1920s. Was Snow aware of his feelings? Did he have a secret crush on Morrie Peffer? On other boys?

1925 Track Team at Piqua High School.

There is a drawing in the 1925 Piquonian yearbook that was undoubtedly drawn by either Peffer or Snow, and possibly both, showing "Snow's Snappy Speedster, Special Split-Six." Note that it has a "Body by Peffer."

Below is the full page about the imaginary car from the yearbook. I hope that it was a fun collaboration of the two boys.

I don't know which boy drew the Snappy Speedster, but we can get some idea of how Snow felt about Peffer in his Class Prophecy, below, published in the Piquonian yearbook.

This "Class Prophecy" is one of the earliest surviving text pieces we have by Jack Snow. It is a four page "prophecy" outlining where the Class of '25 will be in twenty years. It is fun and easy reading and presented complete at the bottom of this blog post. Go ahead and read it all! It's funny, laced with irony and a little sarcasm. But here's his section on Peffer. It is twenty years in the future and Snow has just entered classmate Catherine Coleman's beautiful theatre:
I sighed and thought of other and happier days and walked slowly down the aisle seeking a vacant seat. Presently I found an alluring chair and seated myself next to a tall handsome man about whom I found myself wondering almost as soon as I saw him. Then after thinking for a few minutes I knew that he was no other than Maurice Peffer, the distinguished United States Senator who only a few months before had been influential in securing the passage of a bill forbidding all women under seventy-five years of age to bob their hair.

Maurice greeted me quite heartily and agreed to tell me something of my old classmates.
It sounds like Snow and Peffer were indeed friends, and I for one am glad Snow found his handsome friend to sit near in his "prophecy of the future."

Unfortunately Snow's prophecy was wrong and Peffer suffered a tragic end.

PIQUA DAILY CALL, February 14, 1931.

Maurice Peffer was engaged to be married on Valentine's Day 1931. At 11:30 PM on February 13, Morrie Peffer was killed when an Interurban freight train slammed into a car he was riding in. His two companions, Frat mates from Miami University (one of whom was to be his Best Man), were not seriously injured. Peffer died on the way to the hospital, only a few hours before his planned wedding; he was only twenty-three. Here's the full account:

PIQUA DAILY CALL, February 14, 1931. Click to enlarge

Peffer was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua, Ohio, where Snow himself was buried in 1956 at age forty-nine. Alas, Snow's family buried him in an unmarked grave. Click here to read more.

This has not been a very cheerful blog, but I feel I have gotten to know Jack Snow a little better. Perhaps in some alternate universe Snow's Class Prophecy came true? And perhaps, in a land behind the moon, beyond the rain, Jack Snow once got to go joy-riding with Morrie Peffer in that snappy Speedster, happily cruising down the Yellow Brick Road.

Below you can read Jack Snow's entire "Class Prophecy" from his 1925 Piquonian Yearbook. Click on the individual pages to read this very early work by the future Royal Historian of Oz.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dick Martin and Me

Dick Martin at 1980 Ozmapolitan Con auction.

In the late 1970s I was in a sort of teenage overdrive to build up my Oz collection. And with a desire to feel important, perhaps, I began a concerted effort to get most any book that I could autographed by its author or illustrator. Whether this compulsion to get these books autographed was simply about improving my collection, or was a chance to feel special (or was it grown up?) it allowed me to make contact with the likes of Russell MacFall, Margaret Hamilton, Edward Wagenknecht, and Philip José Farmer among others - not to mention Rachel Cosgrove and Eloise Jarvis McGraw.

I had assumed I would meet Dick Martin when I went to my first Oz convention, Winkies 1977, but I found that Dick was not in attendance. He only rarely traveled to Winkies. But in 1979 I finally got a copy of Dick’s Visitors from Oz and sent him a fan letter asking if I might send him my copy of Visitors to get it autographed. A few days later I got a postcard in the mail!

Not only was it a postcard from an actual “Royal Illustrator,” but it was an Ozzy postcard. Dick gave a very friendly go ahead to sending my copy of Visitors to him. A week or so later it arrived back to me, all nicely signed with an Ozzy inscription and a little drawing of a moon. 

Inscription by Dick Martin in THE VISITORS FROM OZ.

As an extra little present, Dick also included one of the very rare Reilly & Lee advertising Gumps for me! We exchanged letters, I told him about my collection, he told me about his Oz projects. Not only was he in the midst of illustrating the new McGraw Oz book, The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, but he was also just starting his series of cut-and assemble Oz activity books for Dover. From 1979 through the mid-1980s Dick was in a kind of Oz illustrating renaissance.

When I asked if he ever sold any of his original art, he wrote that it was all gone, as he’d given it away to friends. A few months into our correspondence I found a box of unused greeting cards at Goodwill—the cards featured his little “DM” as a signature. I sent him one and he wrote back confirming it was his work. He also included several other examples of his greeting cards, all from the mid-1950s.

We finally met at the 1980 Ozmapolitan Convention. He was cordial but very quiet and reserved. But after dinner on Friday evening before the programming began, Dick came over to me and asked me to come up to his room. I must admit I tensed a bit. Even though in 1980 I was not out (even to myself) I somehow knew that Dick was gay. Perhaps it was his rakish photo in The Oz Scrapbook? Perhaps it was because he reminded me of Tony Randall in a sort of dapper way? We went up to his room and he shut the door. He pulled an envelope from his suitcase and from it all of the original art from The Forbidden Fountain of Oz spilled onto his bed. He said: “Pick one you like—I’m letting you have first choice!”

Original drawing by Dick Martin for THE FORBIDDEN FOUNTAIN OF OZ (1980).

I chose the drawing above. Then he asked me to please not tell anyone at the convention about the gift or they’d all be bothering him. I thanked him. Before we left his room he said, “I often have a few quiet friends up to my room to talk and have a drink after the programming is over. If you’d like to join us, you would be most welcome.”

I did go to Dick’s room for a while that night and several other nights at later Ozmapolitan Conventions, too. Dick was very quiet at his parties. He was always the center of attention, drinking a good deal, telling complicated jokes, performing magic tricks; he was quite simply holding court!

I’m still unsure why he pulled me into his inner circle so quickly - perhaps he just saw some of himself in a quiet (eventually-gonna-be-gay) teenage boy Oz collector. Who knows? In any event he made me feel very special at my first Ozmapolitan Convention.

Dick Martin and Jean Brockway having breakfast at Ozmapolitan Con 1985.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Map of Oz Monday - Oz Club Map of Oz 1962

Oz Club's "Marvelous Land of Oz" map - 1962 version. Click to enlarge.

Today we'll begin looking in detail at the Oz Club's set of maps. We explored the origins of these maps last week, so let's jump right in! The club reissued and revised their Oz maps a number of times over the years. The first version (seen above) was published in 1962. There was a new set with many revisions and additions published in 1967 and additional editions published in 1971, 1975, and 1980, and a full overhaul of the maps was carried out in 2008. You can tell the issue date of the main "Map of the Marvelous Land of Oz" in a given set by the roman numeral date in the yellow shield on the Tin Woodman decoration. Alas, the 2008 revision inadvertently retained the 1980 date.

This 1962 version is also the first map to include locations and geographical features from all of the then-39 Oz titles, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) through The Hidden Valley of Oz (1951), as well as locales from the Little Wizard Stories of Oz (1913) and The Laughing Dragon of Oz (1936). The 1962 version of the "Explanatory Notes" that accompanies these maps fails to mention anything about what books are covered in the maps. Many of Baum's non-Oz works are referenced in the "Map of Surrounding Countries," but we will save that conversation for a later blog post.

I greatly admire these maps and the care James E. Haff put into them. Haff was a civilian cartographer for the U. S. Air Force and a consummate Oz aficionado. And lest there be any doubt, the actual design of the maps is the work of Jim Haff. Dick Martin's role was to prepare a clean inked version of the line art, lettering, etc. and then to prepare the color separations, which were done by hand.

Below you can see Jim Haff's working drawing for this map. You'll probably want to click on the image so you can see the level of detail better.

James E. Haff's working copy of the 1962 "Land of Oz" map. Click to enlarge.

Thankfully, the first thing to point out is that Haff restored Baum's Munchkins in the east, Winkies in the west orientation for the first time since 1920.  But this map has for the first time in any Oz map, made both those countries and those directions agree with our "real world" compass. From the notes I've read, it doesn't seem like the creators of the Oz Club map ever even considered that Baum's 1914 map might have been "correct."  I can understand if they made a different choice, but it is surprising to me that the idea that directions were in fact reversed in Oz was not an option that seems to have occurred to them.

Jim Haff took great pride in spots where he could "sync up" details from different Oz books. A prime example being his charting of the Winkie River. Haff wrote in his unpublished notes: "This results incidentally, in a rather neat coincidence: Suds and its adjacent lake and are an extension of the Dangerous Passage and Soap Slide on the Winkie River."

Suds, of course, is from Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Gnome King of Oz (1927) and the Dangerous Passage and Soap Slide are from John R. Neill's Lucky Bucky in Oz (1942). It is little touches like this that make the maps so much fun!

There are many details unique to the 1962 version of this map; things that will be adjusted and corrected in the 1967 and later editions. To point out only a few: Reera is north of Skeezer Lake in this map and she will eventually be moved south of Skeezer Lake; Torpedo Town, Stairway, and the Delves are further north in the 1962 map and will be shifted further south in later maps. Note, too, that this map came out the year before Merry Go Round in Oz was published, so none of the locations from that book are on the 1962 version of the map.

While Dick Martin has for the most part drawn in each locale exactly where Haff placed it, there were a few omissions, such as Martin's failing to draw in "Bottle Hill." The label is present on the '62 map but the actual hill is not (see full-color map above). I will more systematically itemize the changes made to later versions of the maps as we get to those discussions.

Central section of Haff's master Map of Oz. Click to enlarge.

For the most part the published maps strictly adhere to Haff's master map. But the Munchkin Country was radically altered before the map went to press in 1962. This is largely due to a disagreement over exactly where Unc Nunkie and Ojo's cottage is located. Personally, I think Haff's original choice to keep Ojo and Doctor Pipt in the southern Munchkin Country was correct. Whoever urged their shift to the north created an unfortunate blemish. I was going to address this messy business in today's blog, but when I sat down with the various maps and copies of The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Ojo in Oz, I found the issue complex enough to warrant an entire post. Guess what you'll be reading next week?

There is another unique feature of the 1962 version of the maps. Dick Martin did not use a black plate in his color separation. He seems to have used a deep royal blue instead of black (see below); the three other colors being process yellow, magenta, and cyan. It's a handsome choice, IMHO. According to David Greene, Dick Martin personally oversaw the printing of the maps in Chicago.

Note that the text is printed in royal blue in the 1962 version of the map.

Despite my admiration and fondness for the Haff/Martin maps they have a major weakness (for me anyway) in that they generally disregard the shapes of the countries as presented in Baum's 1914 Map of Oz. The Gillikin Country is much enlarged, the area of the Emerald City is greatly shrunk, a good deal of real estate is taken away from the Quadling Country, and the proportion of Oz is altered, making it somewhat more square than Baum's fairyland.

I prepared a little animation to show the transformation from Baum's map to the Oz Club map. I had to mirror-image the Oz Club map to make the two maps "morph." I have aligned the top northern borders of both maps, as that edge was the least changed. I think you can see how radically Haff and Martin altered Ozian geography.

I suspect Haff adjusted that bit of the yellow Winkie Country to creep down to the southern edge of Oz so that the route of the sand boat would end in the Winkie Country as is described in The Road to Oz, but  there seems little reason for Haff to have altered the shapes of the other countries. Personally, I would have just redrawn the path of the sand boat into an arc, or shifted Dunkiton and Foxville, rather than alter the shapes Baum gave to his Oz countries.

I asked Jim Haff about some of this back in the late 1970's and he replied that he just wanted to equalize the land masses of each country a bit and that he always thought the area around the Emerald City seemed too large. There is also a possibility that Haff and Martin wanted to make the map "different" from the Reilly & Lee maps so as to avoid any hint of copyright infringement. But both Jim and Dick had died before I thought of asking them about that possible reason. In any case the altered country shapes make the map less authentic to me.

It would be hard to deny the influence the Oz Club's maps have had. They have been available from the club for over fifty years, they have been reproduced in various fantasy works, and they were included in all of the Del Rey reprints of the Oz books.

Next week we'll explore exactly what they did to the Munchkin Country and check out a few missed opportunities as well. Click here for the next blog in this series.

Original ad for the Oz Club Maps in THE BAUM BUGLE, Christmas 1963.

I must express my gratitude to Cindy Ragni of Wonderful Books of for her help and generosity in sharing scans of Jim Haff's original "research" maps and many other helpful materials she has directed my way.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Up, Up, and Away! Meet the Flying Girl!

In 1910, at the end of The Emerald City of Oz, L. Frank Baum attempted to end the Oz series. Princess Ozma was concerned about the great outside world encroaching on the magical Land of Oz. She was concerned about a new kind of magic. The magic of flight. The magic of airships. The world was going airplane crazy! So Ozma (with Glinda's help) cut Oz off from the rest of the world with a Barrier of Invisibility. No more Oz. At least that’s what folks were saying back in 1910.

During Baum’s two-year hiatus as Royal Historian, 1911 and 1912, he wrote his two best non-fantasy novels, The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and Her Chum. So let’s sit back, fasten our seatbelts, and see exactly WHAT’S UP with . . . the Flying Girl!

The original idea for the Flying Girl books may have come from Baum’s publisher, the Reilly and Britton Company of Chicago. In 1909 Reilly and Britton published a profusely illustrated five-hundred-page volume called Vehicles of the Air by Victor Lougheed. It was subtitled “A popular Exposition of Modern Aeronautics with Working Drawings.”  The book seems to have sold well. New editions were published in 1910 and 1911. It’s not unreasonable to assume Reilly and Britton might have sent Baum a copy of the book for research purposes.

But Reilly and Britton were publishing lots of other airplane books, too, including several aviation series for children. In 1909 they began The Airship Boys series by H. L. Sayler. And in 1910 they added The Aeroplane Boys series by Ashton Lamar.

In 1911 and 1912 Reilly and Britton issued two beautiful and oversized aviation fairytale novels: The Magic Aeroplane and The Flight Brothers, both by Mrs. L. R. S. Henderson. These are especially interesting, as they look a lot like giant Oz books, even down to the color plates and title page design. Interestingly, the illustrator is Emille A. Nelson, who also illustrated several of Baum’s Boy Fortune Hunters books.

But back to Reilly and Britton's aviation books. With all the interest the general public had in aviation, and the supposed end of the Oz series, you can see why they may have been putting some pressure on Baum to get “on board” for a juvenile aviation book.

On the other hand, the idea for The Flying Girl series may have come from Baum instead. He may have been inspired by meeting Glenn Curtiss or other early aviators during his winters living at the Hotel Del Coronado in southern California.

Whatever the inspiration was, Baum responded with the Flying Girl series. The Flying Girl was published in 1911, and its sequel, The Flying Girl and Her Chum, was published in 1912. Baum wrote both books under his popular pseudonym Edith Van Dyne, author of the highly successful Aunt Jane’s Nieces series. Here we see a copy of an inscription by “Mrs. Van Dyne” to his son, Robert Stanton Baum.

In the contemporary advertisement (below) we can see: “. . . a picture of L. Frank Baum’s home and gardens at Hollywood, California. In the center of the pergola is the little sheltered garden house where Edith Van Dyne, a guest of Mrs. Baum, wrote The Flying Girl.”

Reilly and Britton produced two handsome volumes bound in red cloth, stamped in black and white. You can see the lovely (and very rare) dust jackets still further down the page. The paintings for the jackets are by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens, who also provided four halftone plates for each of the books.

This first book, The Flying Girl, tells the story of how seventeen-year-old Orissa Kane becomes a celebrated aviator. The story opens in Los Angeles, where Orissa works as secretary for real estate agent George Burthon. She is the sole support for her blind mother and older brother, Stephen, who is hard at work designing and building his innovative new airplane. After her brother is injured Orissa flies in his place at an air-meet and proves herself an excellent aviator. After numerous travails the Kane Aircraft is proven a success, Orissa is the darling of popular attention, and everyone seems destined for a brilliant future.

In 1912 the second Flying Girl book was published. Suggested titles for  book were: The Flying Girl of Castaway Island, The Flying Girl’s Adventures, The Flying Girl’s Runaway Aeroplane, The Flying Girl’s Best Record, and The Flying Girl’s Exploits. In the end Baum and his publishers agreed on The Flying Girl and Her Chum.

In The Flying Girl and Her Chum, Orissa and her “chum” Sybil Cumberford are testing Stephen Kane’s new experimental Hydro-Aeroplane, which can land in the water. They take of from a bluff in San Diego, but when the aircraft is damaged, they’re forced to crash land near an isolated island in the Pacific. Their struggles to stay alive on the deserted island add quite a bit of realism to the book, although the cheerful demeanors they exhibit throughout might not have such a counterpart in real life. Meanwhile, a rich heiress, Madeline Dentry, sets out on her yacht with Orissa and Sybil’s friends in a dangerous attempt to find the lost girls. The book alternates between the girls on the island and the rescue party that’s trying to find them - a double-plot line device that Baum was very fond of. When the rescue party finally reaches the island, the entire group is threatened by a Mexican bandit and his band of cut-throats. Of course, the bravery of the Flying Girl and her chum saves the day and the story ends with the entire party sailing to Hawaii on the Dentry yacht. In this book Baum deals less with the world of aviation. Steve’s new Hydro-Aeroplane serves merely as entrance and exit to what is essentially a straight adventure story.

Baum's publisher, Reilly & Britton, seems to have really promoted the new series, arranging for both books to be serialized in newspapers around the country.

Newspaper serialization of THE FLYING GIRL AND HER CHUM.

Original dust jacket for the book.
The Flying Girl and Her Chum presents themes and devices found in other books by Baum, too. Baum-scholar Michael Patrick Hearn has pointed out how Glinda of Oz repeats the basic plot of The Flying Girl and Her Chum. Both books feature two girls becoming stranded on isolated islands and a second plot-thread is introduced when the girls’ friends form an expedition to rescue them.

The Flying Girl and Her Chum also has similarities to Baum’s Sky Island. Both stories begin in the San Diego area. In Chum an airplane carries Orissa and Sybil over the Pacific and beyond the island they intended, while in Sky Island a magic umbrella carries Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Button-Bright far beyond their Pacific island destination to an island in the sky.

Baum’s The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas (1911), published under the pseudonym Floyd Akers, features a ship tossed onto the shore of a Pacific island, a near duplication of the beaching of the Dentry yacht in Chum. Furthermore, hostile forces threaten both vessels and an airplane takes off from the deck of each boat.

The famous California resort, the Hotel Del Coronado, where Baum himself stayed during winters from 1904 until 1908, appears both in Chum and in Baum’s Aunt Jane’s Nieces and Uncle John (1911).

The Hotel Del Coronado first opened in 1888 and is still today a functioning hotel and a National Historic Landmark, just across the bay from downtown San Diego.

Original dust jacket for the book.
From the tone of the Flying Girl books and the real people and incidents mentioned in them, we know Baum did do some first-hand research on aviation as he was writing them. In the guise of Miss Van Dyne, Baum thanked two of the most famous American aviators of his time in his short foreword to The Flying Girl:
The author wishes to acknowledge her indebtedness to Mr. Glenn H. Curtiss and Mr. Wilbur Wright for courtesies extended during the preparation of this manuscript.
Baum is well aware of aviation’s potential. He goes on to say:
These skillful and clever aviators, pioneers to whom the Art of Flying owes a colossal debt, do not laugh at any suggestion concerning the future of the aeroplane, for they recognize the fact that the discoveries and inventions of the next year may surpass all that have gone before.
If fact, Baum seems so aware of the leaps and bounds of early aviation that he places a caveat into his forward. It’s almost as if he fears that Orissa’s accomplishments may be eclipsed by the time his book sees publication when he states:
So the story of Orissa Kane’s feats has little exaggeration except in actual accomplishment, and it is possible her ventures may be emulated even before this book is out of press.
At that time the history of modern aviation was only eight years old. The Wright brothers’ first heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, occurred on Dec. 17, 1903. But it was not until around 1909 that the public at large became enthused by airplanes. Newspaper headlines trumpeted each new aerial record achieved. Crowds flocked to aviation meets to watch the amazing new machines mount to the skies.

Despite Baum’s declaration of indebtedness to Glenn Hammond Curtiss and Wilbur Wright in the foreword to The Flying Girl, and whatever he might have gleaned from his research, his knowledge of the technicalities of heavier-than-air flight seems lacking.

In his attempt to make Stephen Kane’s invention distinct from other aircraft, Baum describes the Kane Aircraft as a biplane whose upper plane is placed at a right angle to the lower. In the Hungry Tiger press reprint of The Flying Girl, illustrator Eric Shanower draws what Baum describes, with the upper plane running perpendicular to the lower plane.

Eric Shanower's depiction of Stephen Kane's aircraft from THE FLYING GIRL.

Yet the Wright brothers’ innovation of placing one parallel plane directly above the other was both a key factor in their 1903 success and a safety feature of biplanes. Even Joseph Pierre Nuyttens, the original illustrator of both Flying Girl books, seems to have been confused by Baum’s crossed-plane arrangement; his illustrations show a triplane with the two upper planes crossed.

Joseph Pierre Nuyttens depiction of Stephen Kane's aircraft.

Baum is far more successful in integrating reality into his story by describing actual air meets at Dominguez Field. The Los Angeles International Air Meet was held January 10 to January 20, 1910.

It was among the earliest airshows in the world and the first major airshow in the United States. It was held in Los Angeles County, California, at Dominguez Field in present day Carson, California. Spectator turnout numbered approximately 254,000 over eleven days of ticket sales. The Los Angeles Times called it "one of the greatest public events in the history of the West." Baum was living in Southern California at the time of the Dominguez Field air meets. It remains unknown whether Baum actually attended the 1910 Air Meet, but he surely was aware of the extremely popular event.

Baum populated the background of the story of The Flying Girl with real-life aviators. Wilbur and Orville Wright, Glenn H. Curtiss, Hubert Latham, Archibald Hoxsey, Charles F. Willard, Philip O. Parmalee, Eugene Ely, Walter Brookins, and James Radley, all international figures in the history of flight, appear—albeit briefly—in the pages of The Flying Girl.

Baum continued his research into aviation for the second Flying Girl book. Baum’s letter on Jan. 23, 1912, to his publishers states, “I’ve been working on The Flying Girl and Her Chum, and my attendance at the present aviation meet was in furtherance of that plot. I’ve got aeroplanes down to date, and it will all help me in this volume.”

No female aviator—except Orissa Kane—appears in the first book, and the concept of an American female aviator is presented by Baum as unique. While this serves to heighten Orissa’s importance in the story, it deviates from reality.

Although in 1910 a French woman, Raymonde de Laroche, was the first woman to qualify as a pilot, Harriet Quimby was the first licensed and most celebrated American female aviator of her day.

Harriet Quimby with the Moisant monoplane.

Quimby's rise to prominence at the same time Baum began the Flying Girl series sparks the question: to what extent may Orissa Kane have been based on this real-life counterpart? The Delineator magazine of November 1911 reports that Harriet Quimby “is young, good-looking, energetic, ambitious and has lots of just plain, everyday nerve. . . . As she stands at the helm of her bird-craft . . . , it is a question whether the blue of her eye and the rose of her cheek call forth less cheering from the crowd of interested spectators than the fact that the little sky pilot represents the first type of buoyant young American womanhood.” This description could easily fit Baum’s own heroine. On April 16, 1912, Harriet Quimby was the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

Only weeks later, on July 1, 1912, she died while flying in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts. William Willard, the organizer of the event, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,500 feet the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane glided down and lodged itself in the mud.

In the Flying Girl and Her Chum, Baum finally acknowledges the existence of other American female aviators: Blanche Scott, the first American woman to fly an airplane, and Matilde Moisant, who trained at her brother’s New York aviation school with Harriet Quimby.

Blanche Scott in her biplane.

The site of the Kane Hydro-Aeroplane’s launch may have a contemporary counterpart.

Baum’s text states that Stephen Kane’s aircraft hangar is near Glenn Curtiss’s aviation camp on a low bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In reality Glenn Curtiss’s aviation camp was on North Island in San Diego bay. But there are no bluffs on North Island. However, a location near San Diego closely resembles Baum’s description of the Hydro-Aeroplane’s launch area.

The bluffs at the Torrey Pines Gliderport as they look today.

The Torrey Pines Gliderport perches on the bluffs north of San Diego, adjacent to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Here on clear days, modern enthusiasts launch gliders, paragliders, and sailplanes to soar high above the Pacific coast. It’s tempting to see in this activity a continuity with Orissa’s fictional flight. At the base of the sandy bluff is San Diego's "clothing optional" Black's Beach.

Unfortunately the Flying Girl series ended after only two titles, though the fault was clearly not in Baum’s writing. The two books are arguably the best non-fantasy novels Baum ever wrote. They are almost completely free of the ethnic stereotyping and slurs that mar his other young adult novels. And Orissa is a strong female character - like Dorothy. Perhaps the books were too ahead of their time. Maybe boys wouldn’t read about a girl hero; and girls weren’t terribly interested in aviation? Reilly and Britton seemed to be carefully trying to find a balance.

In fact, the first-draft manuscript of The Flying Girl and Her Chum proved far too thrilling for the publisher. Sumner Britton in a letter to Baum on May 9, 1912, wrote,"We don’t need to have the second book any more daring than the first—which was very exciting. I read that myself and felt that it carried all the thrills we could possibly stand in a book of this kind. We are shooting at boys and girls from eleven to fourteen and we have to pass muster with their parents, teachers, and librarians.” Baum altered the manuscript.

A third volume in the series, to be titled The Flying Girl’s Brave Venture, was planned, but never appeared. Chum’s year of publication, 1912, brought both Harriet Quimby’s fatal air accident and Matilde Moisant’s retirement from flying after her own fiery crash. Fred Erisman, in The Baum Bugle, speculates that publicity surrounding these events may have caused parents to look on aviation as unsuitable for girls, resulting in poor sales for the Flying Girl books.

In January 1912, Baum wrote to his publisher, Sumner Britton, that a letter from Britton had remained unanswered, "Because I’ve been attending an aviation meet. But I’m through with that now. Saw a man killed yesterday and that settles the thing for me."

Whatever the reason, Baum abandoned the Flying Girl series and in 1913 he restarted his popular Oz series.

Although the Flying Girl series ended after just two volumes, it wasn’t the end of at least one of the characters. In Mary Louise Solves a Mystery (1917), the third of Baum’s Mary Louise books (which were also credited to Edith Van Dyne), Stephen Kane turns up as the owner of a successful flying-machine factory. Orissa’s career as an aviator seems to have subsided, but her oft-stated goal of showing the world the merits of the Kane Aircraft has been achieved; Baum states that “Stephen Kane’s aeroplane was now admitted to be one of the safest and most reliable ever invented.”

And it was all due to the bravery and skill of Orissa Kane - THE FLYING GIRL!

Both The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and her Chum are available in beautiful reprint editions from Hungry Tiger Press! The Flying Girl is illustrated by award-winning illustrator Eric Shanower, who has also provided a new Foreword for The Flying Girl and Her Chum, which proved invaluable in the preparation of this essay.

The Flying Girl
by L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by Eric Shanower
Click here to order! 

Original halftone plates by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens
5 1/2"x 8 1/2"  - 188 Pages - Hardcover

From the author of The Wizard of Oz comes a high-flying adventure featuring intrepid girl aviator Orissa Kane. Like Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, Orissa is intelligent, self-reliant, and always persevering.

Circumstances force young Orissa Kane into the air in her brother’s innovative new airplane. But a deadly foe is intent on sending her crashing back to earth. Soar to new heights with the Flying Girl as she braves countless dangers to achieve worldwide acclaim.


The Flying Girl and Her Chum
 By L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens
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5 1/2"x 8 1/2"  - 250 Pages - Hardcover
In this high-flying sequel to The Flying Girl, a damaged aeroplane strands brave Orissa Kane and her best friend Sybil on a barren rock somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The two teenage girls must use all their wits just to survive. Meanwhile, in the best Oz-book double-plot tradition, Orissa's friends form a search party to find the missing girls. Throw in a ragged band of ocean-going outlaws bent on mayhem, and you have one of L. Frank Baum's most exciting non-Oz adventure stories, The Flying Girl and Her Chum

Eric Shanower provides a new Foreword detailing Baum's writing process and the history of women in early aviation including the young female aviator Harriet Quimby, who was likely a model for the Flying Girl!

"Baum had a way of writing juvenile series without writing down to his audience. At his best, his novels are tinged with a certain amount of cynicism--you weren't always sure at first who the good guys were....It can be very refreshing."
-Yellowback Library