Lyman Frank Baum was born near Syracuse, New York in 1856. HIs father worked as a barrel maker but later became wealthy in the oil business. In the 1870s as a young man, Baum's father put him in charge of managing some theaters and in 1881 he wrote and published a successful musical play called The Maid of Arran. He married Maud Gage in 1882 whose mother was a major figure in the campaign for woman's suffrage and was a friend of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. He tried to be a newspaper publisher but his early ventures failed, including a newspaper in South Dakota. Frank often struggled with poor health. He moved to Chicago in 1891 to work as a reporter for the Chicago Evening Post.
During the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and after, Frank worked at many jobs including selling china and creating Christmas displays for store windows. But writing was his passion, particularly history and fairy tales for children. Frank Baum's first book for children in 1897 was Mother Goose in Prose which was a modest success. Other books for children followed including Father Goose--His Book written by Baum and illustrated by William Wallace Denslow.
In 1900 the team of Baum and Denslow took their new book to Chicago pubisher George M. Hill Company. The book was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It became an instant success and eventually was one of the most popular and best-selling children's books of all time. In 1939, twenty years after Frank Baum passed away, the story of Oz found new life again as the foundation for one of the most successful children's movies of all time. Pictured at right are the stars: Burt Lahr as The Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as The Tin Man, Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale from Kansas, and Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow. One actress not pictured was Billie Burke who played Glinda The Good Witch of the North. In the 1920s, Billie Burke was married to Florenz Ziegfield, Jr. who was a native of Chicago and the producer of The Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. HIs father, Florenz Sr., ran a Music School in Chicago and was Director of Music at the Columbian Exposition. His most famous student was Lillian Russell.
One key difference between Frank Baum's book and the Hollywood film is that in the book the journey to Oz is a journey to a real place whereas in the film the journey is portrayed as a dream for Dorothy who was knocked unconscious during a cyclone. Nevertheless, the movie gains millions of new young fans every year on television. Frank Baum wrote several more books about the characters of Oz in the early 1900s and all but the first were published by another Chicago publishing house called Reilly & Lee. After 19 years of writing and publishing his most important books in Chicago, Frank Baum moved to Hollywood, California in 1910 and he died there in 1919.