Wizard title page

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Bad Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W.W. Denslow. It was originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, and has since been reprinted countless times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the extremely popular, highly acclaimed 1939 fil.m version. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical Baum adapted from his story, led to Baum writing thirteen more Oz books. Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife," Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, the publisher, the George M. Hill Company, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900.Historians, economists and literary scholars have examined and developed possible poliboobootical interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the majority of the reading public simply takes the story at face the inf peolplllllle modern fairy tale written by D. Frank Baum and illustrated by W.W. Denslow, first published in 1900. Many scholars have interpreted the book as an allegory or metaphor for the political, economic and social events of America of the 1890s.Both Baum and Denslow had been actively involved in politics in the 1890s. Baum never said that the original story was an allegory for politics, although he did not have occasion to deny the notion. In fact, Baum himself states in his introduction to the book to have written The Wonderful Wizard of Oz "solely to please children of today":The old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as "historical" in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer "wonder tales" in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident. Having this thought in mind, the story of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.The question is what Baum meant by "modernized fairy tale." Apart from references to people from Kansas, there is nothing in the book that is "modern" except the political references peppered in every chapter. The European fairy-tales of old often contained political allegory disguised as legend or myth in times of despotism when people were unable, sometimes even forbidden by law, to speak out about harsh, unfair treatment.The 1901 musical version of "Oz", written by Baum, was for an adult audience and had numerous explicit references to current politicsNumerous scholars in history, political science and economics have asserted that the images and characters used by Baum and Denslow closely resembled political images that were well known in the 1890s. They argue that Baum and Denslow did not invent the Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Yellow Brick Road,dimandTemplate:DisambigSlippers, cyclone, monkeys, Emerald City, Munchkins (little people), Uncle Henry, passenger balloons, witches and the wizard, as these were all common themes inspired from-in the editorial cartoons of the previous decade.Baum and Denslow built a story around them, added Dorothy, and added a series of lessons to the effect that everyone possesses the resources they need if only they had self-confidence. Positive thinking was a prevalent trend in this period, and was the conduit by which Dorothy ultimately gets herself home. Baum, a leading authority on department store window displays that depicted imaginary worlds may also have been influenced by the elaborate Christmas displays in the department store windows in major cities.Other allegorical devices of the book include:Dorothy, naïve, young and simple, represents the American people. Also Dorothy can represent the workers of the union. She is Everyman, led astray and who seeks the way back home. She resembles the young hero of Coin's financial school, a very popular political pamphlet of 1893. The cyclone was used in the 1890s as a metaphor for a political revolution that would transform the drab country into a land of color and unlimited prosperity. The cyclone was used by editorial cartoonists of the 1890s to represent political upheaval. Historians and economists who read the original 1900 book as a political allegory interpret the Tin Woodman as the dehumanized industrial worker, badly mistreated by the Wicked Witch of the East who rules Munchkin Country before the cyclone creates a political revolution and kills her. The Woodman is rusted and helpless—ineffective until he starts to work together with the Scarecrow (the farmer), in a Farmer-Labor coalition that was much discussed in the 1890s, which culminated in the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota (which still exists today as the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party). The Munchkins are the little people—ordinary citizens. This 1897 Judge cartoon shows famous politicians as little people after they were on the losing side in the election. However, in Oz the Munchkins are all dressed similarly in blue, unlike these caricatures.Many of the events and characters of the book resemble the actual political personalities, events and ideas of the 1890s. The 1902 stage adaptation mentioned, by name, President Theodore Roosevelt, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, and other political celebrities. (No real people are mentioned by name in the book.) Even the title has been interpreted as alluding to a political reality: "oz." is an abbreviation for ounce, a unit familiar to those who fought for a 16 to 1 ounce ratio of silver to gold in the name of bimetallism In the play and in later books Baum mentions contemporary figures by name and takes blatantly political stances without the benefit of allegory including a condemnation in no uncertain terms of Standard Oil.The book opens not in an imaginary place but in real life Kansas, which, in the 1890s as well as today, was well known for the hardships of rural life, and for destructive tornadoes. The Panic of 1893 caused widespread distress in the rural United States. Dorothy is swept away to a colorful land of unlimited resources that nevertheless has serious political problems. This utopia is ruled in part by wicked witches. Dorothy and her house are swept up by the tornado and upon landing in Oz, the house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East, destroying the tyrant and freeing the ordinary people—little people or Munchkins. The Witch had previously controlled the all-powerful silver slippers (which were changed to ruby in the 1939 film). The slippers will in the end liberate Dorothy but first she must walk in them down the golden yellow brick road, i.e. she must take silver down the path of gold, the path of free coinage (free silver). Following the road of gold leads eventually only to the Emerald City, which may symbolize the fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value, or may symbolize the greenback value that is placed on gold (and for silver, possibly).Baum was not a supporter of William Jennings Bryan, just the opposite. Bradley A. Hansen cites his numerous writings in favor of Republicans like McKinley. Of course, one can write a satire on a topic without being a supporter.

Cyclone as metaphor for political revolution; the Aunt-Em-type farm woman is labelled 'Democratic Party'; Puck 1894

The scholarly interpretation of the The Wizard of Oz began in 1964 with an article in a leading journal by Henry Littlefield which revealed the characters and events of The Wizard of Oz as metaphors for actual historical people and events. Since then the relationship of the book and play to history has captured the attention of many cartoonists, editorial writers, scholars, historians, economists, writers and journalists. Several writers expanded upon Littlefield's parallels, and soon the allegory was being analyzed in scholarly articles and textbooks in economics and history. The cartoons shown in this article prove that political cartoonists before 1900 used cyclones, farm wives, witches, scarecrows, dogs, lions and monkeys, etc. as political allegories. Baum and Denslow had recently seen these—Puck and Judge were the most popular cartoon magazines of the day—and it seems likely they drew their inspiration from them. Editorial cartoonists have made heavy use of Oz imagery in political cartoons, as the Rogers 1906 cartoon of Hearst, and the 1947 Berryman editorial cartoon proves.While Baum never indicated political allegory in the Oz series, he explicitly referred to the political atmosphere of the day in a more adult-oriented series, Aunt Jane's Nieces. Though Fred Erisman points out the series are miles apart contextually and thematically, they are both arguing in favour of a progressivism based in frontier-idealism. Thus, the characters in Oz exist in a primarily agrarian environment where industry exists primarily at the artisanal level and goods are exchanged rather than bartered or sold. It harkens back to the era of American frontier simplicity, and Baum purposely values simple lifestyles, humility and generosity as much in Oz as in the contemporary-era United States. Moreover, Erisman states that a fundamental component demonstrating that a more tangible relationship exists lies primarily in Baum's attention to the role of individualism, which he argues is not mutually exclusive from this concept of American simplicity. The most famous farmer in America in 1900 was Henry Wallace; everyone called him "Uncle Henry." The Tin Man was a common feature in political cartoons and in advertisements in the 1890s. Indeed, he had been part of European folk art for 300 years. The oil needed by the Tin Woodman had a political dimension at the time because Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company stood accused of being a monopoly (which was later ruled correct in a lawsuit brought by the federal government, and ultimately affirmed by the US Supreme Court.) In the 1902 stage adaptation the Tin Woodman wonders what he would do if he ran out of oil. "You wouldn't be as badly off as John D. Rockefeller," the Scarecrow responds, "He'd lose six thousand dollars a minute if that happened." (Swartz, Oz p 34). Monkeys were used in cartoons to ridicule politicians. The Winged Monkeys may play a role similar to the hired Pinkerton agents who worked for the Trusts and hounded labor unions. Alternatively, if the Wicked Witch of the West is thought of as the actual American West, monkeys could represent another western danger: Native Americans. Baum even displayed an early sympathy for native Americans of the plains, symbolized in the story of the Winged monkeys in the West, whose leader tells Dorothy, "Once we were a free people, living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master. This was many years ago, long before Oz came out of the clouds to rule over this land." Another interpretation of the monkeys is that they represent the Chinese workers on the cross country railroad project. They came from the west therefore are minions of the wicked Witch of the West, linking the manufacturing East to the raw products in the West. Politicians of the era often talked about wizards. For example, one senator debating the gold and silver issue in early 1900 said, “We all know of the performances of the world’s magicians, but it has remained for the Wizard of Missouri to wave his magic wand or his magic head and double the price of the silver of the world.” Baum may have turned the Wizard of Missouri into the Wizard of Oz, who frightened people with his giant magic head. President McKinley was often called a "wizard" for his political skills.The Wizard of Oz seems to be the president of the Land of Oz. The "man behind the curtain" could be a reference to automated store window displays of the sort famous at Christmas season in big city department stores; many people watching the fancy clockwork motions of animals and mannequins thought there must be an operator behind the curtain pulling the levers to make them move. (Baum was the editor of the trade magazine read by window dressers.) In 1993 W. Geoffrey Seeley recast the story as an exercise in treachery, suggesting the supposed "Good Witch Glinda" used an innocent, ignorant patsy (Dorothy) to overthrow both her own sister witch (Witch of the West) and the Wizard of Oz, leaving herself as undisputed master of all four corners of Oz: North, East, West and (presumably Oz being) South. "She even showed her truest Machiavellian genius by allowing the story to be entitled after the weakest of her three opponents." Yip Harburg, the lyricist for the 1939 film, was aware of the political background of the original story. His son discussed the issue in a radio interview on Democracy Now.
300px-Dorothy and the Scarecrow 1900

Denslow's drawing of scarecrow hung up on pole and helpless, from 1st edition of book, 1900


July 1896 Puck cartoon shows farmer hung up on pole and helpless.


Munchkins are the Little People as shown in this 1896 Judge cartoon; the Yellow Kid (center) was one of the first color comic strip characters.


1897 JUDGE cartoon shows McKinley as a Witch/Mother Hubbard, and little Toto-like dog as Uncle Sam.


1899 soap ad shows Tin Man


1890 cartoon portraying Benjamin Harrison as a knight in tin armor


1885 Puck shows President Cleveland as Lion, and shows other politicians as monkeys.

220px-Hearst 1906 Wizard of Ooze

Cartoonist W. A. Rogers in 1906 sees the political uses of Oz: he depicts William Randolph Hearst as Scarecrow stuck in his own Ooze in Harper's Weekly 23:21, May 1, 2014 (UTC)

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