Finding Oz: How L Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan J Schwartz came out in 2009. A groundbreaking new look at a cultural icon—THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Schwartz reveals how Baum’s early interest in theatre, tall tales, and entertaining an audience led the restless young man through a string of doomed careers, including actor, playwright, castor oil salesman, and shop owner (trading in knickknacks and toys). In spite of pressure to support his family including his mother-in-law was the radical women’s rights activist Matilda Gage. Baum maintained a passion for fantasy and sought pleasure in every venture he undertook, often by way of his talent for yarn-spinning. Falling on hard times again and again, Baum had little to keep him going besides love for his growing family and for storytelling.
For example, Dorothy was inspired by Baum’s niece Dorothy Louise Gage who died at 5mos old. The Yellow Brick Road was inspired by the Yellow Bricks in the Dutch city of Peekskill, New York where he was sent away to military school. The Wizard of Oz was inspired by the great Oil Tycoon Rockefeller.
The O in Oz is a sacred symbol and the symbol of Z is all about how life and Zigzag. Baum failed at a great many endeavors before becoming a successful writer. Theosophy enters Oz via his mother-in-law Matilda. Isis Unveiled was influential in his world view. The silver shoes like the silver cord that connects us to the astral plane.
Baum moved to Aberdeen in the Dakotas during the Westward expansion of America. It was full of tornadoes and was bleak, not unlike Kansas. The Winkie’s color was Yellow and that represented the American West in Baum’s mind. Were the Winkies to be patterned after Native Americans?
Unfortunately, Baum wrote an editorial in the newspaper condemning Native Americans. He thought they possessed false bravery like the cowardly lion. Baum’s mother in law Matilda was outraged by her son in laws prejudice and inhumane view of the Native Americans.
Baum created a store called Baum’s Bazaar that sold China Dolls and other knick knacks from around the world. P.T. Barnum was also a partial inspiration for The Wizard of Oz because he once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Baum thought of P.T. Barnum as creating hoaxes or being a humbug.
Baum and family moved to Chicago after his store failed. The gleaming city was his inspiration for The Emerald City. He was amazed by the World’s Fair there. For awhile he sold China in Chicago before writing his famous book.
Münchner Kindl was the inspiration for the Munchkins in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Münchner Kindl means “Munich child” in the Bavarian dialect of German and is the name of the symbol on the coat of arms of the city Munich.