L. Frank Baum

The Old National Road - not the yellow brick road - led the creator of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ to Richmond.

L. Frank Baum penned one of the most popular books ever written for children, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

But his first major literary work bombed in Richmond.

In 1883 he came here to star in his musical drama “The Maid of Arran.” He portrayed an “impecunious fortune hunter who had to outwit a false-hearted villain” to win the heart of a damsel, who was his real-life, newly-wedded wife, Maud, already pregnant with their first child. They appeared onstage here on June 7, 1883.

Local crowds were a hard sell. The town’s bawdy element responded negatively… and the play folded.

Failure was nothing new to the struggling 27-year-old,who had many more years of it ahead. While in Richmond he couldn’t have anticipated the popularity that would come when he transformed early childhood memories into a land “over the rainbow” where dangers were to be overcome and lessons were to be learned.

The book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” came out in 1900 and achieved critical and financial success.

The beloved Judy Garland classic debuted in 1939 and is one of the most revered films of all time.

Baum’s touring company folded here on June 7, 1883 and a string of failures followed. But the author’s journey – like Dorothy’s – did end happily, and today those books, and that film, have entered the enchanting land of classic immortality.


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June 19, 2012