♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On November 3, 1956, families all across America gathered in their living rooms for the first television broadcast of "The Wizard of Oz."
45 million viewers tuned in.
Its annual airing on television would cement the story in the American consciousness.
GREGORY MAGUIRE: My parents were dubious about television.
Once a year they lowered their inhibitions and restrictions, and that was when "The Wizard of Oz" was rebroadcast.
♪ Somewhere over the rainbow ♪ LOUIS WARREN: When I was a kid, I saw "The Wizard of Oz" for the first time on a color TV and was just stunned when you made that transition from the black-and-white photography to the color photography.
DINA MASSACHI: I don't remember the first time I saw it.
What I remember is wanting to be Dorothy.
I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
♪ You're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz ♪ MARIA MONTOYA: The two images that have stuck with me my whole life... Now, fly-- fly!
MONTOYA: The witch and the flying monkeys-- absolutely terrifying.
EVAN SCHWARTZ: The movie is not only the most seen movie of all time, but it's the most repeatedly viewed movie of all time.
WIZARD: I am Oz!
SCHWARTZ: It's almost impossible to conceive of American life without growing up with "The Wizard of Oz."
I'm melting, melting!
NARRATOR: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" first appeared more than half a century earlier, as a children's book.
Published in 1900, the story of Dorothy's fantastical journey down the yellow brick road was the brainchild of L. Frank Baum, a writer whose penchant for reinvention reflected a uniquely American brand of confidence, imagination, and innovation.
During a time of rapid change, he wrote a fairytale that embraced the values and direction of a new society.
WARREN: Baum is at the center of a kind of culture of inviting people to dream of a new life.
PHILIP DELORIA: "The Wizard Of Oz" is the quintessential story of going to another world, working out issues and problems, and then returning and being in a better place in a world that is challenging.
MONTOYA: What's underlying this seemingly easy children's story is actually a complicated person who has a complicated story, and brings all that to the underpinnings of the book.
DOUGLAS A. JONES, JR.: His life suggests a kind of American spirit on the cusp of a new century, turning towards what the modern and the new would be.
(steam hisses) (train rumbling) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On a chilly evening in January 1894, a determined Lyman Frank Baum wrote his mother from a small rail town west of Chicago, rejecting her offer of support.
"I shall somehow manage to provide for those dependent on me," he told her.
A tall order for the impractical man who throughout his adult life had quit work where he found success and pursued his passions into near-ruin.
(train rumbling) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: To support his family in the midst of a crushing economic depression, 37-year-old Baum, who went by Frank, had accepted a trial position as a traveling salesman.
Working on commission, he hauled heavy trunks of breakable glassware and dishes to store owners across the Midwest.
Even though he's barely getting by selling crockery on the road, he's determined to support his family on his own, on his own terms.
He was always looking for the next best thing, where he might, might make some decent money.
Baum was trying to find a way that he could stay at home and be with his family, not be on the road.
That was his ultimate goal.
SCHWARTZ: He started to reconnect to his original childhood dream of being a great writer and started writing poems and stories on any scrap of paper he could find.
(indistinct chatter, bell ringing) NARRATOR: As he journeyed from town to town, Baum bore witness to a nation in transition-- a country of shifting tastes, increasing population, and growing industrial might.
He traveled across a land in which vast fortunes were being made; at the same time, millions lived in extreme poverty.
♪ ♪ PHILIP DELORIA: Baum sits at the cusp of the changes of the 19th century as it gives way to the 20th century, and Americans are forced to think self-reflectively about what's happening to their country-- thinking about what was, and what will be.
♪ ♪ BOB BAUM: He would be meeting new people, going to new places, hearing new things, seeing new things-- all of these could be food for his imagination.
MICHAEL PATRICK HEARN: Frank Baum was always aware of the importance of the imagination.
(train whistle blares) He basically nurtured his imagination and he trusted it.
(train rumbling) KENT DRUMMOND: The imagination could sometimes be fueled by the, the travails of the world, into imagining places where want and depression were not a possibility.
NARRATOR: Baum channeled his keen observations into magical tales, the most famous of which would become "America's First Great Fairy Tale," a story about an almost unbelievable journey that projected the sentiments of its author, a man who wanted to find his place in the world and to make his way back to his family.
"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, "we people of flesh and blood would rather live there "than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful.
There is no place like home."
EVAN SCHWARTZ: Home was coming back to your hopes and dreams.
GLENDA: Tap your shoes together three times.
And think to yourself, "There's no place like home."
SCHWARTZ: It was more than just family.
It was a sense of self as well.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
(loud crash) ♪ ♪ (birds, cicadas chirping) BAUM: My great grandfather, L. Frank Baum, grew up on a place called Rose Lawn, which was his parents' home and farm.
Rose Lawn consisted of a gorgeous house with a big library, lots of books.
There were fields and forests and streams.
(child playing in distance) This was a wonderful place for a child.
NARRATOR: Born in 1856, Frank Baum enjoyed an idyllic childhood on the outskirts of Syracuse, New York.
♪ ♪ His father, originally a barrel maker, had struck it rich in the oil fields of Pennsylvania, making him a wealthy man during a volatile era of industrialization.
DINA MASSACHI: Baum grew up reading fairy tales that were older European fairy tales-- your Brothers' Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
A lot of them end with very didactic morals, and they're dark.
HEARN: He loved the adventure of these stories and also the magic and the wonder that they possessed.
NARRATOR: "Childhood," Baum would later write, "is the time for fables, for dreams, for joy."
SALLY ROESCH WAGNER: His imagination was where he spent much of his time.
He could explore his passions.
And the fanciful world that he created then I think stayed with him throughout his life.
NARRATOR: At age 19, when he was old enough to start earning a living for himself, Frank Baum showed little interest in following in his father's footsteps.
(chicken clucking) After a short stint as a store clerk, Frank struck out on his own path.
He decided to ride the wave of an unusual national craze-- breeding fancy chickens.
To support this new passion, his father established B.W.
Baum & Sons on the family 80-acre stock farm adjacent to Rose Lawn.
SCHWARTZ: Frank wasn't content just to breed chickens for food.
He wanted to breed fancy chickens that were going to be shown at various festivals and shows.
And it was really emblematic of the way he approached almost every endeavor.
He wanted to be the best at it.
NARRATOR: A leading trade magazine praised him as "one of the most active and enthusiastic fanciers," and noted his "prolific and pleasant" writing for various poultry journals.
But Baum's interest in the fancy poultry craze did not last long.
DRUMMOND: Frank Baum was a restless spirit and he was always looking for the next big thing.
There was always something more and so there was, there was a quest.
SHARON STROM: The obsessions of many Americans in the late 19th century were to get beyond the small world of the village; to change their identities and occupations; to imagine a whole new way of being in comparison to their parents and grandparents.
MARIA MONTOYA: Baum is a middle-class man of white American descent, and so he can freely move across the North American landscape.
And so when something calls to him, he has the resources to be able to do that and to jump on that dream and try to make it work for him.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: 24-year-old Frank Baum headed to New York City in 1881 to study acting.
Frank Baum loved to perform--- he was basically a ham.
And this was one profession that he felt he could make a name for himself.
But it was not considered a particularly admirable profession to go into theater at that time.
There's a lot of prejudice against actors.
STROM: There's a view in proper American society that acting is kind of a low-grade occupation.
But the public loves actors.
It's a way to become popular.
NARRATOR: Baum soon landed a job touring with a repertory company.
He played small roles under the name George Brooks, and was described as "a deserving actor" who had "genuine dramatic ability," but Frank aspired to something more.
He wanted to write, produce, and star in his own plays, and asked his father to bankroll his new venture.
HEARN: His father was very indulgent to Frank's interests.
If Frank wanted to sell poultry, he would support him on that.
If he wanted to become an actor, he was the one who put up the money.
(horse trotting, whistle blows) NARRATOR: On May 15, 1882, crowds in Syracuse, Baum's hometown, flocked to the Grand Opera House to see the premiere of Frank's first theatrical creation, a musical melodrama titled "The Maid of Arran."
♪ ♪ Written under the name Louis F. Baum, the play told a story of adventure and romance.
DOUGLAS A. JONES, JR.: Baum would be in a tradition of theater makers who were trying to make it respectable.
They were trying to make a theater that was both popular, which is to say profitable, but also respectable so they could bring in middle-class audience members, so they could bring in church members.
♪ ♪ BAUM: This was Frank's big chance, this was his play.
He did the scenery, he did the music, he did the lyrics, and he actually sang on stage.
STROM: Theater is one of the early forms of make-believe.
As a theater maker, he was continuing a lifetime of playing.
It's a way of expressing his inventiveness and disappearing into another world.
NARRATOR: Among the attendees at the Grand Opera House that night was Maud Gage, an independent-minded 21-year-old student at Cornell University, one of the few male colleges that had begun admitting women.
The couple had been courting for months.
WAGNER: When Frank met Maud, he met a woman probably unlike any that he'd met before.
She was smart, she was witty, she was opinionated.
This is a woman to contend with.
BAUM: Frank saw in Maud all the things he didn't have.
She saw in him a life that would be very different and wonderful, and must have seen his abilities and talents and wanting to be a part of it.
NARRATOR: The young couple faced resistance from Maud's mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage.
A formidable figure, Gage was a nationally known activist in the growing movement for women's equality.
She was a founding member with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Matilda had very definite thoughts about her daughter's new suitor.
MASSACHI: At first she didn't like L. Frank Baum.
Here is this actor that her college daughter is going to drop out of school to run off with and, no, no, that's not gonna work.
But Maud was just as stubborn as her mother and said, "No, I'm doing this."
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On November 9, 1882, Frank and Maud married in the parlor of the Gage home in Fayetteville, New York.
"The promises of the bride," a local paper noted with surprise, "were precisely the same as those required of the groom."
WAGNER: This is at a time in the 1880s when men expected subordination and subservience from women.
And it was a unique man who wanted to be with a woman who spoke her own mind, who would not be dominated.
And I think it speaks volumes about the character of Frank that he loved a woman with that kind of strength.
Matilda's biggest fear about Frank, he has all these fine qualities, but, Lord, he is never gonna be able to make a living.
(train chugging) NARRATOR: After the wedding, Maud joined Frank and his company of actors on the road, going on a westward tour with "The Maid of Arran."
But winter in the plains wasn't kind to the production.
(train whistle blaring) SCHWARTZ: The tour of "The Maid Of Arran" was very successful at first, but Frank really pushed it, he kept it going too long.
(train rumbling) And it ends up going into Kansas, and it was really telling that Maud wrote a letter saying, "I couldn't be paid to live here.
This is the grimmest place I've ever seen."
NARRATOR: Frank's responsibilities changed dramatically that spring when he found out that Maud was pregnant.
He now recognized a career in the theater was not going to pay the bills, and closed down the tour.
MASSACHI: You see Baum feeling the pressure to succeed.
Being a man in that time, there was even more pressure because there was really the expectation he would provide for his family.
♪ ♪ HEARN: I think it was devastating when "The Maid Of Arran" failed.
This was the first time he really had control of his own life and was doing something he really enjoyed.
He was building a career that suddenly was gone.
And then he wrote his father begging him, basically, for a job.
SCHWARTZ: Frank Baum came of age when America was transforming from an agrarian, agricultural society into an urban, industrial society, and it was happening at breakneck speed, with all kinds of new technologies-- the railroad, the telegraph, the telephone; it was unsettling for people.
♪ ♪ "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz" was created out of American parts.
Where do you want to be oiled, first?
(mumbles) He said his mouth.
SCHWARTZ: Frank Baum's talent was turning these visual symbols into meaningful and sometimes spiritual symbols that worked in the context of the story.
(jaw squeaking) My... my... my... my goodness, I can talk again!
♪ ♪ MAGUIRE: One of the things that Baum contributed to our understanding of how the imagination works in storytelling, but perhaps also in the industrializing world in which he was working, is that he taught us to take the scraps, and bits, and shards and assemble them into something new.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In May 1883, after almost six months on tour, Frank and Maud returned to Syracuse, where Baum's father set him up in the family oil business.
Frank's job was marketing Baum's Castorine Oil, a new petroleum product used on horse-drawn carts and buggies.
♪ ♪ The young sales superintendent managed to conjure the drama in axle grease.
SUSAN ARONSTEIN: Baum understood very instinctively that one of the ways in which people connected to products was through the idea of narrative.
The Castorine Oil ads in which you see a dandy in his carriage looking utterly appalled that these scruffy children in a farm wagon and a pony have just raced past him.
It tells the story about, you know, "Oh boy, "I'm gonna be humiliated by a bunch of little kids if I don't have the right oil."
He sold that oil in a way that would catch people's eye.
♪ ♪ SCHWARTZ: Frank Baum was a natural salesman.
He was always trying to connect with people, to please people.
He could make up stories about anything.
Whether it was chickens or cans of oil, Frank Baum had a story for it.
NARRATOR: Sales were good and Frank was able to support his growing family.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In February of 1886, shortly after the birth of his second son, Frank's older brother died suddenly.
A year later-- after Frank had taken on new responsibilities in the Castorine Oil company-- his father died.
HEARN: When his father died that was an important lifeline that he lost.
SCHWARTZ: He didn't want to continue the oil business.
He wanted something greater, something more in tune to who he was.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In the summer of 1888, after visiting Maud's brother in Dakota Territory, Baum decided to move out west.
"I realize how crowded the East is, and how competition keeps a man down," he wrote to his brother-in-law.
"In your country, there is an opportunity to be somebody."
JEANINE BASINGER: The prairie has two different effects on people.
It opens them up to their own significance and importance.
It's a place in which they can make their mark, or it tends to crush them, even drive them mad.
You either use your imagination and feel capable of handling it or you don't.
(wind whipping) (thunder rumbling) WAGNER: Cyclones were the terror.
If they struck, they removed entire buildings.
(wind howling) Dorothy!
HEARN: Baum had a great sense of transformation.
Baum turns the cyclone into something positive.
READER: "In the middle of a cyclone the air is generally still, "but the great pressure of the wind on every side of the house "raised it up higher and higher, "until it was at the very top of the cyclone; "and there it remained and was carried miles and miles away as easily as you could carry a feather."
HEARN: It should have been something so destructive, devastating, and yet that becomes Dorothy's way of going to the Land Of Oz.
(loud crash) (train horn blares) NARRATOR: Three months after his visit to Dakota Territory, Frank, Maud, and their two young sons boarded a train heading west, bound for Aberdeen, a city just then shimmering to life.
Aberdeen had already grown from fewer than 300 people at its founding six years earlier to more than 3,000 and showed no signs of slowing.
HEARN: These were not people who came out in covered wagons.
They came out on the railroad and they were young, adventurous capitalists thinking that they were going to make it big.
♪ ♪ They didn't know what to expect, they were basically betting on hope.
NARRATOR: Built at the crossroads of three railroads, the Hub City, as it was known to its proud new residents, was a boom town.
Aberdeen boasted schools, a library, an opera house, a telephone company, banks, hotels, and restaurants.
The latest modern convenience, electric lights, lined the town's dusty streets.
(dog barking) Eastern transplants like Frank Baum were convinced their fair city would be the next Chicago, or Minneapolis, or Kansas City.
WARREN: The West is so much the subject of a hard sell by land agents for the railroad corporations and by other boosters in the region, who will paint all kinds of pictures of what a glorious, verdant paradise South Dakota will be.
(rumbling, mechanic squeaking) SCHWARTZ: Aberdeen at that time was trying to position itself as part of America's breadbasket.
They were building out a town that was surrounded by farmland.
WARREN: The railroads would advertise the land, promising that this is a place where middle-class families will proliferate, and all of the comforts of a good middle-class home will be yours.
MONTOYA: When people like Baum and other settlers head out into the American West in the 1880s, they think they're coming into an empty landscape.
And nothing could have been farther from the truth.
What they're actually walking into is a landscape that's been inhabited for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years.
WARREN: The land that Aberdeen was on and most of the Dakotas had been part of the homeland of the Western Sioux or Lakota.
For Baum, as for most western settlers, Indian people were often an afterthought if they thought about them at all.
(bell ringing) NARRATOR: Not long after Baum and his family had settled in Aberdeen, a group of Native Americans arrived in town.
"Crowds of curious white men," a local paper reported, "stared at the delegation of Lakota leaders who had stepped off the train for dinner."
Sitting Bull, famed Lakota chief and decisive victor over the U.S. Calvary at the Battle of Little Bighorn, drew the most attention.
DELORIA: Imagine that experience if you're Sitting Bull or if you're part of this delegation, you're put on display for this town that sit and gawk at you.
White Americans have always seen Native people in contradictory terms.
"They are noble, children of nature."
"No, they're degraded savages," and Baum shows up at exactly a moment when these contradictions are getting really complex, and changing towards a more harsh and hostile racialization.
MONTOYA: Native Americans are being consolidated, they're being moved, and put onto reservations.
WARREN: For most Americans, the idea that Native people had to give up land so that white people could take it, that was just the way of the world.
As far as Lakotas were concerned, it was theft.
NARRATOR: On Monday, October 1, 1888, less than two weeks after moving to town, Frank Baum-- dramatically announcing his arrival-- held a much-publicized grand opening of a new store called Baum's Bazaar.
Nearly a thousand people showed up, some likely enticed by the promise of "a box of chocolates, shipped in from Chicago, for every lady attending."
♪ ♪ ARONSTEIN: He had a flair for the theatrical.
And so for him the store is a stage.
It had to be an experience.
♪ ♪ It's like, "Come, "see the exotic goods, see it all on display.
"You've never seen so much in one place before."
NARRATOR: "On either side of the room," raved a local newspaper, "are cases of pottery, glassware, toys, "oxidized brass ornaments, Japanese novelties, fancy leather and plush goods."
DELORIA: He doesn't go to start a feed store.
He goes to start a novelty store.
He sells all kinds of things, many of which are not actually needed, but they represent the dreams and the desires of people to engage in this new kind of world of goods and commodities.
♪ ♪ HEARN: Baum wrote all the ads that appeared in local newspapers for Baum's Bazaar.
♪ ♪ He would have special events to bring people into the store.
Baum believed in entertaining children and all the kids just loved going to Baum's Bazaar because there were all these wonderful toys.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "Mr. Baum has demonstrated in a very short time," wrote the "Aberdeen Daily News," "that he possesses "to an enviable degree the push and enterprise necessary to the western businessman."
(bat cracks, crowd cheers) NARRATOR: In May 1889, Baum and a group of local businessmen put up the money for the Hub City Nine, Aberdeen's first professional baseball team.
The town built a field and a grandstand that could seat 500.
Baum's Bazaar supplied the team's jerseys, bats, and gloves.
DRUMMOND: Baum envisions himself as being really the harbinger of civilization for Aberdeen, this potentially great city on the Great Plains.
So he's imbued with this sense of transformation that starts through the consumption of exotic goods but leads to so many other things.
NARRATOR: Baum planned to start new clubs-- lawn tennis, stamp collecting, photography, bicycling-- and stock all the necessary supplies on the shelves of Baum's Bazaar.
SCHWARTZ: He got really involved in the civic life of the town and tried to create a sense of community around the store.
It wasn't just about selling, but about bringing people together.
HEARN: I think that Baum was hoping that Baum's Bazaar would draw people from outside of Aberdeen-- people from the farms, from the other towns would come to this new mecca of South Dakota.
(chickens clucking) BASINGER: The Dakota Territory is a harsh environment.
The winters are very, very cold, and hard, and long.
The summers are hot, and dry, and challenging.
WAGNER: You're out on the prairie, your nearest neighbor is a mile away, you don't see anything on the horizon but flatness.
♪ ♪ DRUMMOND: Baum envisioned people could go into this store, and it would be a tremendous escape.
It would be one in which they could completely forget about the workaday world.
It's very magical and it's transformative.
WARREN: What Baum is saying is, "It's okay to dream "about having those nice things.
"Why shouldn't you have them?
"There's nothing wrong with it.
"Go ahead, buy them.
Express yourself through your purchases."
NARRATOR: Frank's big ideas, persistent optimism, and lack of experience of the vagaries of farming blinded him to the realities of life on the Plains.
After years of consistent rain, a drought hit the region in 1889.
Wheat fields turned into dust, and heavy winds blew away freshly sown seed.
By harvest time, crop yields had plummeted.
♪ ♪ WARREN: It is one of the worst droughts in American history.
Many of the farmers fall on very hard times, and obviously in that moment Baum's Bazaar is not gonna do well.
WAGNER: When farmers don't have money for seed wheat, they are not gonna buy toys for their children.
And while there was a short boom when Baum's Bazaar may have made sense, by 1890, there was no way it could succeed at all.
NARRATOR: Baum's Bazaar closed, on January 1, 1890 after only 15 months in business.
Maud had just given birth to their third child.
"Frank had let his tastes run riot," his sister-in-law later said.
"It was too impractical a store for a frontier town."
(heavy winds whipping) SCHWARTZ: The economic situation for the Baum family was dire.
He was really on a shoestring now, very little money, but he used whatever money he had left to take over a newspaper.
And he tried to make a go of it, falling back on his talent for writing.
STROM: Baum was very optimistic about his own talents.
Whatever situation he's in, he figures out a new strategy for selling something or selling himself.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Just a month after he shuttered Baum's Bazaar, Frank published the inaugural edition of "The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer."
WARREN: Getting into that business is both a way that he can express his interest in writing, but it's also a way for him to paint pictures with words of the future of Aberdeen and the future of South Dakota.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Baum was at pains to set his weekly apart from the town's eight other papers, and put his faith in his own distinctive voice.
Under the heading "The Editor's Musings," Baum offered his personal opinions on a wide range of topics.
WARREN: Baum's voice as a newspaper editor was an interesting voice.
He writes about alternative religions.
He writes about spiritual mediums in his newspaper.
These are not topics that every editor would touch.
NARRATOR: The issue Baum most strongly championed in 1890 was women's suffrage.
South Dakota had become a state the previous year, and an amendment to give women the vote would be decided in the November election.
Frank's support of the suffrage movement stemmed from time he spent with his mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was a frequent visitor to Aberdeen.
MASSACHI: Gage was very involved with the Baum family, and she really influenced L. Frank Baum.
He joined the suffrage movement because of her.
And you see this play out in his newspaper writing.
SCHWARTZ: Frank Baum wrote editorial after editorial trying to convince fellow townsfolks to vote for women's rights.
NARRATOR: "We must do away with sex prejudice and render equal distinction and reward to brains and ability," Baum argued, "no matter whether found in man or woman."
WAGNER: His respect for women, I think, is strengthened seeing these western women.
They had already succeeded in proving themselves as equals to the men.
If you're homesteading, you are an active participant in the process.
MONTOYA: White women who are moving out into the American West are seen as bringing civilization to these communities.
This is not possible without the labor of women, both the physical labor of women but the cultural, social, political labor of women to build these communities.
HEARN: Frank was determined to get the vote in South Dakota.
He believed in progress.
He believed that we were always advancing forward.
And he generally assumed that other people would just agree with him.
NARRATOR: "This great question, involving the political future "of our wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters will be decided for South Dakota next Tuesday," Baum appealed to his readers.
"The enfranchisement of one-half of the citizens of this great state is in your hands."
(bell ringing, people chattering) NARRATOR: On Election Day, November 1890, nearly 70,000 men across South Dakota went to the polls.
Women's equality was soundly rejected by a margin of two to one.
"What a reproach upon our civilization," he wrote, "and upon the people of a state who have made a pretense of being liberal and just!"
(bird cawing) NARRATOR: The drought that began in 1889 dragged on for nearly two years, exposing the lie of railroad promoters and land agents that the rain follows the plow.
♪ ♪ HEARN: The great American Dream turned out to be a nightmare for these people.
And Frank Baum was out there witnessing this.
And all of this is expressed in the opening chapter of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
♪ ♪ READER: "When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, "she could see nothing but the great gray prairie "on every side.
"The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, "with little cracks running through it.
"Even the grass was not green, "for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere."
WARREN: I think one of the most telling moments in "The Wizard Of Oz" is right at the beginning with the description of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry as old before their time, as unable to imagine happiness.
READER: "Uncle Henry never laughed.
"He worked hard from morning till night "and did not know what joy was.
He looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke."
WARREN: Baum in many ways is saying that this western dream seems to have hit a wall.
It is a place of great disappointment for many of the people who had invested their lives in it.
NARRATOR: On the Standing Rock and Pine Ridge reservations west of Aberdeen, conditions were even more dire for the over 10,000 Lakota living there.
And with access to only meager government rations, many families were on the verge of starvation.
In the middle of this unfolding apocalypse, a new religion known as the Ghost Dance began to spread through many western tribes.
They believed the dance, which preached a defiant message of hope, would wash away the white settlers and return the land to its original state.
DELORIA: It's a regenerative religious practice.
It's not people yelling and screaming.
You do this dance until you sort of fall into a vision state, and you fall down out of the circle, and you have a vision, and people come and take care of you, and other people keep dancing.
♪ ♪ White Americans see this and they think that the Ghost Dance is the prelude to an armed uprising.
NARRATOR: Desperate to keep his Aberdeen dream afloat, Frank blasted rival newspapers for ginning up a "false and senseless scare," fearing that headlines screaming of "Indian uprisings" would drive settlers away.
♪ ♪ "After two years of successive crop failures," he wrote, "comes the Indian scare, and the consequence is we are getting a very bad name."
SCHWARTZ: A lot of businesses were going under and the economic collapse in South Dakota was threatening his very concept of home.
He invested so much of himself there that it was almost unthinkable that everything would collapse.
NARRATOR: President Benjamin Harrison ordered his secretary of war to suppress the Ghost Dance, by force if necessary.
On December 15, 1890, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull was shot and killed on the Standing Rock Reservation during a botched arrest for his alleged support of the Ghost Dance.
When news reached Aberdeen, 150 miles away, the townspeople feared retaliation.
WARREN: It creates a response of panic among white people.
Newspaper editors begin to demand federal protection in case there's what they call an outbreak.
NARRATOR: Baum's newspaper ran wire reports warning of imminent reprisal.
Caught up in the mass hysteria and watching his Aberdeen efforts spiraling into failure, Frank's usually optimistic rhetoric changed drastically.
In an editorial, he praised Sitting Bull, but described the remaining Lakota people as a "pack of whining curs" and called for a vicious ethnic cleansing.
"The whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent," Baum asserted, "and the best safety of the frontier settlements "will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians."
STROM: Baum thinks that the extermination of Native Americans is inevitable.
His view of tolerance comes out of the milieu that he is in.
It's really about middle-class white people getting along well.
NARRATOR: The U.S. Army dispatched troops to disarm and arrest a group of Lakota, including followers of Sitting Bull.
Within days of these orders, the U.S.
Seventh Cavalry massacred as many as 300 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek.
Frank responded again.
"Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, "in order to protect our civilization, "follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth."
DELORIA: What Baum says in the editorials tells us exactly how Americans are seeing Indian people.
There's no mercy, no quarter, no sympathy.
It is a definitive and defining statement of intense racial animosity.
And I think Baum... is capturing, perhaps, some of his own ambivalence, but he is channeling a major, and important, and deadly current of American thought.
♪ ♪ WAGNER: I don't know how to understand Frank's reaction other than to understand that an "either-or" interpretation of history is a lie, that we're "both-and."
L. Frank Baum carried that poison of racism in him that I carry, that we all carry as settlers.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The drought, the despair, and the foreclosures continued.
Ad sales dropped and subscriptions dried up, forcing Baum to abandon his newspaper and make plans to leave Aberdeen.
His western venture had turned into another failure.
But how do I start for Emerald City?
It's always best to start at the beginning, and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road.
MAGUIRE: Dorothy goes into a land in which magic spells are part of the apparatus of governance.
DOROTHY: Follow the yellow brick road?
MAGUIRE: And most of what she achieves, she achieves without recourse to the magic.
She comes with her true grit.
♪ Follow the Yellow Brick Road ♪ MAGUIRE: She just puts one foot in front of another along the Yellow Brick Road to achieve what it is that she needs to do.
♪ Follow the Yellow Brick Road ♪ MASSACHI: There is a real American value of being self-reliant, and you see that with Dorothy.
Dorothy really set the stage for little girls getting out of the house and going on adventures the way that boys do.
♪ You're off to see the Wizard!
♪ ♪ The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!
♪ MONTOYA: She goes on what is quintessentially the great American quest to find the place that will bring her happiness, will bring her the things that she needs.
♪ The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!
♪ (crowd cheering) ♪ ♪ (horse hooves clomping) NARRATOR: Frank Baum next set his sights on a new home-- Chicago, Illinois.
(bell chimes, people chattering) SCHWARTZ: Chicago was the most dynamic and energetic city in America.
It had been devastated in the fire of 1871 but it had completely rebuilt itself.
(people chattering) There was a sense of hope and optimism for the future of America.
WARREN: In many ways, Chicago was the city of 19th century America.
(bell ringing) DELORIA: This massive, large, industrial city, is at the center of really making continental America at this time.
It is the center of the flow of commodities.
It is a center for immigration.
African Americans from the South, immigrants from Europe, people who give up on their homesteading and make their way into the larger city.
NARRATOR: Arriving with little money, Maud set up their growing household, which now included a fourth son, in a small rental house in a working-class neighborhood.
She gave embroidery lessons to help the family stay afloat.
Frank briefly worked at a daily paper before landing a higher-paying sales position at a wholesale crockery firm.
(hammering, objects clattering) The most exciting project in Chicago when the Baums arrived was the construction of the highly anticipated World's Columbian Exposition, known as the Chicago World's Fair.
♪ ♪ Conceived as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America, the exposition was an immediate sensation when it opened on May 1, 1893.
♪ ♪ Over the next six months, 27 million fairgoers from around the world descended on Chicago to witness the spectacle-- Frank Baum and his family among them.
DELORIA: The Chicago World's Fair is a place where America is sort of proclaiming its own.
It has arrived.
It is a showcase for modern industrialism, for technological innovation.
JONES JR.: It was an attempt in the white American imagination of understanding the United States as being the leading light in this new century.
It was a way in which to show the world in 1893 that America was at the vanguard of a new, modern, Western world.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In the Electricity Building, visitors marveled at the 80-foot tower of light created by the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison.
He had patented a mind-boggling number of inventions and proved to be a master of self-promotion.
BASINGER: Thomas Edison is this great combination of imagination, and forward-looking modern ideas, and also a businessman who makes money from the things that he does.
This would undoubtedly be inspirational to Baum, who himself was looking to find that thing that he could do that would make him not so much famous, but successful, rich, or at least occupied in a way that he enjoyed.
SCHWARTZ: There was a sense of magic and wonder and splendor that really appealed to Frank Baum, that almost anything was possible if you could imagine it.
NARRATOR: The centerpiece of the Exposition was a gleaming man-made lake, surrounded by neoclassical buildings of monumental proportion, each with a bright, white exterior.
The White City, as it was called, was constructed as a temporary affair-- all paint and plaster-- but breathtaking.
WARREN: The White City looks like a vision of some imaginary place that is supposed to call Americans to think about what their cities could be.
It is a giant space for dreaming about the American future, and Baum would've found that enormously attractive.
♪ ♪ HEARN: They created this ideal city, and in some respects it's very much the same metaphor that we see in "The Wizard Of Oz."
♪ ♪ Who rang that bell?
ALL: We did.
♪ ♪ READER: "The streets were lined with beautiful houses "all built of green marble and studded everywhere "with sparkling emeralds.
"Even the sky above the city had a green tint, and the rays of the sun were green."
HEARN: The Emerald City is not really as green as we think it is.
It turns out that everyone has to wear green glasses so they think the Emerald City is far greener than it really is.
♪ ♪ DELORIA: One of the things that happens in the Emerald City is the realization that all of this may just be a charade.
The world that seems so alluring, and so true, and so desirous may all just be a fraud.
♪ ♪ And the White City gives us that as well.
♪ ♪ (water splashing) NARRATOR: The exhibition halls of the White City were reserved for high art, high culture, and advanced science.
♪ ♪ But the real energy of the fair was on the outskirts-- a mile-long, open-air boulevard known as the Midway Plaisance.
♪ ♪ Thousands of fairgoers paid to see Egyptian belly dancers, dwarf elephants, Hindu jugglers, snake charmers, and a young entertainer named Harry Houdini.
Towering above the crowds was the first-ever Ferris wheel.
At over 250 feet, a ride to the top provided a birds-eye view of the city and beyond.
A New York entrepreneur ordered a Ferris wheel for his park in Coney Island, telling a reporter, "We Americans want either to be thrilled or amused, and are ready to pay well for either sensation."
DRUMMOND: At this moment in American history entertainment was becoming commoditized.
There were vaudeville shows.
There were Wild West shows.
There were amusement parks.
MONTOYA: What we're now seeing is entertainment for the masses.
Anybody can participate in it.
People are beginning to work for wages in the cities.
They have money at the end of the day that they will spend not only on the things that they need to feed themselves and clothe themselves, but now they have money to spend on entertainment.
DRUMMOND: There were all sorts of theatrical experiences that had to do with experiencing someone else's imagined world that they beckoned you to enter into.
(trolley bells ringing, horses trotting) NARRATOR: The clangorous urban life of Chicago, and its World's Fair, fed Baum's penchant for novelty, in all things.
For some time, Frank had been drawn to an emerging philosophical and religious movement called theosophy.
"Its followers," he described, "are simply "searchers after truth.
"They are the dissatisfied of the world, the dissenters from all creeds."
♪ ♪ WARREN: There's a dissatisfaction with conventional Protestantism and Catholicism.
There are people searching for new ways of relating to their creator and to the cosmos, and theosophy was for many people a very attractive alternative.
♪ ♪ SCHWARTZ: Theosophy was appealing because it combined Hinduism, and Buddhism, and Western science.
♪ ♪ It was a way of introducing Eastern religions to America for the first time.
♪ ♪ Frank Baum learned about this new amalgam of spirituality from his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, who really embraced it as a way of calming her own mind.
WAGNER: The parts of theosophy I think that most resonated with Matilda Joslyn Gage were the idea that that which is scientifically provable is not necessarily the only reality, that that which is considered supernatural, the occult, that's just simply a reality that hasn't been tested and measured yet.
♪ ♪ SCHWARTZ: Theosophists believed in projecting your body and your mind into another realm of consciousness that they call the astral plane.
(thunder rumbles) Some of the concepts that later showed up in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" might have been inspired from theosophy, especially this idea of traveling to a new plane of imagination.
NARRATOR: Escape from the daily reality was at a premium by the turn of 1894.
The American economy had tumbled into the most punishing depression in its history.
A quarter of all working people lost their jobs, and their paychecks, with no government safety net to soften the fall.
Just months after the exposition closed, two fires swept through the fairgrounds, leaving much of the recently radiant White City in ruins.
(train clacking, chugging) Baum tried to remain optimistic as he scraped out a living for his family as a traveling salesman.
BAUM: He was beginning to get tired of the extensive traveling.
The more he aged, the more he realized he needed to find something that he could... that would really support him.
(train rumbling) NARRATOR: While on the road, Baum found time to start writing again, and began submitting short stories and poems to writing contests and local newspapers.
SCHWARTZ: He kept a record of failure, literally logging the rejections he was receiving from magazines and publishers, and the occasional success.
You could see Baum was persevering.
(train horn blares) NARRATOR: Sometimes Frank spun fantastical tales to entertain his boys when he got home from a long week on the road.
HEARN: L. Frank Baum loved being a dad.
He was so indulgent of his own children.
When he was home with them he would spend as much time as he could with them and he would create these elaborate little stories.
And one night Matilda happened to overhear them.
WAGNER: Matilda is a well-published author at this point.
She knows the publishing world and she knows what could sell.
She tells Frank to write the stories and publish them.
She is challenging him.
There is a powerful intellectual relationship between them.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Gage had recently published what she described as her "chief life work."
Titled "Woman, Church and State," she called for a more just and equal society, one that returned to earlier civilizations where women wielded the same power as men.
More radical, however, was her indictment of religion for its role in women's oppression across the world.
♪ ♪ She explored the history of witchcraft and argued that women were accused of being witches because the Church found their intellect threatening.
WAGNER: Women were burned as witches to remove the knowledge of women, the power of women, the authority of women, and to really place women in a subordinate position.
One of the things she talks about is that women defined as witches were wise women.
They had voice.
They had power.
SCHWARTZ: Matilda as a role model to Frank was essential.
And I think he really took to heart some of the ways that people viewed his mother-in-law.
People called her satanic and a heretic, yet he saw that she was very kind.
♪ ♪ He developed this dual notion of witches, that there could be a good witch and a bad witch.
♪ ♪ Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
I'm not a witch at all.
Witches are old and ugly.
(giggling in background) What was that?
It's all right.
MAGUIRE: The phrase "good witch" doesn't really come into the culture until L. Frank Baum.
Witches from European and English fairy tales were old and gnarled.
How brave and thoughtful it was of Baum to take those two words that seemed to have magnetic pulls in opposite directions, the word "good" and the word "witch" and to hinge them together so that they could mean something new.
WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST: You stay out of this, Glinda, or I'll fix you as well!
HEARN: One of the important aspects of Oz is the real power is with the witches, both the good and the bad.
They're the ones who have the power.
♪ ♪ I'll get you, my pretty!
And your little dog, too.
(cackling) ♪ ♪ (explosion, frightened yelping) ♪ ♪ MAGUIRE: Before the end of the 19th century, books provided for children were almost entirely for instruction.
Their aim was to educate.
♪ ♪ What happened in the United States is that there began to be a population of middle class children.
They were children who did not have to work in the mines, or the mills.
There was enough prosperity that kids could be a little bit more childlike for slightly longer.
♪ ♪ And that allowed for a growth of an industry to help entertain them.
Now we have time to go to the gym of the mind, as it were, to make ourselves strong in our capacity to imagine new things.
♪ ♪ (children laughing) ARONSTEIN: This is a period where there is a sense of children as a special class, that have a vivid world of imagination and play available to them that gets lost with adulthood and that that time should be valued.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In late 1897, 41-year-old Baum published "Mother Goose in Prose," inspired by the stories he had been inventing for his boys.
"Now that I am getting old," Frank wrote his sister, "my first book is to amuse children."
HEARN: He wanted to make children feel good.
He wanted them to know the joy of reading and the joy of wonderful stories.
MASSACHI: Baum was the eternal boy.
He never really grew up.
If you leave behind your childhood and really are firmly grounded in the adult world, it's hard to think of that rich, fertile, imaginative way that children think and play, and I don't think Baum ever left that.
NARRATOR: "Mother Goose in Prose" was a critical success, but did not bring the fame or the financial reward Baum desired.
"I have been more worried than usual over business matters this summer," Frank confessed in a letter to his sister, "and have scarcely spent time to sleep and eat.
"I have wanted to find some employment that would enable me to stay at home."
STROM: He's a willful person, but he's also a strategist in his own life, of finding a way out of a situation he doesn't like and then using his talents to create a new one.
(horse hooves clomping) DRUMMOND: If you were walking down State Street in Chicago, you would be offered a cavalcade of sights, and sounds, and sensations.
(people chattering) One of the most important of which would be the shop windows, and the most effective store windows would be like the soul of the store.
And if you could look in those windows and be captured, and be enticed, then maybe it would be enough to go in.
(din of a crowded street) WARREN: The American economy turns more and more to a dynamic that relies on selling goods to consumers, and merchants have to invent new ways of getting people to want things, which is one of the big transitions that's happening in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
And Baum is at the center of that transition.
NARRATOR: "I conceived of the idea of a magazine devoted to window trimming," Baum explained to his sister, "which I know is greatly needed."
The first issue of "The Show Window," a trade journal that instructed merchants in the art of window display, appeared in November 1897.
ARONSTEIN: Baum is very aware of the tricks of advertising.
He's very good at using them.
He had a talent for and interest in technology, a talent for and interest in sales.
He knew how to present and frame things and he knew how to tell a story.
♪ ♪ And "The Show Window" called on all of those things.
NARRATOR: An executive at Marshall Field's-- the gold standard of retail in downtown Chicago-- hailed "The Show Window" as "an indispensable organ" for department stores.
♪ ♪ Circulation took off, gaining thousands of subscribers in a few months, and Baum was finally able to quit his traveling salesman job and spend more time at home.
For the first time in his life, Frank Baum was making a solid living.
♪ ♪ Not long after the start of his new venture, Matilda Gage died of a stroke while visiting the Baums in Chicago, leaving Maud inconsolable and Frank without one of his most stalwart supporters.
♪ ♪ (printing presses clacking) NARRATOR: For a writer and magazine editor like Baum, Chicago was an ideal city.
It had become a major center for commercial printing, second only to New York.
(printing pressing humming) MASSACHI: Chicago at that time was really booming with writers, artists, and publishers.
Baum was a very charismatic, likable kind of guy who seemed to make friends very quickly and easily.
And one of the connections he made was William Wallace Denslow.
HEARN: Denslow was one of the most important illustrators in Chicago at the time.
And Baum met him at the Press Club of Chicago and the two of them started talking about possibly doing a book together.
NARRATOR: Frank was already at work on a series of comic rhymes that was a twist on Mother Goose, and Denslow agreed to do the illustrations.
Their first collaboration, "Father Goose: His Book," became an unexpected best-seller.
(typewriter keys clacking) Energized by his success, Baum threw himself into his next big writing project.
WAGNER: The intuitive process of writing is that you absorb everything around you and that becomes fuel for the process of writing.
And you draw from places that you don't even know you're drawing from.
NARRATOR: Baum set out to tell the story of Dorothy, a young orphan girl stranded in the vast and unforgiving American landscape.
Dorothy's dreary life on a Kansas farm is changed in a flash when a fierce cyclone drops her in a strange and wonderful land called Oz.
The story at the heart of the book was Dorothy's quest to get back home to her aunt and uncle in Kansas.
The Good Witch of the North points the way, which leads down a yellow brick road, where Dorothy is to enlist the help of the Great Wizard of Oz.
♪ ♪ "It is a long journey," the good witch warns, "through a country that is sometimes pleasant and sometimes dark and terrible."
BASINGER: It's a story of a journey and being given a challenge by a new world where you have to learn what it is, face its dangers, find new friends, and get yourself together in it.
NARRATOR: Dorothy accumulates a trio of traveling companions along the way-- a scarecrow, who wishes he had brains, a tin woodman, who longs for a heart, and a cowardly lion, who seeks courage.
DRUMMOND: They want her to fulfill her dreams as well as have their own dreams come true, and so they set off on this journey together that gives them that sense of camaraderie and community.
Baum did not see gender the way a lot of people of his time saw gender.
His supporting scarecrow, tin man, lion didn't conform to this typical male role.
You have the tin woodman, who is so sensitive that he cries when he steps on a beetle.
♪ ♪ HEARN: There are very few girls who are as assertive as Dorothy is in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
In every other fairy tale, the heroine has to marry the prince.
But Dorothy doesn't have to wait for her prince to come; she goes out and solves her own problems.
WAGNER: The voice of Dorothy, the sureness of her, the confidence, the figuring out how to solve problems, that's Maud, that's Matilda.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On October 9, 1899, Baum declared his new manuscript complete.
He dedicated the book to his wife Maud, who he called his "good friend and comrade."
Underneath was Denslow's spritely illustration of the Good Witch of the North.
The new book began to roll off the printing press in the first summer of a new century.
It is "the best thing I have ever written, they tell me," a nervous Frank Baum wrote to his brother.
"But the queer, unreliable public has not yet spoken."
♪ ♪ HEARN: When the book came out in 1900, it was not typical of the children's books being published at that time.
The title was so intriguing, with this strange lion on the cover.
No one knew what it was.
♪ ♪ And a book with full color, full-page illustrations but also all these other two-color illustrations that changed as the story progressed from one episode to another.
There was nothing on the market quite like it.
MASSACHI: Baum says in his introduction that he wants to create a modernized fairy tale full of wonderment where the heartache and nightmares are left out.
BASINGER: It's not like the fairy tales that come to us from Europe.
It's a more optimistic, less grim and dangerous world.
It's a world of solving problems.
♪ ♪ MAGUIRE: What he did in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was harness his great idea of a child going out and coming back home in strict, plain, American prose.
♪ ♪ He let the characters move about the landscape and speak with a sincerity with which America was then known and for which it was often much mocked.
But it was a genuine tone.
That what you say means something.
NARRATOR: Reviews praised Baum for writing a story that "never insults childhood intelligence by writing down to it," and for his ability to make "the little girl's odd companions seem very real."
"Delightful humor and rare philosophy are found on every page."
♪ ♪ "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" speaks specifically to a kind of American understanding of the modern period-- technology, expansion, self-invention of the individual.
At the center of that is adventure and dreaming.
♪ ♪ SCHWARTZ: It was about finding your place in the world, about identity and, "Where do I fit in?"
Frank Baum was really pioneering a new literature for American children.
MASSACHI: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was an instant bestseller.
Everybody wanted to get their hands on it.
It was wildly popular.
NARRATOR: Overwhelmed by orders, the publisher went back to press four times.
♪ ♪ In the first Christmas season of the 20th century, it became the best-selling children's book in America.
♪ ♪ On New Year's Eve at one of Chicago's finest restaurants, the Baums, with Denslow and his wife, toasted their great success.
At age 44, Frank Baum had achieved the renown he had dreamed of all his life.
An unflagging belief in his own imagination had finally paid off.
♪ ♪ "So everything conspires to make me glad," he wrote his sister-in-law, "and I send you heartiest wishes for a glad New Year and century."
♪ ♪ (people chattering) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On June 16, 1902, a staged musical adaptation of Baum's popular book, now with the shortened title "The Wizard of Oz," opened to a packed house in Chicago.
(cheers and applause) Frank Baum took enthusiastic curtain calls for this new interpretation of his cherished story.
The idea of returning to the theater and the challenge of adapting his book for the stage had thrilled Baum, but it had been a rocky journey.
HEARN: When the director read Baum's libretto, he wrote across it, "No good."
He then brought in several script doctors and completely refocused the play.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: By opening night, few of Baum's original lines remained in the script.
"The original story was practically ignored," Baum complained, "the dialogue rehashed, "the situations transposed, my Nebraska wizard made into an Irishman."
♪ ♪ HEARN: There were all kinds of changes.
Toto became a cow named Imogene.
The producer added all kinds of secondary characters that had nothing to do with the original children's book.
And Dorothy became a teenager who falls in and out of love throughout the play.
NARRATOR: In the musical, Dorothy and Imogene were blown to Oz along with a waitress from Topeka named Trixie Tryfle.
The Cowardly Lion was turned into a bit part and the Wicked Witch of the West was removed from the story.
JONES JR.: If you go back and read reviews, what they oftentimes latch on to are not the original parts, necessarily, from "The Wizard of Oz," but how they were able to integrate elements from vaudeville, from minstrelsy, from the variety show, and from the circus into this musical.
♪ ♪ SCARECROW: ♪ Though I appear a handsome man ♪ ♪ I'm only stuffed with straw ♪ JONES JR.: The musical was incredibly popular, particularly in the characters of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
They kind of have a show within the show.
What audiences saw in the dance routines was a set of movements, jokes, and gags that were very popular on the minstrel stage.
They took the new material of the musical and they melded it with popular elements of American theater culture and made them anew.
So it's a real transitional event in American popular culture.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The show was a smash hit in Chicago, then at New York's Majestic Theatre, and then on a seven-year nationwide tour.
Given the commercial success, L. Frank Baum was philosophical about the changes.
♪ ♪ If any one understood the power of spectacle, it was the creator of Oz.
"The people will have what pleases them," Baum concluded, "and not what the author happens to favor."
♪ ♪ BASINGER: Here he is at the turn of the century, confronting what was really going to be the main issue in terms of art and commerce.
If you're going to make a mass audience piece, then you're going to have to have it please a mass audience.
And he makes a decision, "I want my work to succeed in pleasing "a large number of people so they will enjoy it and will return to seeing it."
♪ ♪ What the success of the show told Baum about Oz as a commodity is that it had endless potential and that here it was in a wholly new experience, a new medium, and it worked.
(cheers and applause) It meant that so many more people could see it.
I think he was smitten and he wanted more of it.
(cheers and applause continue) NARRATOR: To capitalize on the musical's success, Baum quickly wrote a new Oz book, "The Marvelous Land of Oz."
Published in 1904, it was marketed as a sequel that featured "characters already famous the country over," and added new Oz inhabitants, including Princess Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz.
MASSACHI: Oz is this society run by women, and Oz itself really is this utopian version of America.
In Oz, there's plenty of everything.
Everybody is provided for; everybody has what they need.
NARRATOR: Two months after the book's release, Baum started publishing a weekly newspaper serial, "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz."
BASINGER: One of the things that's so significant about what Baum is doing here is he is creating a brand that's built on his name and his particular product, which is Oz.
♪ ♪ JONES, JR.: Baum's work provides a window onto that which is popular and dominant in the American imagination in this period.
♪ ♪ DELORIA: Racial stereotypes have been central to American popular culture.
Those cultural forms are exploring how reach larger mass audiences.
NARRATOR: Like other creations of popular entertainment, Baum's Oz universe-- as well as other writings-- reflected the country's charged discourse around race and the related issues of national identity, immigration, and colonialism.
♪ ♪ JONES JR.: One of the lessons that I think Baum wants to teach in this new century is how do we deal with difference?
How do we deal with difference in the United States as a multiracial society?
♪ ♪ Baum's "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" books are about characters consistently encountering different types of persons, different types of animals, different types of objects and learning something about them.
NARRATOR: Even as Baum modeled worlds where people with different features and backgrounds cheerfully interacted, he incorporated characters representing widely circulated racial stereotypes.
♪ ♪ MONTOYA: The way that Baum characterizes others or different people in his writings, those were things that were just so embedded in American culture.
Baum is just reflecting what American society thinks about these groups of people.
DELORIA: It's always important to think about historical figures in complicated kinds of ways.
The most interesting way to think about a life is to grab the stuff out of the corners and move it to the center and ask yourself, like, "How does this make me understand the person differently?"
(ship horn blares) (boat engine running, softly splashing water) NARRATOR: The musical had made Frank a wealthy man, and he and Maud reveled in the luxuries they could now afford, including a five-month tour of Europe and Egypt.
(camel grunts) Maud had a keen interest in Egypt, as much of the teachings of theosophy centered on accessing the secret wisdom of ancient knowledge.
They explored the Temple of Isis and Frank joyfully watched as an undaunted Maud climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid.
"Few women," Maud proudly stated, "undertake the feat."
At an oasis, the Baums met a family crossing the desert on a camel train.
BAUM: And on the back of the camel was a young girl.
And in this girl's arm on one side was her doll and on the other side, a first edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
This really surprised Frank, and he realized the widespread popularity of his book and how much the children loved the story.
(waves lapping) (distant boat horn blares) (boat engine hums) NARRATOR: The Baums summered at Macatawa Park, a resort town on Lake Michigan, where Frank wrote many of his books, and tried to answer the dozens of letters that arrived for him each day.
This outpouring of affection inspired Baum to keep expanding the world of Oz.
♪ ♪ In each new sequel, he included an author's note about his young friends.
"If the little folks find the story 'real Ozzy,'" Baum wrote in one, "I shall be very glad indeed."
♪ ♪ ARONSTEIN: Oz becomes a conversation between Baum and his readers.
He's very much aware of the children as his audience and he's very much aware of building a relationship with them.
♪ ♪ And he sees them as co-creators of Oz.
Over and over again, he says, "I have responded to your request for more Oz."
♪ ♪ HEARN: Baum was always looking for new ways of promoting his books, and what was popular at the time were these travelogues.
People would go around the country talking about China, or their trip to Japan and it would be a combination of hand-colored slides and possibly some film.
So Baum thought, "Well, why don't we do a travelogue of Oz?"
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In 1908, Baum created a multimedia traveling show called "The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays" to coincide with the publication of a new Oz book.
Baum narrated the story in person as the action unfolded onstage... ♪ ♪ a mixture of hand-colored lantern slides of illustrations from his Oz books and a series of short, hand-colored trick movies that he called "radio-plays."
All accompanied by an orchestra performing an original score.
DRUMMOND: It was this extraordinary vision of artistry, of technology, of inventiveness, and ultimately of risk taking.
Now, if you read accounts of people who attended the shows, they were absolutely transported.
♪ ♪ There were gasps.
They were completely caught up in it.
♪ ♪ BASINGER: He understood that selling things was about embracing the media.
It was about advertising that didn't look like advertising.
And that, I think, is something very forward-looking about him.
He meshed the story and the creative artistic product with the sell, and that's the real magic of what he was able to do so effectively.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ COWARDLY LION: Look at that, look at that!
(Cowardly Lion whimpering) I am Oz, the great and powerful!
HEARN: One thing L. Frank Baum deals with is appearance.
Are things as we first encounter them?
The Wizard of Oz turns out to be a humbug.
The male leader of the country turns out to be not what he claims to be.
OZ: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
Who are you?
(stammering): Oh, I... (boastfully): I am the great and powerful (meekly): Wizard of Oz.
HEARN: The Wizard of Oz turns out to be no more than a flim-flam man, a circus performer from Nebraska.
READER: "'Really,' said the Scarecrow, "'you ought to be ashamed of yourself "for being such a humbug.'
"'I think you are a very bad man,' said Dorothy.
"'Oh, no, my dear, I'm really a very good man, but I'm a very bad wizard.'"
JONES JR.: Baum does not cast the Wizard as a villain figure, but rather he sees the Wizard as playing a very particular kind of function for this group of people who want something.
He suggests that if deception can fulfill one's desires, there is a need for that.
ARONSTEIN: If you think about what the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man all want, what the Wizard gives them isn't that thing.
But because they believe it's that thing, that actually does magically transform them.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In the early 20th century, Los Angeles was becoming the new capital of American popular culture and entertainment.
♪ ♪ Production companies had left New York to take advantage of the sunny climate and easy access to a variety of natural settings.
♪ ♪ Film studios began popping up all over Hollywood, a sparsely settled village surrounded by citrus groves.
In 1910, Frank and Maud, who had spent several winters in Southern California and grown to love it, moved full-time to Hollywood.
(birds singing) Baum built a comfortable home that he called Ozcot, and continued writing.
He penned numerous books and series, often using both male and female pseudonyms.
And he kept up with the demand for more Oz, making good on the arrangement with his publisher of producing one book a year.
Calling himself "The Royal Historian of Oz," Frank divided his time between writing and nurturing his new flower garden.
He also joined the Uplifters, a social club of wealthy businessmen, artists, and actors, many of them in the film industry.
Baum enjoyed songs and lively conversation with what he called his "band of good fellows."
BASINGER: He found a group of creative, imaginative people and they decided that making the Oz books into movies would be a very good idea.
Everybody loved the books.
They were extremely popular.
They felt that this would be a successful venture for them.
NARRATOR: In 1914, the group put up $100,000 to launch the Oz Film Manufacturing Company with Baum as president.
"I will put all my books into film, so that every child in the whole country may see them," Baum told a reporter.
♪ ♪ At age 58, Baum threw himself into this new venture, building a massive seven-acre studio.
Within two months, he had started filming their first production, "The Patchwork Girl of Oz."
♪ ♪ Expectations and enthusiasm were high.
Would-be chorus girls mobbed the studio looking to make their big break.
♪ ♪ A huge spread in a trade magazine hyped the anticipated release of the film.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Baum, sparing no expense, opened "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" in the biggest movie theater in New York.
HEARN: Not only did they have very elaborate production values but also he had an original score for each of the films.
But the audience said, "This is a kid's show.
Why should adults be paying full price?"
And the films were not well received.
It was a big disappointment to him.
NARRATOR: Baum produced four feature films, but the company fizzled out after only a year.
♪ ♪ HEARN: After the failure of the Oz Film Company, Baum pretty much retired to Ozcot and just continued writing an Oz book a year.
He wrote other work as well, but he was resolved to the idea that he should stick to what he knew best, and that was writing children's books.
♪ ♪ DRUMMOND: I think in Ozcot, Baum found his own personal Oz.
♪ ♪ It was the perfect bookend to what Rose Lawn had been when he was a child.
It was a place to dream.
It was a place to escape.
♪ ♪ And in some ways it was a return to childhood.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Ozcot also provided a tranquil place of convalescence as Frank had been suffering from congestive heart failure for some time.
Gallbladder surgery weakened him even more.
♪ ♪ On May 6, 1919, just before his 63rd birthday, L. Frank Baum died.
♪ ♪ The 13th Oz book was on its way to press, and Baum had left one more completed Oz manuscript.
DRUMMOND: Here was someone who endured so many setbacks professionally.
But he was a visionary.
He saw the future.
He saw what things could look like.
NARRATOR: Nearly 20 years after L. Frank Baum's death, on the studio lot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, cameras started rolling on a new interpretation of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
♪ ♪ HEARN: MGM was considered the top studio in Hollywood.
And every year they would put out what they called a prestige film.
And this was a film that would really show off what the studio was able to do better than anyone else out there.
"The Wizard of Oz" was going to be the prestige film for MGM in 1939.
NARRATOR: There had yet to be a successful film version of "The Wizard of Oz," and MGM was gambling an unprecedented $3 million on a Technicolor extravaganza to bring the beloved story to screen, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy.
They knew it was a risk and they poured money into the promotion.
MGM was very careful to position the film and the people involved in the film as readers and fans of Baum...
The idea that there's continuity between us and the Baum books.
♪ ♪ (crowds chattering) (car engines puttering) NARRATOR: Over 5,000 fans cheered the parade of stars arriving for the film's Hollywood premiere.
Joining the crush of celebrities at the lavish event was 78-year-old Maud Baum.
"One of the greatest thrills of my life," she proclaimed, "will be to see the land of Oz come to life under the magic of MGM."
(crowd chattering) NARRATOR: "The Wizard of Oz" opened in theaters across the country on August 25, 1939.
(film projector running) ♪ ♪ The story born from L. Frank Baum's imagination and the hardships of the 19th century frontier would find its most enduring place in American culture at the tail end of the Great Depression.
Aunt Em, Aunt Em!
Now you just help us out today and find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble.
Someplace where there isn't any trouble.
Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?
♪ Somewhere over the rainbow ♪ ♪ Way up high ♪ ♪ There's a land that I heard of ♪ ♪ Once in a lullaby ♪ MAGUIRE: As we were just coming out of the Depression and as war was on the horizon, "The Wizard of Oz" was an escapist moment.
It was a chance for Americans, who had been working very, very hard for a very long time, to keep body and soul together, to take a deep breath and get out of themselves.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "There is no cure for a troubled heart, or a troubled world," noted one review, "like a swift journey back to a cherished childhood memory.
"Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 'Wizard of Oz' is just that: a memory glorified on the screen."
Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
♪ ♪ SCARECROW: ♪ And my head I'd be a scratchin' ♪ ♪ While my thoughts were busy hatchin' ♪ ♪ If I only had a brain ♪ ♪ ♪ (Tin Man clanking) (metallic drumming) (steam whistle blowing) ALL: Lions and tigers and bears!
DOROTHY: Oh, my!
ALL: Lions and tigers and bears!
DOROTHY: Oh, my!
ALL: Lions and tigers and bears!
(Cowardly Lion roaring) (all scream) (Cowardly Lion snarling) (snarls) BASINGER: The 1939 MGM movie made Oz a world everybody could see and experience the same way, so that it became real to people and defined collectively as Oz.
♪ ♪ (quietly): There's no place like home...
There's no place... Wake up, honey.
NARRATOR: In 1959, CBS began annual broadcasts of "The Wizard of Oz."
The shared national event became a beloved tradition, firmly establishing the story as an American icon.
MAGUIRE: In the 1950s, there was an uncomfortable sense of American certainty.
We knew who we were, and that we were on top of the world.
♪ ♪ There is a lot of oppression in that and there is also a lot of possibility.
♪ ♪ When "The Wizard of Oz" was rebroadcast, what it did was provide those children who felt emboldened by that certainty to seek newness, to seek otherness.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In the years to come, "The Wizard of Oz" would be transformed again and again.
(horns honking) In January 1975, a new interpretation of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" opened on Broadway.
("Ease on Down the Road" playing) DOROTHY: ♪ Come on and ease on down, ease on down the road ♪ NARRATOR: Starring an all-black cast with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, "The Wiz" was a modern retelling of L. Frank Baum's fairy tale.
♪ Ease on down... ♪ The show, subtitled "The Super Soul Musical," gave the story a new cultural framework.
JONES JR.: It is Black theater makers grasping on to something that's dear to Americans and saying, "This is ours too."
It's about bringing the peculiar talents of these artists together to make claims on the American story.
What some might call the most American of American stories.
ARONSTEIN: There hadn't been any real kind of vibrant Oz moments for quite a while.
♪ ♪ "The Wiz" updates it.
It makes it modern, and new, and fresh.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "The Wiz" was a huge hit, winning seven Tony Awards, including best musical.
♪ ♪ Three years later, Hollywood reworked the story as an urban fantasy set in Harlem.
The movie featured megastars Diana Ross as Dorothy, a 24-year-old school teacher, and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
In both the stage and film versions, "The Wiz" explored African American struggle and resistance, and celebrated Black liberation.
("A Brand New Day" playing) ALL: ♪ Can't you feel a brand new day?
♪ JONES, JR.: "The Wiz" is injecting themes, and images, and ideas of Black liberation, and celebration, and what people call Black joy precisely because these moments of celebration in the film allow for and show the ways in which African Americans can, and do, and continue to overcome.
♪ ♪ ALL: Yeah!
I'm ready now.
Think of home.
BASINGER: This is a story that can be adapted to a different time and place without really losing the fundamental idea of Oz and what it means to people.
♪ ♪ DELORIA: Who would've thought that a failed entrepreneur would write a little story, which would get made into a film, which would have repercussions and reverberations across the whole course of the 20th century and into the future.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In 2003, 100 years after Baum's first theatrical extravaganza, Oz returned to the stage as "Wicked," a hugely popular Broadway musical adapted from a novel.
This 21st century take on Oz reimagined Baum's story from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.
ARONSTEIN: "Wicked" focuses on the question of marginalization about what is it like to grow up in a skin that people reject?
What does it mean to have power as a woman?
The focus on female friendship, all of those things revitalized Oz for a very new audience.
Every generation reinterprets the story based upon what their experiences are.
There is this power in Baum's imagination, Baum's invention.
♪ ♪ JONES JR.: He was able to create and mold a set of characters that are with us across class, across race.
♪ ♪ MAGUIRE: We carried the meaning of the story wherever we went, which is that the small and the powerless can still have agency.
♪ ♪ SCHWARTZ: Baum left an indelible imprint on the American imagination.
In a way, America has become a society of imagination and storytelling, and myth making.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "Imagination," Baum wrote, "transforms the commonplace into the great and creates the new out of the old."
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ANNOUNCER: "American Experience: American Oz" is available on DVD.
To order, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
"American Experience" is also available with PBS Passport and on Amazon Prime Video.