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W W Denslow showed an impressive imagination early in life, as evidenced by these circa 1883 trade cards featuring children with strange creatures. This fantasy set of four includes a boy bursting through a bubble landing on a frog, children riding a peculiar sea creature and a wasp, and a boy battling a giant bee.
Two of these cards were known to be by Denslow as they were found in his personal scrapbook, and the other two were more recently discovered. All four advertising cards have been seen with the overlapping B&H mark of Baker & Hayes. Denslow is known to have worked for this Philadelphia firm, and this mark is used on other known Denslow cards, such as those with the child gods Pluto, Folly, Bacchus, Venus, and Minerva. These “strange creature” cards carry advertisements for various businesses on either the front or back.
Discoveries like these are why I so love to collect Denslow. The adventure never ends. His art was diverse and prolific, so there’s always something new and interesting just around the corner. So keep an eye out for that elusive B&H mark! For more info, see pp. 48-50 of the Spring 2015 Baum Bugle.
Click here to visit other interesting Denslow advertising items. You might also want to check out other interesting books and ephemera related to Wizard of Oz and Roycroft under New Listings. And don’t forget the ever-expanding Sale Items!
Between 1908 and about 1930, Oz book publisher Reilly & Britton (later, Relly & Lee) published a series of children’s fantasy tales illustrated by the great John R Neill. (John R Neill replaced W W Denslow as illustrator of the L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books in 1904.) The publishers got a lot of mileage out of Neill’s art for these little books!
The first “Children’s Stories that Never Grow Old” series of 24 titles was published in paper covered boards in four different cover designs (two of them shown at the top of the photo). These fragile little books quickly gave way to the “Children’s Red Books”, which included two stories in one book, in both cloth and paper-covered bindings. Andersen’s Fairy Tales, featuring The Ugly Duckling and Rip van Winkle, is shown on the far right. Later versions of the “Children’s Red Books” were even issued in blue cloth before they renamed the series the “Children’s Own Books” in the mid 1920’s! If you’re lucky, these can sometimes be found with the original dust jacket, like Aladdin shown in the middle. The publisher also used Neill’s illustrations in a compendium book called “Children’s Stories that Never Grow Old” in 1908, as well as in the 1910 “Turnover Books“, which featured double cover art, with a different story on each side of the book.
There were other, related titles published as well. For further info on this crazy, collectible series, see Greg Hunter’s article in the Spring 2013 Baum Bugle. You can find more from Wonderful Books of Oz here.
The 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago was sometimes called “The White City” and is said to have inspired the Emerald City of Oz in the 1899 collaboration between L Frank Baum and W W Denslow. Denslow left San Francisco to document the Chicago fair for local newspapers, and visited it frequently. Baum also moved to Chicago in anticipation of the Expo and certainly visited as well. Indeed, the domes of the White City, shown below, do bear a strong resemblance to components of Denslow’s Emerald City in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The temporary buildings were mostly destroyed after the Expo, and Denslow had vanity photos taken of himself in the ruins. They were published in the Inland Printer in 1895. Thanks to Peter Hanff for the image below of a sporty Denslow lounging.
This wasn’t the last connection between W W Denslow and the 1893 Expo. He revisited it almost 20 years later, in one of the scenes in Fairbank’s Juvenile History of the United States, a 1911 advertising booklet for Fairy soap!
25% of all Wonderful Books of Oz sales thru September 2015 will be donated to the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching unit, South African women who are fighting to save rhinos and other animals from poaching. I won’t ruin your day by detailing how these animals die, but suffice to say it is horrifying–and the acceleration of rhino and elephant killing in just the last five years has been staggering. Who would think in the 21st century that we can’t stop this? Read more about them here.
Dorothy: Your Majesty, if you were king, you wouldn’t be afraid of anything?
So, you can not only find a beautiful Wizard of Oz or Roycroft book or collectible this month, but you can help a good cause. Some unusual Denslow trade cards, a couple of Oz 1sts, some later books in dust jacket, and more. And, to sweeten the pot, I’ll send you FREE one of the following Oz Club publications with any order of at least $10: A Best of Baum Bugle magazine, Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Wizard of Way Up or Cheerful Citizens of Oz, or Baum’s Twinkle and Chubbins. Just include which item you’d like in the Notes section of your order or Contact Me. Also, don’t forget to peruse the Sale items.
Oct 2015 Update: The Denslow Bugle issue is out; it’s beautiful, and I have a limited number of extra copies available for $15 plus shipping. You can purchase it here. It is no longer available with Club membership as when I wrote the blog, below.
Are you a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club? I hope so, because if so, you’ll receive the special W. W. Denslow issue of the Baum Bugle magazine due out shortly! Denslow was co-creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book with L Frank Baum, and he’s my favorite real-life Oz character. So I’m helping Bugle editor Craig Noble create and edit this special issue, on the 100-year anniversary of Denslow’s death in 1915.
While Denslow only illustrated a few of Baum’s books, he was a hugely prolific artist. This special issue will include two articles that I’ve written on Denslow and the Roycrofters (including a Roycroft checklist), and also will describe some newly discovered trade cards drawn by Denslow. Others will write about how Denslow’s artistic style developed, his Billy Bounce comic strip, his postcards, his personal archive, Denslow Island, and more. You’ll even get a peek at Oz Club members who proudly wear Denslow hippocampus tattoos!
To make sure you get this Ozsome issue (which will have some color pages for better display of Den’s art), make sure you join the Oz Club soon, here! It’s only $25 per year and will bring you together with a great group of people who foster Oz education and activities. Plus, you get the Bugle and 20% off books published by the Club.
Are you a Denslow fan already? Some of us would like to sponsor a memorial Denslow stone on the “Appian Way” walkway at the Roycroft campus in East Aurora, New York. If we get enough contributions, we can get a larger stone and have it engraved with his hippocampus symbol! Denslow deserves this recognition at the place where he contributed so much to the success of Roycrofters’ hand-crafted books. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me here. Photos and description by Wonderful Books of Oz, copyright protected through the DMCA act of 1998.