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!
|Artist W W Denslow. Note “Roycroft” carved into the cabinet to his left.
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.