Prolific author Lyman Frank Baum wrote a total of 55 novels, in addition to four books that were lost before publication. Baum is best known for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was an immediate success and inspired the iconic movie The Wizard of Oz. The film has eclipsed the books in popular culture, overshadowing even the life of its creator. But Baum was a truly fascinating character!
- When Baum was twelve years old, his parents sent him to the Peekskill Military Academy, a school known for its strict discipline. Two years later, in the middle of a caning, Baum clutched his chest and collapsed. The boy had apparently suffered a heart attack. The episode ended his time at the academy.
- Baum transferred to a public high school in Syracuse, but he never graduated. He expressed disdain for higher education, saying, "You see, in this country there are a number of youths who do not like to work, and the college is an excellent place for them."
- Baum married Maud Gage, his cousin's roommate. Baum's aunt had told her nephew that he would love Maud, and she was right! When Baum met Maud, he said, "Consider yourself loved, Miss Gage." Baum proposed only a few months later, and the couple married despite the objections of Maud's mother.
- Baum was an avid baseball fan, then called a "crank." When he moved the family to Aberdeen, South Dakota, he missed the sport so much that he brought together local businessmen to start a team. He was named secretary of the Hub City Nine, as the team was called. The subscription of 300 shares sold out quickly, making the baseball team one of Baum's most successful endeavors at the time.
- The publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ensured the financial comfort of both Baum and WW Denslow, who illustrated the first edition. Denslow used his profit to buy an island in Bermuda--where he declared himself king.
- When Baum's first grandchild was born, her parents named her Frances. Baum declared Ozma a much more suitable name--and her parents actually changed the baby's name. Ozma would later name her own daughter Dorothy, of course.
- In the novel, Dorothy wears silver slippers. But producers decided to change them to ruby for the movie, to take advantage of a new technology: Technicolor. The ruby slippers provided a much better contrast against the yellow brick road.
- MGM paid Baum $750,000 for the rights to adapt The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the silver screen. At the time, that was quite a large sum of money. MGM initially wanted to cast Shirley Temple as Dorothy, but her other contractual obligations ruled out the possibility. Judy Garland was initially hesitant to take the role because she didn't want to play a child, but she knew it would make her career.