Ruth Plumly Thompson honored with historic marker

Ruth Plumly Thompson: New State Historical Marker in West Philadelphia Commemorates Children’s Author of 19 Oz Books

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently approved an official state historical marker to commemorate children’s author of 19 ‘Oz’ books, Ruth Plumly Thompson.

The enduring popularity of the Wizard of Oz is a testament to its durability. Perhaps less known is that Ruth Plumly Thompson contributed more to the series of books than its creator L. Frank Baum. Between 1921 and 1939, she wrote one Oz book a year, including the Royal Book of Oz, Kabumpo in Oz, and The Wishing Horse of Oz . In total, she wrote nineteen books (in the fourth floor study of her home at 254 S. Farragut Street in West Philadelphia) and created 320 characters, 100 more than Baum had. She encouraged readers to correspond with her at her home address, published at the beginning of every book. She lived with her widowed mother and sister, and her annual income from the Oz books financially supported all three of them.

Thompson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 27, 1891 (d. 1976) and began her career in 1914 working for the Philadelphia Public Ledger as a weekly columnist for the Sunday children’s page. Her work there drew the attention of William Lee, vice president of L. Frank Baum’s publisher Reilly & Lee, who offered Thompson the opportunity to continue the Oz series after Baum’s death in 1920. Later, the International Wizard of Oz Club published two more stories by Thompson, Yankee in Oz (1972) and The Enchanted Island of Oz (1976), the latter of which was issued posthumously. In 1968 The Oz Club recognized Ruth Plumly Thompson with the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award.

The idea to create a sense of pride in the literary history of West Philadelphia turned into the reality of a ten-foot tall official marker with gold lettering with the generous donation from the Oz Club along with the financial contributions of the residents and neighbors of Farragut Street and Spruce Hill. This state historical marker will be a permanent reminder of a prolific writer and independent-minded Philadelphia woman whose whimsical and humorous writing about the magical Land of Oz will delight a new generation of readers.

The celebration and dedication ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at the University City Arts League from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. From there the group will walk in parade style to the historical marker at 254 South Farragut Street for the official unveiling at 1:00 p.m.

For more information about the historical marker or the dedication ceremony, please contact Lisa Weidman, Historical Marker Sponsor, at rpt.historicalmarker@gmail.com

Royal Historian of Oz and Radio Pioneer Jack Snow to be Honored on August 15 in Piqua, Ohio—Public Invited

SnowPhotoLowResPiqua-born “Royal Historian of Oz” Jack Snow will be honored at a memorial dedication and headstone unveiling on Tuesday, August 15, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. in Forest Hill Cemetery, 8660 North State Route 66 (Broadway Street), Piqua, Ohio. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The ceremony will mark the 110th anniversary of Snow’s birth.

Forest Hill Cemetery is just north of the City of Piqua and about 30 miles north of Dayton, Ohio.

For more information, contact Bev Drudy.

Speaking at the ceremony will be a representative of the Snow family; James C. Oda, director, Piqua Public Library; and Michael Gessel, a researcher on Snow’s life and officer of the International Wizard of Oz Club.

The headstone was supported by a grant from the International Wizard of Oz Club.

Snow achieved success as the author of The Magical Mimics in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz in the popular “Wizard of Oz” series, an acclaimed writer of short stories of speculative fiction, a pioneering reviewer of early radio programs, and the man who came up with the name for Dayton’s radio station WING. But Snow, who died in 1956, is little known in his hometown.

Snow was one of the foremost experts on Baum, and he assembled an outstanding collection of Baum first editions and Oz rarities. His work to promote Baum and Oz led to the founding of the International Wizard of Oz Club the year after he died.

He also achieved acclaim in science fiction circles. Snow published short stories of speculative fiction, some of which continue to be reprinted in anthologies of great works of the genre.

In addition to Oz, radio was a lifelong interest for Snow. While attending Piqua High School, he wrote what is believed to be the nation’s first regular newspaper column of radio reviews, for the Cincinnati Enquirer. As publicity director for the Dayton radio station WSMK, he came up with the idea for the new station call letters, WING, which are still used today.

After graduating from high school in 1925, Snow wrote features and a weekly radio review column for the Piqua Daily Call.

Snow died in New York City on July 11, 1956, and is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Piqua, Ohio.

International Wizard of Oz Club Returns to Chicagoland August 3-6, 2017

OZ BANNER 4Oz, the National Convention will be held August 3-6, 2017, in and around Chicago. The International Wizard of Oz Club (IWOC) last met in the greater Chicago area in 2007. “Chicago is where The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was inspired, written, published, and first brought to the stage,” says Carrie Hedges, IWOC president. “As a Chicagoan myself, I look forward to a convention that celebrates the many connections between Oz and this remarkable city.”

Program highlights
Kick off the weekend with a Thursday night party in the suburban home of Oz collector Walter Krueger. Our Friday morning program will begin with a visit to Dorothy’s farm and the Nome King’s mines in Homer Glen before settling into the Joliet Area Historical Museum for an afternoon of animated Oz with Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt. Enjoy a spectacular fashion show featuring the always-stylish Dorothy Gale through the years and meet special guest Emma Ridley, Princess Ozma from Disney’s Return to Oz (1985). End the night on the museum’s rooftop stage with live Oz music. Our Saturday program in Orland Park offers presentations for diverse interests—Oz publishing history, “Jewels in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” W.W. Denslow’s illustrations of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and taped interviews with the cast of NBC’s Emerald City among them—before an evening program that welcomes the cast of Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear as they recreate the famous 1950 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Winners of annual contests for Oz fiction, research, and art as well as the recipient of the Club’s highest honor, the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award, also will be announced.

Wizard of Oz auction, fundraising
Oz collectors will not want to miss our Saturday afternoon auction. “Oz Club members donate material to our fundraising auction every year,” explains IWOC member and auctioneer Bill Thompson. “This year I anticipate 200 Oz items will be auctioned, including rare books, vintage toys, and paper ephemera. Most of us are collectors, making the auction as important to the buyers as it is to our fundraising efforts.”

The International Wizard of Oz Club is a nonprofit organization founded in 1957. Membership is open to all ages, with a half-price rate for children. “This is our 60th year,” adds Hedges. “We were founded by a 13-year-old boy who started our publication The Baum Bugle and organized our first convention in 1961. Our conventions are funded through registration fees and generous donors. The auction income supports our general fund and helps keep our dues at just $30.”

Sunday festival, city options
This year the Midwest Wizard of Oz Festival in Tinley Park is the same weekend as the Oz Club’s convention. The Club will provide some programing on the festival grounds for the public, and expects attendees to visit the festival while they’re in the area. Sunday afternoon convention programming is less structured, allowing attendees to visit the festival, head into the city for organized or informal tours, or relax and socialize. Everyone is expected to regroup in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago to tour the grounds of the White City, inspiration for the Emerald City, and see the Oz play Scraps written and produced by Chicago Club member Anthony Whitaker, artistic director at the New American Folk Theatre.

Please visit OzConvention.org to find program and hotel information, to register, and to sign up for our email convention newsletter.