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

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