The Wizard of Oz Fan Club was founded in 1957 by 13-year-old Justin Schiller. In exchange for $1 in dues, members received a four-page newsletter, The Baum Bugle. We became the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1959, and are currently a nonprofit educational organization.
Harry Neal Baum opened his Indiana resort in September 1960 for the Club’s first Ozmopolitan Convention. An annual tradition followed in which members gathered for fun and fellowship. West Coast members began meeting in 1964 at the Winkie Conference. Then Southern (Quadling) and East Coast (Munchkin) members introduced their first regional meetings in 1966. These early conventions were marked by exhibits of original Oz artwork and were fortunate to welcome Ruth Plumly Thompson and members of L. Frank Baum’s and John R. Neill’s families as special guests.
Early members such as Fred Meyer, the Club’s secretary for decades, and Oz illustrator Dick Martin fueled the Club’s growth with their constant readiness to put their personal energies into ensuring the Club’s success. Other members worked in the marketplace, introducing works of Oz research and fiction, mounting exhibitions and events, and otherwise promoting the Club to the general public.
Our founder and first members were primarily collectors and readers of the Oz series. John Fricke’s 1969 articles and checklists for The Baum Bugle helped expand Club interests to include the 1939 MGM film and collectibles honoring that classic. Margaret Hamilton was once the guest of honor at an Ozmopolitan Convention. Munchkin Coroner Meinhardt Raabe attended an East Coast event expecting to find other little people; he found an adoring audience instead.
The IWOC became a publisher in its early years with reprints of rare Baum material, previously unpublished Oz manuscripts, and Bibliographia Oziana, a definitive guide to collecting Oz books. Today’s print-on-demand capabilities and online marketing opportunities greatly improve our ability to contribute to the growing body of Oz reference and fiction works.
The year 2000 marked the publication centennial of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and major steps forward for the Oz Club. We established an office space in San Francisco to house our archives and collection, and we published a new Oz novel, Gina Wickwar’s The Hidden Prince of Oz, for which we had held a manuscript submission contest.
Also in 2000, the Club hosted a four-day centennial event, years in the planning, on the campus of Indiana University. More than 50 speakers provided core educational content focused on biographical information; literary comparisons; stage and screen performances; collectibles; and the people, places, and plots of the Oz books. There were Munchkins and storytellers, show-and-tell sessions and costume contests, exhibitions of rare Oz treasures and a gallery of original artwork. There were games to play and a fundraising auction that enriched many collections. Campus and community activities tied into the theme. It was once-in-a-lifetime event.
But the life of the Oz Club goes on. The Internet has helped make it easier for Oz fans to find one another, for writers to publish and market books, and for Oz collectors to build their collections without direct involvement with the Club. We nonetheless continue with our mission, filling three annual issues of The Baum Bugle with informative feature stories, hosting Club gatherings, and publishing selected titles. Our Club collection of rare material and original artwork has grown; in 2006 we were among those who loaned selected pieces to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for an Oz exhibition honoring the 150th anniversaries of both L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow’s births.
Our first 50 years were a wonderful adventure. Join us as we continue down the Yellow Brick Road in the second half of our first century.
Presidents of the International Wizard of Oz Club
1957-1958: Frank Joslyn Baum
1959-1967: Harry Neal Baum
1967-1975: Russell P. MacFall
1975-1976: Dick Martin
1976-1986: Peter Hanff
1986-1992: Barbara Koelle
1992-1996: John Fricke
1996-2004: Peter Hanff
2004-2010: Angelica Carpenter
2011-2017: Carrie Hedges
2017-today: Jane Albright