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Monday, 1 October 2012

In the 1890s L. Frank Baum and his family moved to Chicago. He supported them as a freelance journalist and traveling salesman before parlaying his (brief and unsuccessful) experience as a shopkeeper in Aberdeen, South Dakota, into a job editing The Show Window.

In 1900 a Chicago-based trade magazine called The Inland Printer described Baum’s magazine in a squib that might have been supplied by the editor himself:
The Show Window, edited by L. Frank Baum, Chicago, is growing in interest from month to month. It is the official organ of the National Association of Window Trimmers of America, and contains an amount of information in this line to be had through no other source. Its half-tone illustrations of window display are worth more than the price of the publication. No storekeeper can afford to be without such a magazine. Its suggestions for Easter window decorations in the special Easter number are a treat to even the uninitiated.
By then Baum also had a second career as a children’s author. The Inland Printer noted that as well a few issues later:
The author of “Father Goose,” Mr. L. Frank Baum, has followed up his success with a remarkable juvenile entitled “A New Wonderland,” which is shortly to be issued by R. H. Russell, of New York. The reader is introduced to a marvelous and hitherto undiscovered country, peopled with the quaintest and merriest characters ever conceived to delight childish hearts. Frank Ver Beck has made many colored pictures for the new book, which bids fair to attain a popularity seldom accorded a juvenile publication.
That book is better known now under its reissue title, The Magical Monarch of Mo.

The Inland Printer didn’t take note of Baum’s other fantasy for children published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, that year’s volume did feature illustrations from W. W. Denslow, including the spooky “What’s the Use?” and three bookplates for the Wilkins family (two reproduced here via Google Books, and thus at less than optimum crispness).

So we know Baum was almost certainly reading The Inland Printer, and probably contributing to it. Which gives more significance to another item from the 1900 volume, a response to a reader’s proofreading inquiry on whether “climb up” was incorrect.

The Inland Printer’s editors said the word “up” was unnecessary and noted other common phrases that were equally redundant. The column added:
No dictionary except one even mentions the phrase “climb down,” and that one, the Funk & Wagnalls Standard, says that it is a United States colloquialism.
Thus, when Baum had Dorothy Gale pass on a lesson from her teacher not to say “climb down,” he was echoing advice he’d probably read a few years before.

TOMORROW: But did that usage bother Baum?

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