Music and the Drama.
Apropos of certain adverse criticism of "The Wizard of Oz," now running successfully at the Majestic Theater, New York, the author requests the publication of the following statement:1
The scenery and costumes of "The Wizard of Oz" were all made in New York, -Mr. Mitchell was a New York favorite, but the author was undoubtedly a Chicagoan, and therefore a legitimate butt for the shafts of criticism. So the critics highly praised the Poppy scene, the Kansas cyclone, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, but declared the libretto was very bad and teemed with "wild and woolly western puns and forced gags." Now, all that I claim in the libretto of "The Wizard of Oz" is the creation of the characters of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, the story of their search for brains and a heart, and the scenic effects of the Poppy Field and the cyclone. These were a part of my published fairy tale, as thousands of readers well know. I have published fifteen2 books of fairy tales, which may be found in all prominent public and school libraries, and they are entirely free, I believe, from the broad jokes the New York critics condemn in the extravaganza, and which, the New York people are now laughing over. In my original manuscript of the play were no "gags" nor puns whatever. But Mr. Hamlin stated positively that no stage production could succeed without that accepted brand of humor, and as I knew I was wholly incompetent to write those "comic paper side-splitters" I employed one of the foremost New York "tinkerers" of plays to write into my manuscript these same jokes that are now declared "wild and woolly" and "smacking of Chicago humor." If the New York critics only knew it, they are praising a Chicago author for the creation of the scenic effects and characters entirely new to the stage, and condemning a well-known New York dramatist for a brand of humor that is palpably peculiar to Puck and Judge3. I am amused whenever a New York reviewer attacks the libretto of "The Wizard of Oz" because it "comes from Chicago."
L. FRANK BAUM
1. This introduction is presumably by James O'Donnell Bennett, to whom Michael Patrick Hearn states Baum wrote the letter on page 392 of The Annotated Wizard of Oz.
2. Baum may be exaggerating or rounding. At this time, Mother Goose in Prose, A New Wonderland, Father Goose, His Book; The Army Alphabet, The Songs of Father Goose, The Navy Alphabet, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, American Fairy Tales, Dot and Tot of Merryland, The Master Key, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, and possibly The Enchanted Island of Yew had been published, though it would take some stretching to consider the books of poetry "fairy tales."
3. A reference to a New York magazine of political humor and cartoons. Baum does not use quotation marks, so he may be speaking in terms of character rather than title.