About This Episode
The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral Florida is the newest attraction to open in central Florida. The museum pays homage to the writer L. Frank Baum and the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz published in 1900. In the Florida Wizard of Oz Museum you will find rare artifacts like the earliest known published book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which predates the edition Frank Baum gave to his mother. The exhibits in the Florida Wizard of Oz Museum is separated out by era and you can learn the history of L. Frank Baum and all the books which comprise the Wizard of Oz canon with narrations at each section. You will also find the world’s first Immersive Wizard of Oz Experience which transports you from the Kansas plains to the dark forest and on to the Emerald City. The Immersive experience also alternates with showings of Immersive Van Gogh.
One of the most cherished stories to come from the early 20th century has found a new chapter in Central Florida. A brand-new museum and attraction have opened that celebrates the utopian vision and immense and loyal following of L. Frank Baum and his Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum’s imaginative creation, like all great utopian literature, holds out the possibility for change. I’ll give you an advance look at the treasures to be found and an exclusive sneak peek at a future immersive experience that will transport you from the Kansas Prairie to the Dark Forest to the Emerald City along the Yellow Brick Road – on this episode of The Orlando Guy.
From downtown Orlando, the Florida Wizard of Oz Museum is about 55 minutes away using the 417 Central Florida GreeneWay and 528 Beachline Expressway into Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The Wizard of Oz Museum in Florida is unlike all the rest around the country in that it contains rare artifacts featuring the author, L. Frank Baum and celebrates the story rather than the 1939 live action film.
The Library of Congress has declared the Wonderful Wizard of Oz to be, “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.” Fred Trust, owner and curator of The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum, has separated the collection by era as you step forward in time to view the history of the author and this beloved story.
L. Frank Baum began writing children’s stories in 1896 starting with, A New Wonderland, but due to publishing issues, was not his first book released. That honor belongs to Mother Goose in Prose which was published in 1897. Other books published prior to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz include The Army Alphabet and the Navy Alphabet. In 1899 Frank Baum wrote Father Goose His Book and the museum features a signed edition by the author and the ex libre stamp Frank Baum placed in the books for his personal library.
But it was Frank Baum’s masterpiece published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that would gain him fame. The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum possesses the first known copy of the book which predates the more famous published edition Frank Baum gave to his mother making it an invaluable piece of history not found in any other museum.
A Broadway musical was commissioned in the early 1900’s due to the immense popularity of the book and you can view original theater programs and sheet music as well as a condensed booklet of the story given to patrons who attended the 125th performance.
Other priceless artifacts from this era include the personal family diary containing illustrations and musings of the author and a rare photo of L. Frank Baum reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to his children.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was re-published simply as, The Wizard of Oz, after a successful 1902 Broadway musical and a 1925 silent film adaption. Frank Baum never intended Oz to be a series, but children clamored for more new stories. Frank Baum followed up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with The Marvelous Land of Oz which contained progressive themes such as men staying home with children and women marching off to war.
More stories followed, including Ozma of Oz which reintroduces Dorothy from the first book, The Road to Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, and what Frank Baum intended to be the final book of the series, The Emerald City of Oz.
The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum has an extremely rare copy with the original dust cover greatly increasing its value.
Frank Baum took a break from the Oz series to write other stories such as, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, John Dough and the Cherub and what many consider to be Frank Baum’s finest book, Queen Zixi of Ix of which the museum possesses the autographed copy Frank Baum presented to his sister in October of 1905. In fact, the Florida Wizard of Oz Museum has one of the most diverse collections of authentic signatures by Frank Baum.
Baum wrote other fantasy titles like, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, which he intended to launch a new series. These characters: however, would eventually find their way back into the Oz universe once the public demand for more stories prompted Frank to return to Oz in 1913 with The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Tik Tok of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, Rinkitink in Oz, The Lost Princess of Oz, The Tin Woodman of Oz, and the final two books in the series written by L. Frank Baum, published after his passing in 1919, The Magic of Oz and Glinda of Oz.
Tik Tok of Oz contained the very first map of Oz and its neighboring countries, which proved to be a very popular feature, and it’s intriguing to note that this fantasy world may have inspired J. R. R. Tolkien when he developed middle earth for his fantasy series nearly 30 years later.
After the passing of L. Frank Baum, William Lee, vice president of Baum’s publisher Reilly & Lee, solicited Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue the Oz series. Ruth penned 19 additional titles, considered canon, starting with The Royal Book of Oz in 1921. In all, there are 40 books considered to be canonical in the original series written by the so-called Royal Historians of Oz, a collective title given to the writers of the books of official Oz history.
In 1925, a film adaption of the Wizard of Oz was released. This silent fantasy-adventure comedy film co-stars Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man and Larry Semon as the Scarecrow. The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum displays priceless toys from the 1920s based on this movie including a flying monkey and the scarecrow. You’ll also discover a nearly pristine version of the 1921 first-edition Wonderful Game of Oz with the original pewter game pieces.
By 1939 Ruth Plumly Thompson completed her tenure writing as an official Royal Historian of Oz – the year MGM premiered The Wizard of Oz which the U.S. Library of Congress deems the most watched film in movie history.
The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum has an original 1938 working copy of the script showing property ownership by Loew’s Incorporated the founder of MGM Studios. A popular board game entitled, “The Game of the Wizard of Oz,” was released by Whitman Publishing in 1939 and is sought out by serious collectors of Oz memorabilia. But, the museum has in its collection, the original contract licensing the characters for the game, dated June 30th, 1939, between Loew’s Incorporated and Whitman Publishing signed by the film’s stars, Burt Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland.
Some of the more remarkable artifacts from the MGM film era include rare dolls produced by the Ideal Toy Company in 1939 of which the one in the corner is made with real human hair; a fun painted soap collection featuring some of the main characters from the movie; a complete set of masks produced by the Eison-Freeman Company in 1939 just in time for Halloween that year; a pristine deck of game cards featuring stills from the movie produced exclusively in Britain making them highly collectible; and, of course, a replica of the ruby slippers which were originally pointed silver shoes in the book, but were changed for the movie to highlight the new Technicolor process from the film.
The 1939 MGM film over time became a cultural juggernaut and starting in the 1940s through the present day it has also become a commercial behemoth. By the late 20th century, the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz had become more familiar than the book on which it was based. The first television showing of the film was on November 3rd, 1956, on CBS. The annual showing on the network helped the film to reach its current cult status. So strong is the film’s influence, there is a theory that every day you hear a reference to The Wizard of Oz.
The Florida Wizard of Oz Museum serves as a time capsule preserving the enormous cultural influence of Frank Baum’s story. Although not all the items you are seeing here are rare or valuable, the story and its characters curated by the museum are so much a part of our collective cultural consciousness that they make regular appearances in a bewildering variety of cultural references, homages and yes, consumer products.
But the Wizard of Oz Museum in Florida does more than catalog books, toys, games and other memorabilia. It is embracing the latest technology to bring the story of The Wizard of Oz to life in a new way: the world premiere of an immersive Wizard of Oz Experience. For the first time ever, you can step into a theater and into the world of Oz and get swept from the Kansas prairie by cyclone to be surrounded by the dark forest, moving along the yellow brick road through poppy fields and on to the Emerald City.
As an added attraction, the museum also has alternate showings of Immersive Van Gogh in the theater and there are plans to produce even more immersive experiences in the future.
Thanks for joining me for this episode looking at the brand-new Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral Florida. There are so many more items to see, but I’ll let you experience them yourself. Don’t miss this exceptional treasure right here in Central Florida, the next time you visit Orlando.