THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, first published on this date, is an American children’s novel written by author L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. The first novel in the Oz series, the story chronicles the adventures of a young Kansas farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their home by a tornado. Upon her arrival in Oz, she learns she cannot return home until she has destroyed the Wicked Witch of the West.
The book was first published in the United States on May 17, 1900 by the George M. Hill Company. In January 1901, the publishing company completed printing the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. It had sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956. It was often reprinted under the title The Wizard of Oz, which is the title of the successful 1902 Broadway musical adaptation as well as the popular 1939 live-action film.
Many of the characters, props, and ideas in the novel were drawn from Baum’s personal life and experiences. Baum held different jobs, moved a lot, and was exposed to many people, so the inspiration for the story could have been taken from many different aspects of his life. In the introduction to the story, Baum writes that “it aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.”
The ground-breaking success of both the original 1900 novel and the 1902 Broadway musical prompted Baum to write thirteen additional Oz books which serve as official sequels to the first story. Over a century later, the book is one of the best-known stories in American literature, and the Library of Congress has declared the work to be “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.”