One of American literature’s greatest collaborations later descended into an infamous feud. The stage for this literary throwdown? Children’s literature.
In 1899 L. Frank Baum, a magazine editor, and W.W. Denslow, a well-known newspaper illustrator, collaborated together on a children’s book called Father Goose. The book turned into the most successful project either had worked on up to that point, selling 75,000 copies within a few months.
Riding on this success, Baum and Denslow decided to work together again…despite arguments over how much credit was due to each for the successful collaboration. Their next creation was the American mammoth: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As before, author and illustrator shared the cost of the luxurious color plates (illustrations) on each page. As before, author and illustrator fought over who deserved the most credit—and money—for the project.
By the time Baum and Denslow came together to put on the Wizard of Oz in play form, the strain finally snapped and they parted ways. (Everything’s always so much more dramatic in the theatre! …Terrible pun…sorry.)
Baum found another illustrator, John R. Neill. And Denslow found…an island.
Well, he didn’t find it. He purchased it. Because he was crazy rich.
Denslow renamed the Bermudan island Denslow’s Island, and—this is what makes the feud so lovely a tale—crowned himself King Denslow I.
I wonder what it would have been like to visit that island. Did he wear a crown? Maybe he had a cape and a scepter, too. Did he design a palace, like he designed the sets and scenery for the play form of Wizard of Oz?
Do you think he was a lonely man?