Lyman Frank Baum was born to Benjamin and Cynthia Ann Stanton Baum on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York. Frank, as he preferred to be known, was the seventh of nine children born in his family, and one of only five who lived to adulthood.
At the time of Frank's birth, Benjamin Baum worked as a cooper, a manufacturer of barrels. Later, Benjamin went into the oil business and became wealthy. Cynthia, a devout Episcopalian of Scotch-Irish descent, passed on to her children a strong devotion to God. The family enjoyed a happy existence which revolved around friends, family and church.
Frank suffered from a congenital heart condition and was educated at home. Once he learned to read, he could often be found in his father's study, devouring volumes by Dickens and Thackeray. He began to dream of becoming an author.
For his fourteenth birthday, Frank received a small printing press. Inspired, he and his younger brother began publishing a neighborhood newspaper which contained poetry, articles, editorials and word puzzles. He also earned money by printing signs, stationery and programs. When he was 17, Frank started another paper, The Empire, and a magazine for stamp collectors. As he grew into an adult, he worked at a variety of positions, including salesman, reporter, owner of a print shop, director of a chain of opera houses, and actor.
Family and friends found him charming and delightful. He loved to tell and hear stories, and word games also enchanted him. In 1881, Frank's charm won him the attention of Maud Gage, a young student at Cornell. They were married on November 9, 1882.
In the year before his marriage, Frank wrote a melodrama entitled The Maid of Arran. The production became a local hit. After the wedding, Frank and Maud toured with the company. When Maud became pregnant, Frank resigned, and the couple settled in Syracuse, where Frank labored as a salesman. Although Benjamin Baum had left his business to his son, Frank soon discovered that a clerk had squandered the money. Frank continued to write in order to earn a living. The Baums moved to the Dakota Territory to pursue a business opportunity, but it soon ended in bankruptcy.
In May of 1891, Frank moved his family to Chicago, to be near the site of the World's Fair, and he worked as a buyer and a salesman. Although he traveled a great deal, he continued to write.
Although he published many books, Frank achieved popularity and fame because of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). The book wowed audiences with its story and its vivid illustrations. It was an instant hit, and became the best-selling book of 1900. Since the book had been so successful, Frank decided to adapt it for the stage. Oz, his musical extravaganza became immensely popular, and toured for 9 years. Frank wrote 13 more Oz books, two of which were published after his death.
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