Archival Research
Frank Wilder, Sr. – The Wizard of Oz Connection
Frank Wilder, Sr. – The Wizard of Oz Connection

Well, I guess I have your attention on that one. But yes, it is true. My, and maybe your, great-great-grandfather Frank Wilder (Sr.) was a printer for several newspapers in what is now South Dakota and North Dakota. In Aberdeen, SD, he was instrumental in starting some progressive newspapers, and one of them with author L. Frank Baum.

L. Frank Baum wrote the Wizard of Oz and the series of books which followed. In fact, in 1941, a compilation of L. Frank Baum’s writings in the Aberdeen Evening Pioneer was published, entitled “Our Landlady,” the name of the column which Baum wrote from January 1890 to February 1891. It ran regularly in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. “In all, he wrote forty-eight installments, each treating with practiced naivete the problems facing the brand-new state of South Dakota. Through his fictional landlady, Sairy Ann Bilkins, Baum commented on drought, railroads, suffrage, prairie populism, the Ghost Dance Movement, prohibition, and dozens of other matters. Together, the “Our Landlady” columns constitute a satirical history of South Dakota’s troubled first year.”

Within the columns, Baum, as editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, wrote numerous times about the work of Frank Wilder, Sr. who ran for mayor of Aberdeen, became the first Labor Commissioner and the new South Dakota Deputy Secretary of State. Frank Wilder is written about as a labor reformer, a social progressive, and more – advocating voting rights and equal wages for women, child labor laws and temperance. He was South Dakota’s “Knights of Labor” Party’s “Grand Mastor Workman”

The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer failed in 1891 and Baum and his family moved to Chicago. Baum was married to the famous suffragist and freethinker Matilda Electa Joslyn Gage. Already an author of several books, Baum published the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900…the rest is history.

So, copies of “Our Landlady” are readily available online for as little as $5 a copy for softcover.

More about Baum can be read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Frank_Baum

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